Companions of Them So Used

IN CONNECTION with the ministry of the Apostle Paul we hear a good deal about such able and zealous fellow servants as Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, the beloved physician. Important and helpful as these brethren undoubtedly were to the apostle, there were others who also greatly assisted him in his ministry of whom we do not hear very much.

In his extensive journeys to establish and serve the churches, or when he remained for a time at one place, Paul evidently had about him a small group of faithful brethren, never seeking or gaining prominence, but choosing rather to serve humbly in the background. They would write his letters, for he was nearly blind; and after writing them, they would undertake to deliver them. They ministered to his personal needs, they shared his trials, his dangers, and, some seemingly, even his imprisonment.

In one of his letters to the church at Corinth he writes, “All the brethren greet you.” And then the footnote to the letter tells us that it was “written from Philippi by Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus, and Timotheus.” (I Cor. 16:20,21) Toward the end of his letter to the Romans we read, “Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.” (Rom. 16:21,22) At the end of the letter to the Colossians we find the statement, “Written from Rome to the Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus.” In his letter to the Colossians Paul says, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demus, greet you.”—Col. 4:14

Because of his blindness, no doubt, the brethren seem always to have written his letters from his dictation. But he added his signature in his own handwriting, as a gracious token of his love, as he did in his letter to the Thessalonian brethren, where he writes, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” (II Thess. 3:17) Weymouth renders this passage, “I Paul add a greeting with my own hand, which is the credential in every letter of mine. This is my handwriting.” And then follows that sweet benediction with which he closed so many of his epistles, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”—II Thess. 3:17,18

We don’t know very much about any of these brethren who so constantly waited on Paul, but we do know that their service was indispensable to him; and from what he sometimes writes of these brethren we know he loved and depended on them, and appreciated their sacrifices.

One of these was a man named Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, a trusted friend and traveling companion to Paul. We first hear of him in connection with the riot that occurred in Ephesus toward the end of Paul’s long stay in that city. Apparently some of Paul’s ministry there had been directed against the worship of false gods, and seemingly this preaching had begun to have its effect. In recording the incident, Luke writes that “a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; whom he called together … and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands.”—Acts 19:24-26

Seeing their livelihood thus threatened, the silversmiths stirred up the whole city, and Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, and Paul’s companions in travel, were taken into custody. When the uproar eventually subsided, Paul called his disciples to him, and embraced them, and departed for Macedonia. This was the beginning of Aristarchus’ sharing of Paul’s dangers and persecutions.

When Paul returned from Macedonia, he and a few of his little band of followers, including Aristarchus, went to Troas, where they remained for seven days. On the last day of his stay there, and not knowing when he would again see these brethren, he continued preaching until midnight. One of his audience, a young man named Eutychus, sitting in a window, was lulled into a deep sleep, and fell from the window, and was taken up dead. Paul restored the young man to life, and resumed his preaching “even till break of day.” And one would suppose that the apostle would surely have used the occasion to preach the wonderful lesson of restitution! And “so he departed.”—Acts 19:23-41; 20:1-11

Aristarchus was there with Paul in Troas, and went along with Paul to Jerusalem. Evidently he there kept in close touch with Paul, for about two years later, when Paul was taken to Rome to appeal to Caesar, Aristarchus accompanied him on that long, perilous journey, during which he saw further evidences of Paul’s great courage and trust in the Lord, and no doubt served the apostle well on that journey.

It seems certain that Aristarchus faithfully accompanied Paul all the way to Rome, and remained with Paul during his confinement. In a letter Paul wrote about two years later to Philemon, he says, “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow laborers.” (Philem. 23,24) Paul here seems to make a distinction between Epaphras, whom he describes as his “fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus,” and the others whom he calls his “fellow laborers.”

But then, in a letter to the Colossians, also from Rome, Paul writes, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you.” (Col. 4:10) Yes, Aristarchus had long been Paul’s fellow prisoner in Christ; but now, apparently, he was also his fellow prisoner in chains. We hear no more about this faithful, loyal saint, but tradition says he died a martyr. Just as he was Paul’s companion in travel, so was he his companion in sacrifice, and in death.

Another of these humble saints who quietly served in the background was one Tychicus, of Asia, and probably of the city of Ephesus. He also knew Aristarchus, and no doubt these two were very good friends.

He too was probably involved with Paul and Aristarchus in that trouble in Ephesus, for when Paul left Ephesus and went to Macedonia, and then returned to Asia, we read, “And there accompanied him into Asia … Aristarchus and Tychicus of Asia,” and they later went with Paul to Troas.—Acts 20:4

Some years later, when Paul was confined in Rome, Tychicus, like Aristarchus, was there with him. It was to Tychicus that Paul dictated the letter to the Ephesian church. As Paul would dictate, Tychicus would write, “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel … to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God … according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Eph. 3:4-11

Perhaps Tychicus would pause in his writing, and say, “Paul, please explain this mystery more fully to us; and tell us more about that eternal purpose of God!” Along with all their problems, their cares, and the responsibilities of the churches, what marvelous fellowship these saints must have had! How close they must all have been! And in the very face of his own approaching judgment by the Roman authorities, what an example of faith and sacrifice was the apostle to them as they strove to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [they were] called.”—Eph. 4:1

Tychicus not only recorded this epistle for Paul, but he was also to carry it to the Ephesian church. Paul writes in that letter, “That ye may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother, and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things; whom I have sent unto you … that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.”—Eph. 6:21,22

It may well have been that it was at this time that Paul also wrote his letter to the Colossians, for again it was Tychicus who wrote a portion of this letter, and also bore it to the church of the Colossians, for Paul says in it, “All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you.” And then he permits a show of his love and affection for Tychicus to escape him, speaking of him as “Tychicus, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord; whom I have sent unto you … that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts.” (Col. 4:7) It would seem that Tychicus possessed that wonderful talent of bringing comfort to the brethren—a talent which Paul himself must greatly have appreciated during the years of his confinement in Rome.

Tychicus apparently remained with Paul in Rome right to the end, through Paul’s second appearance before Nero. Paul by this time seems to have sensed that his lifework was coming to a close, for there is a note of sadness in his second letter to Timothy. He says, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

And then he unwittingly reveals how greatly he longed for the fellowship and comfort of the brethren, for at this time of his great need he was almost alone. He continues, “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me. … Only Luke is with me.” (II Tim. 4:9-11) Tychicus could not now comfort the apostle, for at this moment that faithful fellow servant in Christ was on another long journey for Paul—“Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.”—II Tim. 4:12

The Scriptures tell us nothing more about Tychicus. One wonders if that “beloved brother, and faithful minister in the Lord” managed to return to Rome in time once more to see alive that one whom he had so long and faithfully served, and so greatly loved—to comfort his heart!

Then there was Epaphras. He was a Colossian, and no doubt a very close friend of Paul’s, for we find him bringing greetings, and visiting the apostle at Rome at the time Paul is writing his letter to the Colossian brethren. Quite possibly he was an elder in the Colossian church, for Paul in that letter says, “He is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.”

Epaphras may have been conferring with Paul at Rome for some time, for later in the same letter Paul again mentions him. “Epaphras,” Paul writes, “who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and for them at Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”—Col. 4:12,13

Paul greatly appreciated one who was fervent in prayer, for he so prayed himself. Recall what he says to the brethren in his letter to the Romans: “Now I beseech ye brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” (Rom. 15:30) Paul believed that fainthearted, halfhearted prayers had no place in the life of the follower of Christ; he believed and urged that one should pray with his whole heart, fervently, as did Epaphras—and he loved him for it the more.

This visit with Paul at Rome may have continued for some time, for we find that when Paul later writes his letter to Philemon, Epaphras is again mentioned as being present. In fact, some of the brethren mentioned in the letter to the Colossians are also mentioned in the letter to Philemon. “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow laborers.”—Philem. 23

There weren’t many there with Paul at Rome. As he contemplated the approaching termination of his ministry, he must oft times have reflected on his lifelong, loving but perilous service to the brethren. And at the end he would say, looking about a little sadly, “These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.” (Col. 4:10,11) And among those who were a comfort to Paul as he spent himself in the service of the Lord and the brethren was Epaphras, the one who was always laboring fervently for the brethren in prayer.

As with the Lord there were only the few, so also was it with Paul. But how tightly these faithful few clung to Paul—gathered close about him, ministering to him, comforting, praying, laboring in the kingdom, carrying the Gospel, the instructions, the encouragement, to the churches scattered about in Asia and Greece, on long, perilous, weary journeys. And among these loyal saints was Epaphras, Paul’s “fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus.”

But what about Demas, who was mentioned by Paul as being among his fellow laborers, in his letters to the Colossian brethren and to Philemon? In his second letter to Timothy, Paul seemed to be greatly longing to see Timothy, and urged him to come to him as quickly as he could. It was at that time also that Paul wrote to Timothy that “only Luke is with me.” Why was he alone, except for Luke? Paul tells us why. The other brethren were on journeys, and Demas had gone back into the world. No wonder Paul was sad! For one of those he had numbered among his brethren had forsaken the Lord and the truth. And so Paul wrote to Timothy, “Come shortly unto me; for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.” How dearly, therefore, Paul loved and appreciated those few who were faithful under those hard conditions!

Among these faithful brethren who strengthened and ministered to Paul must be numbered another little group of friends. They brought love and comfort to Paul at a time of his special need. We are told about them in the 28th chapter of the Book of Acts, which describes the end of Paul’s long journey by ship from Caesarea to appear before Nero in Rome. We read from Luke’s account: “We came next day to Puteoli; where we found brethren and were desired to tarry with them seven days; and so we went toward Rome. And from thence [that is, from Rome] when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum and The three taverns; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.”—Acts 28:13-15

Who were these brethren who came some three days’ journey by foot to meet and to greet Paul? We do not know their names. And probably Paul himself didn’t know them! But they evidently knew of and loved Paul, and they traveled out to bring him their love and comfort and companionship.

There was nothing lacking in Paul’s faith and trust in the Lord! He would have made his calling and election sure with or without the fellowship and sacrifices of the brethren. But even for the Pauls with the courage of lions, the hard road of sacrifice can be made a little smoother, a little less arduous, by the comfort, prayers, and encouragement of the less significant among the brethren. And although Luke does not tell us who were these brethren that journeyed far to bring comfort to Paul, it seems certain that their names are written in large letters in the Lamb’s book of life.

Do we remember what Paul wrote to the Hebrew brethren? “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; … and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” (Heb. 10:32-35) That evidence of their love, their compassion, cost the brethren reproaches, afflictions, the spoiling of their goods, their freedom—and sometimes their very lives.

All who walk in the steps of the Master are not Pauls, or Peters, or Johns. All do not have five talents, or even two. But each, no matter how humble, can bring comfort to those who are in the forefront of the battle; can encourage the Peters, the Johns, the Pauls; can minister to them, pray for them, and show them that we love them. Even as did Aristarchus, Tychicus, and Epaphras; even as did those unnamed saints who greeted and strengthened the Apostle Paul on the road to Rome, when he faced imprisonment and death.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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