Saturday, February 11, 2012

Not a One Man Show

Paul was no one man show. He always had partners with him, a team of associates who worked alongside him in ministry. During the times he was in prison for preaching the gospel, he relied on them all the more. Now, as he brings his letter to a close, he offers a few words about them.
Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here. (Colossians 4:7-9)
Tychicus is from the province of Asia, in Asia Minor, likely from the city of Ephesus. Luke includes him in Acts 20:4 as one of those who accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey. Paul mentions him in his letter to the Jesus believers at Ephesus, using similar words as here. He is a “beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord.” Is there a higher acclamation than that? In the Parable of the Talents, the commendation of the Master was, “Well done, good and faithful servant … Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Paul is sending Tychicus to see how they are doing and to let them know what is happening with Paul.

Onesimus is the slave who ran away from Philemon and wound up with Paul at Rome, where he unexpectedly became a follower of King Jesus. Paul calls him a “faithful and beloved brother” and would like to keep him there with him in Rome, because he has become so helpful to the ministry there (Philemon 11-13), but he knows he must send him back home to Colosse to sort out his affairs with Philemon.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. (Colossians 4:10-11)
Aristarchus, a Jew of Thessalonica, is another one Luke mentions as part of Paul’s missionary team (Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4). He has been faithful through thick and thin. He accompanied Paul on his voyage to Rome, where it appears he was likewise imprisoned. He is known to the Jesus believers at Colosse and they are known to him. The early Greek Church identifies him as one of the “Seventy Apostles” and the bishop of Apamea. Tradition says that he was martyred along with Paul under Nero’s persecution.

Mark is John Mark, who was Barnabas’ cousin, or perhaps nephew (the exact intent of the Greek is uncertain here). He went out with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey (Acts 12:25) but soon turned back for home and for some reason did not continue on with them “to the work” (Acts 15:38). Because of that, when Barnabas wanted to bring Mark on another mission, Paul refused. The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp over this that they split up, Barnabas taking Mark and Paul taking Silas (Acts 15:37-40). Paul eventually realized that Mark was beneficial to the ministry after all (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark also became very important to the ministry of Peter, who spoke of him as of a son. Early Church history indicates that the Gospel According to Mark represents the preaching of Peter. Paul instructs the church at Colosse, “if he comes to you, welcome him.” Perhaps they have been aware of the previous dispute over Mark, and Paul wants them to know that has all now been cleared up. According to Church history, Mark was martyred in the region of modern-day Libya, not very many years after Paul and Peter gave their ultimate witness by blood.

We know very little about “Jesus who is called Justus.” Aristarchus, Mark and Justus, the only members on Paul’s team who are Jewish, have stood firm with him in difficult times and have proven to be a great comfort for him.

Focus Questions
  1. Paul always had people around him who were associated with him in ministry. Why is this important and what are the advantages?
  2. How did Paul view their place in ministry — as under him, with him, both? How did they see their place in ministry?
  3. Who are you partnered with in the ministry of King Jesus? When things get tough, who are you there to stand with and who is there to stand with you?

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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