Imitate Tychicus as He Imitated Christ

by Justin Craft

I am not a psychic nor the son of a psychic and yet I know what you are thinking. You have read the title of this article and are thinking, “Who is Tychicus?” I counter with this: How could you forget the immensely important and great biblical figure, Tychicus? It’s as if you have forgotten Jonah, Josiah, or Phinehas the son of Eleazar. That’s a joke… sort of.

Tychicus was an early believer and fairly minor, relatively unimportant person in the Bible. I say “relatively” because he doesn’t hold a candle to the apostles or really any of the major names we would readily recognize from the Scriptures. However, I would argue that he is important, and that he is a great figure more of us should know. So, who was Tychicus?

He is first mentioned in the Bible in Acts 20:4 where we learn that he was an early Christian and one of a group of believers that went ahead of Paul and Luke to the city of Troas. He is described in the verse as one of the two “Asians” of the group, referring to Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). These are important items, but mostly uninteresting. The next two times he is mentioned, in Ephesians 6:21-22 and Colossians 4:7-8, are much more interesting and give us the most of what we know about Tychicus. We will come back to these passages in a moment. I’ll focus on the last two times he is mentioned in the New Testament.

A Faithful Servant
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives his last charge to the young pastor to preach the word in every season and situation, noting that his death is coming soon. With this charge, Paul tells Timothy to, “Do your best to come to me soon” (4:9).Paul is aware that he is going to be killed soon and would like Timothy to come and bring him Mark and some supplies. He mentions how Demas has abandoned him, how Crescens and Titus have gone to different regions, and how Luke alone is with him. Paul then says, “Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus” (4:12). What does this have to do with Paul being abandoned by Demas or with his request for Timothy to come to him?

Well, Timothy was entrusted with the church in Ephesus by Paul (1 Tim 1:3). He was their lead pastor, and he was specifically charged by Paul to combat the false teachers that were harassing the church. Could Timothy have rooted out these false teachers by the time Paul sent his second letter with the instructions to come to him? It’s certainly possible, but even so, if there is one thing we know about a flock of sheep from Scripture, from church history, and from nature, it is that if you leave them without a shepherd it’s as if you are ringing a dinner bell for wolves. The false teachers won’t even have to creep in; they’ll have free reign to devour the flock if there is no one there to protect them. This is one of the major reasons God has charged certain men and given them qualifications to shepherd His flocks. Thus, for Timothy to leave his post in Ephesus, both he and Paul know there has to be someone in Ephesus watching over the flock there. Enter Tychicus.

“But wait, how do you know that Paul is sending Tychicus to hold down the fort as a pastor while Timothy is away?” While it isn’t stated in 2 Timothy, Paul did something similar with Titus. He writes to Titus, “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there” (Titus 3:12). Titus was an elder in Crete, who also was charged with battling false teachers, and Paul was sending either Artemas, or Tychicus, to his church in order that Titus could come to Paul. Very similar circumstances which, while not conclusive, make for a reasonable case. And the case grows stronger when we look at our last two texts. Therefore, Tychicus was a man who met the qualifications of being an elder, was more than capable of being able to fend off false teachers, able to contend for the gospel, and was trustworthy to keep watch over the flocks entrusted to other men.

These godly characteristics become clearer when we look at the two passages mentioned earlier. Paul writes a similar thing to both the Ephesian and Colossian church respectively at the end of his letters to them:

Ephesians 6:21-22: So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

Colossians 4:7-9: Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.

A Trusted Messenger
It seems from these texts that Tychicus was the trusted messenger Paul used to deliver these two letters. Thus, Tychicus may have had the honor and privilege of being the first believer to hold and read (as he delivered these letters) two books of the Bible. To be entrusted with such a task shows how greatly Paul trusted and loved this fellow servant of Christ. As I wrote in another article, Paul introduces himself as a servant of Christ—to be labeled with such a title is no small thing. That Paul—the apostle to the Gentiles, the author of the majority of the New Testament, and a Hebrew of Hebrews—would call Tychicus his fellow servant not only demonstrates Paul’s humility, it speaks to the godly stature of Tychicus. He is a faithful minister, thus adding credence to my case above., So not only does he meet the qualifications in Paul’s sight, but you can add faithfulness to that list. He is not one to fall away, to succumb to pressures, to be led away by myths or fear; but is one who stands firm in the truth of God’s Word and his charge to feed the sheep.

We also get a snippet of his honesty and integrity as in both cases Paul is confident that Tychicus will tell them everything so that they know how he, and the brothers he is with, are. He’s not going to hold things back, twist facts, embellish, or lie to them. His charge is to encourage with the truth and that is what he would do.

Follow Tychicus as He Follows Christ
Why am I waxing so eloquently about Tychicus? My primary purpose, surprisingly enough, is not actually to make much of Tychicus. My purpose is right there in the title, to make much of Christ. We are not told, in the verses that we’ve just examined, of Tychicus’ motivation for being a faithful minister, a beloved brother, an encourager, or a fellow servant. And yet we know exactly what it was that motivated him to be the godly man he was. As someone who spent a lot of time with Paul, no doubt he knew the command Paul gave to the Corinthians in (1 Cor. 11:1), “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”(1 Cor 11:1), which is the same principle the author of Hebrews offers in his letter:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Tychicus, like Paul, and like the saints that had gone on before him, was faithful, trustworthy, diligent, honest, a man of integrity, not a lover of money, not a drunkard, and so one. He was all of those things, and he strived to be better in all of those things to fulfill our chief end, which is to glorify God. What a testament to Christ saints like Tychicus leave for future generations of saints. We don’t know who he discipled, or the names of the people God used him to save, and yet his faithful legacy still points to Christ nearly two thousand years after he lived. What an amazing example to follow, just from a relatively minor figure in the Bible. This should make us want to look around, not just in the Bible, but in our own spheres for other “minor” saints who can serve as grand examples for us on how we can better serve and glorify Christ. As Paul says, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil 3:17).  

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