Is there any suggestion of the ministry Archippus was told to fulfill in Colossians 4:17?
Can you imagine Archippus, sitting in Colosse when a brother got up to read Paul’s letter to all the believers, hearing his name singled out at the very end? What did the believers think? What did he think?
While we acknowledge there is a risk in reading more into the text than what is actually there, several truths can be found in the passage at hand. It has been suggested the work at hand was related to ensuring Onesimus would be received as a brother in the Lord by Philemon. This obviously relates to the mention of Archippus in Philemon 2, immediately following Philemon himself and the beloved Apphia. Were they all part of the same household? It is difficult to say, but they were all part of the church which met in Philemon’s house.
The reality is, the apostle Paul does not give us enough details to know with any degree of certainty what service or ministry Archippus was to fulfill. What we can see is Paul’s evident recognition of the importance of Archippus’s presence in the local assembly in Colosse, not only speaking of “the ministry” which he had received, but also calling him a “fellowsoldier” in Philemon 2. The only other time we find such a description in the Bible is in Philippians 2:25. “Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellowsoldier.” This could possibly throw some light on the question, as Epaphroditus, a man with a special burden for the people of God, was involved in the same labor as Paul, and was a messenger for the Philippian believers. He “ministered to my wants,” said Paul, (2:25, KJV), bringing along the gift of fellowship from the assembly. The Philippian believers were able to help in this way, and Epaphroditus was the chosen messenger, but the believers could not all go to visit Paul, so in this sense, he was able to “supply your lack of service toward me” (2:30, KJV). So his ministry was both practical and spiritual.
What were the reasons Paul included a personal exhortation to Archippus in a letter which would be read publicly? Some have thought that Archippus was discouraged due to the success of the false teachers, and Paul was encouraging him to continue in his ministry despite the challenges. Could it be possible he was distracted, as Ironside suggests can happen even today, when we have a tendency to settle down comfortably and take things easily? If this were the case, he would be exhorting him to remember the service he was involved in was something he had “received in the Lord,” whether it was something done on a tangible and practical level, or the sharing in the ministry of the Word. It is quite possible, however, Paul saw a man diligent in his sphere of service, and expressed his full support of this particular ministry. If this were the case, Paul was not exalting Archippus, but was rather helping others to realize the service he was involved in was vital for the local assembly.
One other truth we can glean from the verse is this: in every service, there is a responsibility to faithfully fulfill what the Lord has placed in our hand. “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1Cor 4:2, KJV).