Why Archippus is important after all

Back in the ancient history of 1982, I was enduring an awful struggle. I was part way through my doctoral thesis and totally burnt out. It was so bad if I saw my supervisor on the street I would duck into a shop to avoid him. A good friend confronted me one day. He told me about a graduate degree he had abandoned part way through. He said he had lived with regret ever since, and told me I would too if I gave up. I decided to carry on. I even realized it was far more important that I finished it as best I could than whether I ever received the degree or not.

Tucked away at the very end of Colossians is a verse that has left lots of people wondering. It’s where Paul tells the church to remind Archippus to complete the ministry he has received in the Lord.

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, “I wonder what Archippus was supposed to do?” Then we move on and forget about his unfinished business until the next time we come back to the passage.

In truth, it really doesn’t matter for us to know what exactly he was supposed to do. If it did, God would have had it recorded.

But the verse itself is of critical importance. In fact, I suspect the devil uses our speculations about it to divert us from its real significance.

The answer to its meaning may start with his name. The first four letters of Archippus pretty well spell out the Greek word for “beginning.” And that was apt, for beginning a task was not the problem Archippus had. It was finishing the job that he was struggling with.

God always completes what he begins. Can you imagine him leaving the universe only half-created? Can you imagine him forgetting to put the finishing touches on the new Jerusalem? Can you imagine Jesus only multiplying enough loaves and fishes to feed half the people? Jesus is the author and finisher, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And Scripture tells us he will finish the good work he has begun in us too, and what an encouragement that is on the days we feel defeated and like giving up.

Jesus said don’t start to build something unless you have the resources to finish it. He wasn’t talking about a tower. He was talking about our lives.

Archippus was commanded to complete what he had begun. The Greek verb means to “discharge fully.” A job half-discharged is of no more use than a gun half-discharged.

It’s important to finish if only because that’s what God does. We are to carry his character. It’s also important to finish because it shows we are people of our word. We will do what we have promised, no matter what the cost. And it’s important to finish because God gave us a full destiny, not a half one. If we fail to finish, God’s work will not be done.

If your employer gives you a task to do, your job is to do it well and completely. You wouldn’t expect to last long in your job otherwise.

Why do we treat God differently?

To give up before the job is done shows a contempt for God we would never dare show for our employer. It shows we’re more interested in our comfort than in his pleasure.

It’s sometimes hard to keep going. But there’s nothing like the satisfaction of a job done to the best of your ability. Even if you’d never want to have to do that job again!

Paul tells us we are to be like Olympic runners who aim to cross the finish line, no matter what it takes to get there.

I hope Archippus got the message. Who knows what the consequences might have been if he didn’t?

For him, it’s over. But not for you and me.

Make the rest of your day count. And the rest of your life.

Finish the race. Who knows how much depends on it?