A captivating black and white portrait showcasing a weathered Bible, opened to the book of Philemon, emphasizing the mention of Archippus, symbolizing his significance and role as a faithful servant.

Who Is Archippus In The Bible?

The name Archippus appears just twice in the New Testament, but those two mentions have sparked interest and questions among Bible readers for centuries. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Archippus was a Christian minister in Colossae mentioned briefly by the apostle Paul in his New Testament letters to Philemon and the Colossians.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive deep into everything the Bible reveals about Archippus. We’ll explore the two passages where he’s named, look at theories about his identity and role in the early church, and examine what lessons we can draw from this relatively obscure biblical figure.

Archippus in Philemon

Archippus is named in Paul’s letter to Philemon

In the opening verses of Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon, Archippus is directly addressed as Paul sends greetings to him along with Apphia, Philemon and the church that meets in Philemon’s home (Philemon 1:1-2).

This indicates that Archippus was known to Philemon and moved in the same Christian circles in the city of Colossae.

Paul refers to Archippus as a “fellow soldier”

As well as addressing Archippus in his greetings, Paul goes on to call Archippus a “fellow soldier” (Philemon 1:2). This implies that Archippus was actively involved in Christian ministry and mission, fighting alongside Paul in advancing the gospel message even in the face of opposition and persecution.

The military metaphor emphasizes unity of purpose despite the potential dangers they faced. It celebrates Archippus’ commitment and partnership with Paul in furthering the kingdom of Christ, perhaps through preaching, teaching or other forms of service.

Paul implies that Archippus, Philemon and Apphia knew each other

The fact that Archippus is addressed in the opening of Paul’s very personal letter indicates some kind of relationship between them. Apphia, Philemon’s wife, is also addressed here, further suggesting close ties existed between these four people and the Colossian church.

This may be because Archippus held a leadership position within the church that met in Philemon’s home. Or they may simply have been a close-knit community where everyone knew each other well. In any case, Paul clearly expected Philemon, Apphia and the others to pass on his greeting to their “fellow soldier” Archippus.

Beyond his appearance in Philemon, the Bible gives no further information about Archippus or his later life. But he remains an example of someone who partnered with Paul’s missionary work and was willing to face the challenges of being part of a persecuted but loving church family.

Archippus in Colossians

Archippus is briefly mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Let’s explore what the Bible tells us about this man and his ministry in the early church.

Archippus is also named in Paul’s letter to the Colossians

In Colossians 4:17, Paul passes along a message to a man named Archippus: “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.'” This verse gives us a couple clues about Archippus:

  • He was living in Colossae or had some connection to the church there.
  • Paul considered him to be in active ministry.

The name Archippus means “master of the horse” in Greek. He may have been one of the leaders of the church at Colossae along with Epaphras, Nympha, and Philemon who are also mentioned in Colossians. The fact that Paul sends him a personal message suggests Archippus was a prominent person in the Colossian church.

Paul tells the Colossians to remind Archippus to fulfill his ministry

It’s interesting that Paul tells the Colossians to remind Archippus to complete his ministry. This may imply one of several things:

  • Archippus needed encouragement to persevere in his calling.
  • He was facing opposition and was tempted to quit.
  • He was neglecting certain aspects of his ministerial work.

We don’t know for sure why Paul urged Archippus to finish the work God had assigned him. But it’s clear the apostle wanted this leader in Colossae to stay focused and follow through despite any challenges. He saw great potential in Archippus and wanted him to fulfill his God-given purpose.

This suggests Archippus was a minister in Colossae

Paul’s message indicates Archippus had an active ministry role in the Colossian church. Some Bible scholars suggest a few possibilities about his work:

  • He may have been one of the pastors or elders leading the congregation.
  • Perhaps he had a preaching and teaching role among the believers.
  • Some think he was commissioned to take the gospel to surrounding towns and villages.
  • He could have served as a deacon caring for the practical and material needs of church members.

While we can’t be certain, it seems clear Archippus had an important leadership position and set of duties. Paul wanted him to devote himself fully to the Lord’s work and not lose heart. Archippus’ reminder is relevant for Christian ministers and workers today who also need encouragement to faithfully carry out their calling.

Theories About Archippus’ Identity and Role

He may have been Philemon’s son

One theory is that Archippus was the son of Philemon, the leader of the church in Colossae that Paul wrote to in his letter to Philemon. Some evidence for this:

  • Paul refers to Archippus as “our fellow soldier” (Phlm 1:2), suggesting he was a trusted partner in ministry.
  • Paul’s letter to Philemon was addressed not only to Philemon but also to “Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier” (Phlm 1:2). Since Apphia was likely Philemon’s wife, Archippus may have been his son.
  • Paul instructs the Colossian church to tell Archippus to “complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (Col 4:17), indicating Archippus had an important leadership role in the church.

So as Philemon’s son, Archippus may have been groomed to take over the church one day.

Some think he succeeded Epaphras as leader in Colossae

Another possibility is that Archippus succeeded Epaphras as the leader of the church in Colossae. We know from Colossians that Epaphras founded the church there (Col 1:7) and later was imprisoned with Paul (Phlm 1:23). During this time, Archippus may have filled in as the leader in Colossae. Evidence:

  • Paul’s letter refers to Archippus’ important ministry role in Colossae, as mentioned above.
  • In Philemon, Epaphras is called a “fellow prisoner” while Archippus is called a “fellow soldier.” This compares the imprisoned former leader Epaphras with the active leader Archippus.

If Archippus took over the helm from Epaphras, it shows the church’s leadership was able to transition during Paul and Epaphras’ imprisonments.

He could have been a runaway slave Philemon took in

A third possibility is that Archippus was a runaway slave whom Philemon welcomed into his home as a brother in Christ. Philemon is known for Paul urging him to accept back his escaped slave Onesimus. Perhaps Archippus found similar refuge with him earlier. Consider:

  • Archippus’ name means “master of the horse.” This could possibly indicate he was elevated from humble origins.
  • Paul calls Archippus a “fellow soldier,” suggesting he fought alongside him in ministry as a brother, despite possible former slave status.
  • In his culture welcoming a slave would have been scandalous, so it shows Philemon’s radical acceptance of all as equals in Christ.

While unproven, the possibility highlights themes of forgiveness and status-breaking in Philemon.

In the end, Archippus remains an obscure biblical figure. But these three theories give a small glimpse into his possible importance in the early church, whether as Philemon’s heir, a transitional leader, or a former slave fully embraced by the church.His mention shows that even minor names had indispensable roles in the koinonia of the early believers.

Lessons We Can Learn From Archippus

Be faithful in fulfilling your ministry

Archippus is referenced briefly in Colossians 4:17, where Paul instructs him to fulfill the ministry he received. Though we know little about Archippus, this verse teaches us the importance of faithfulness and perseverance in serving the Lord.

As Christians, God calls each of us to use our unique gifts and talents for His kingdom. Whatever ministry God has placed on our hearts – whether it’s teaching, evangelizing, encouraging, serving, administration or something else – we must be diligent in carrying it out.

We should frequently examine our lives to ensure we are stewarding well what God has entrusted to us, rather than coasting along in complacency. Just as a pastor must faithfully preach each week or a missionary persist in sharing the gospel, God calls us to follow through on the ministry plans He has laid out for us.

Our devotion and dependability bring glory to Christ.

It’s important to have godly mentors and accountability

The fact that Paul takes time to directly address Archippus implies they likely had a close mentoring relationship. Paul exhorted and encouraged Archippus as a spiritual father. Too often today, believers try to follow Christ in isolation.

But we all need spiritual fathers and mothers – more mature Christians who can speak truth, provide guidance and keep us accountable. Their wisdom and experience helps us avoid pitfalls and continue maturing. They point us to Jesus, model godliness for us and challenge us to grow in faith.

We must humbly submit ourselves to their spiritual authority. God designed the church so we could sharpen and build up one another. We should prayerfully seek out and invest in these mentoring relationships that provide loving accountability. Our journey of sanctification is a team effort.

God can use even passing biblical references to teach us

It’s quite amazing that Paul’s simple instruction to Archippus was preserved for us thousands of years later! This shows how God sovereignly inspired the Bible to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Even obscure references that seem insignificant teach us theological truths when illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Archippus’ name appears only once, yet his story gives us great insight about fulfilling our calling.

This should encourage us to diligently study Scripture – even genealogies, minor figures and forgotten details – with an expectant heart. We never know how God may use a subtle reference to speak precisely into our situation and transform our lives. No word of God is ever wasted.

There are spiritual gems waiting to be unearthed throughout its pages if we only have eyes to see them.


Although we don’t know much about Archippus from Scripture, his brief mentions in Philemon and Colossians provide fascinating glimpses into the early church. Studying what the Bible says about him gives us the chance to reflect on principles of ministry, relationships among believers, and how we can faithfully follow Christ even if our names aren’t splashed across the pages of the New Testament.

May the lessons from Archippus’ obscure but noteworthy life inspire us to live all out for God’s glory.

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