A Band Of Spiritual Brothers

paul-in-chains

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. 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. Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets 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 witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house. Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen. (Colossians 4:7-18)

A Band Of Spiritual Brothers

The apostle Paul was sitting in a Roman prison when he writes a letter to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who were in Colosse. It would seem the environment of a prison would cause the spirit to be downtrodden but in all of his prison letters Paul was more concerned for the brethren than himself and used the letters to fill the recipients with a feeling of joy. The matter of chains and imprisonment did not hinder the spirit of Paul as he suffered for the cause of Christ because he knew his greatest reward was yet to come in death. Friends were very important to the apostle and he was blessed by a number of people who were not ashamed of his chains. They visited him often and some were arrested with Paul and imprisoned. In his letter to Colosse there are ten men mentioned in closing that made up his band of spiritual brothers that lifted up the spirit of Paul to be bold and courageous. These men would make the core group of individuals that have been preserved for two millennia as stalwart men of faith by the Holy Spirit that helped Paul endure his many trials and sufferings.

Tychicus was called a beloved brother. He was from Asia and is mentioned in four of Paul’s letters. Luke mentions the faithful minister of Paul as being a part of the third missionary journey waiting for the apostle in Troas. He would carry news of Paul to the church in Colosse as well as taking a letter to Timothy. When Paul desired for Titus to meet him at Nicopolis, Tychicus would travel to Crete to take his place. This was a man who was a hard worker in the kingdom and someone that could be relied upon to carry out the work of the apostle. Paul calls him his beloved brother endearing his spirit of faithfulness to himself as a minister and servant of the kingdom. The church needs men like Tychicus that can be looked upon with confidence.

Onesimus is an unusual friend of Paul because he was a runaway slave that had been taught the truth and was sent back to his master Philemon. Like Tychicus, he was called a faithful and beloved brother. How powerful the testimony of the gospel to remove the chains of sin from the heart of a man indentured by the chains of life. What is found in the heart of Onesimus is the cleansing power of grace to change a man’s life from a runaway slave to a slave of Christ who no longer runs away.

The third companion of Paul was Aristarchus a fellow prisoner. He was from Thessalonica and had suffered at the hands of people of Ephesus when the city rioted and seized Gaius and himself in response to Paul’s preaching against idolatry. He would travel with Tychicus and others during the third missionary journey and be found in the company of Paul on his trip to Rome where he was imprisoned also. Aristarchus was willing to suffer as Paul suffered. His spirit never left his friend the apostle Paul and willingly gave his life in the work of the kingdom. A truer friend could not be found than Aristarchus.

In one of the great stories of forgiveness John Mark is mentioned by Paul to the Colossian brethren as useful servant of the Lord. Paul and Barnabas had a very strong contention about John Mark after the first missionary journey. Mark had turned back while in Pamphylia and greatly upset Paul for his lack of diligence. Paul would take Silas with him while Barnabas took John Mark and began working in Cyprus. Now Paul speaks kindly about Mark commending him to the brethren. Sometimes men make hasty decisions and for whatever reasons Mark was not ready to work with Paul at first but soon became a useful servant of the apostle and Paul did not harbor unkind or unforgiving feelings toward him.

Jesus who is called Justus was a fellow worker for the kingdom of God among the Jews. These men proved very helpful to Paul in teaching the Jews the good news of Christ and Paul relates how they had become a comfort to him in his work. It is difficult to imagine the level of suffering endured by the apostle at the hands of the Jews and later the Romans but this band of brothers helped him do his work with faith and courage.

Epaphras was earlier called a dear fellow servant and faithful minister in the letter to the Colossians. He was a close companion of Paul laboring fervently in the kingdom. There was a great zeal about Epaphras that set him apart from others. This would cost him greatly as he also would be a fellow prisoner with Paul feeling the chains and stocks of the Roman prison. The spirit of Epaphras was very dear to the apostle. Men like Epaphras stood by the servants of the Lord to exhort, encourage and help them keep doing the work of teaching the gospel of Christ. The church needs men who strike their spirit of iron on other men to help them do their work.

Luke is only mentioned by name in three books of the Bible but his letters to Theophilus fill the pages of the New Testament with the great declarations of the life of Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles. He is found as a traveling companion in the book of Acts with Paul suffering along with the apostle and keeping a close record of all the events surrounding the work of the kingdom. It is in this letter that Luke is identified as a man of medicine. There are hints to this in the gospel and the Acts but Paul commends his dear friend for the work he had done as a beloved physician. There can be little doubt that Luke was a vital part of the work of Paul as they worked together in preaching but also for the medicinal needs of the apostle. He would be one of the last people to be with Paul as he faced death bringing great comfort to the aged apostle as he prepared to die. Luke was truly a beloved friend of the apostle.

Demas is commended in the letter to the Colossians but will be found wanting in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Paul had confidence in Demas and mentions him also in the letter to Philemon. When the Romans arrested Paul the second time and placed him in chains, Demas forsook the apostle and went to Thessalonica. At the time the apostle needed his friends most Demas forsook him. Paul did not hold a grudge against his friend but it hurt him deeply to be abandoned in his hour of need. Demas loved the world more than the Lord and gave up at the most important time. Those close to Paul would suffer like the apostle and some men were unable to bear the burden and pay the cost. Demas was not a faithful servant of the Lord and how much this disappointed Paul.

Finally Paul mentions the brethren in Laodicea and Nymphas and the church that is in his house. Nothing is known about the man but he was a man of faith bringing the family of God together to meet in his house. He was a giving spirit and gave comfort to Paul in his affliction.

All of these dear saints were important to Paul and he preserved their names through the centuries to remind God’s children to do what they can do to serve the Lord. Not everyone can be a Paul or Timothy but like this story there is a lot of work we can do to help men like them. Each person was important to Paul and he cared for each one. They made his life enjoyable in a Roman prison because he knew they were serving the Lord. Let us all band together in the work that we can do together in teaching a lost world the saving grace of God.

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