Very often we define ourselves, or find ourselves defined by, what we do. Upon meeting someone, after exchanging names our second question is usually, ‘So what do you do?’ Our occupation, field of work or career therefore communicates to others something about us which begins to define us as a person.
So on that basis let me introduce Tychicus: He was a postman.
However, as we shall see, this description merely scratches the surface of the man’s character and significance.
The apostle Paul spent a fair amount of time in prison and while there he wrote letters to churches and individuals. In Scripture we have preserved for us the letters Paul wrote to his friend Philemon, as well as ones to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae. We also have a reference to a letter written to the church in Laodicea (see Colossians 4:16). I think that he wrote these four letters at roughly the same time and then sent them in one batch to be delivered. Paul would have written these precious letters and then needed to entrust them to others for their safe delivery. It is my belief that these four were given to a man called Tychicus, God’s Postman.
We first meet Tychicus in Acts 20:4 where he is part of the group of people who accompany Paul on his travels. These men, including some more well-known characters such as Timothy and Luke, provided support for Paul in hostile circumstances. Paul clearly liked to work as part of a team and the people he worked with provided a way of establishing and supporting churches and spreading the gospel across the known world. We see that Tychicus is an important part of this wider apostolic team, working alongside him and sent to various places. 2 Timothy 4:12 shows Tychicus was sent by Paul to Ephesus, while Titus 3:12 shows Paul’s intention to possibly send him to the situation in Crete.
We learn most about Tychicus, though, in the letters which are then give to him for delivery. Colossians 4:7-9 describes how Paul is sending Tychicus to the church at Colossae. Paul describes Tychicus as a ‘beloved brother’. Tychicus is part of the family of God and is as a brother to Paul. There are deep bonds between them just as you will find between siblings in a healthy family. Tychicus is also a ‘faithful servant’. He serves Jesus in advancing the cause of Christ and is reliable, trustworthy and committed to the gospel. And Tychicus is also a ‘fellow-bondservant’, a slave of Christ, bound up with his Saviour and labouring alongside others to see the kingdom advance. These three terms communicate the deep affection and appreciation Paul has for Tychicus. And they also illustrate the calibre of the man and the depth of godly character he possesses.
So Tychicus’ main task is to carry the letters from Paul to the various recipients and to ensure their safe delivery. However, he is more than simply a postman. He has also been tasked to fill in the gaps: ‘As to all my affairs, Tychicus….will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances….They will inform you about the whole situation here.’ (vv7-9). Tychicus knows Paul, understands his current circumstances, health, hopes, dreams, sufferings, concerns and priorities. Writing space would have been limited and some information too sensitive to write down, so Tychicus is expected to share Paul’s news, provide a fuller picture for the recipients of the letters at Colossae and mobilise the church to pray. A brief comparison with Ephesians 6:21,22 shows that he was to do a similar thing when he arrived in Ephesus and ‘make everything known to them’ (v21).
But above all this, Tychicus was not simply a deliverer of letters or conveyor of information. He was a man of God commissioned to advance the kingdom through the strengthening of the church. Paul writes that Tychicus is coming to them ‘that he may encourage your hearts’ (Colossians 4:8) and ‘comfort your hearts’ (Ephesians 6:22). Encouragement, the giving of courage to others, and comfort are aspects of prophecy which builds and strengthens individuals and the church (see 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NIV)). Prophecy always directs people’s attention towards God. What greater need does the church have than to be built up and encouraged in order to better serve in the place where God has established them? How easy would it have been for these 1st century Christians to have heard of Paul’s imprisonment and given up on their fragile faith? How easy is it for us to become disheartened and lose focus on the bigger plans we are part of? Encouragement is vital in the life of a healthy church. And people who bring encouragement are precious gifts from God to His church.
Tychicus, then, was no mere delivery boy. He was a loved brother and key member of Paul’s wider team who was entrusted with delivering the Word of God to His people and strengthening His church. He brought along so much more than a letter. He delivered the very words of God!
Tychicus was God’s Postman!