Paul’s companions in the ministry

Dr. Koshy Mathew

Both well known and less known associates of Paul are recorded in the New Testament. Preaching of the gospel is not a one man show; it is a collective endeavor. Someone has rightly observed, “Magicians work alone, preachers work together”. This statement was true in the case of Paul. When Lord sent his disciples to preach the Kingdom of God, He sent them two by two. Paul had hundreds of associates who assisted him in the mission field. Most interestingly he records about ninety of them by name. This shows his intimacy and concern for others. To remember names in a multicultural mission field is not an easy task.

Paul had a Shepherd's heart

Probably Paul had a sharp memory and he might have kept the record of them. Once I met a brother who remembers the name accurately. Privately I did enquire the secrete behind this amazing ability. He told me, when he hears the name; he recites the name a few times in his mind, then records it in his Prayer hand book and pray for them. A Man who remembers others in prayer by name may not forget them easily. So, Paul may be remembering each one of his associates in prayer by name. Doctor need not to remember the name of a patient, he remembers the bed number, teacher calls by roll number, Police identifies by cell number but a Shepherd calls his sheep by name.

A Shepherd may have to care hundreds of sheep but he calls each one by name. Jesus said, “He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep...he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. ...I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and am known of mine.” (John 10:3,14). A true shepherd knows the name of each one in the congregation and suddenly realizes if someone is missing also. He goes in search of the missing sheep. Paul had a shepherd's heart.

When we remember and call a person by name, is a mark of our love and honor. We may know the name of the boss but not of a casual labourer. Paul remembered everyone irrespective of their social status because of the love of Christ.

Paul's co workers

Paul's missionary endeavor among the Gentiles was successful because of a large network of Christian brothers and sisters, from both Jews and Gentiles. His major work began at the Church of Antioch, which was composed of various ethnic communities. To him all are one in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female” Paul used everybody's service for proclaiming the gospel.

Racism and casteism have hindered the spread of the gospel. Paul vehemently fought against such evil practices.

Barnabas, Apollos, Aquila and others were his earlier associates. They labored together. Meanwhile Paul trained faithful and able men from among the young new converts. He had a great vision of developing a second line of leadership. Timothy, Titus and Tychichus are a few examples of his disciples. Many missions/ Churches failed because of the lack of second line of leadership; it is due to the short sightedness of existing leadership.

Some associates were Paul's travel partners e.g. Luke and Silas. A few like Apollos, Barnabas, Aquila and Priscilla worked with him for a short period and later on continued as independent workers. Some carry out their work primarily in a local setting (e.g., Philemon, Euodia, Epaphras, Archippus).

Still, all of his co-workers act cooperatively with him in a wide variety of mission activities.

Mission field is a Battlefield

We are workers together with God (1 Cor.3:9). God has delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son (Col.1:13). Spiritual work is not comparable to secular job. It is a war fare. Those who are in the forefront can truly feel it. That is why Paul addresses many of his coworkers as fellow soldiers. We cannot fight a battle alone. God is with us as our Captain and we need fellow believers also; to achieve the goal of delivering the perishing souls from the Kingdom of Satan.

Paul's associates provided various services to accomplish the task. Some like Epaphras were prayer warriors. Others were like Onesiphorus, helped to boost the morale of the depressed soldiers. Like David of old some were very keen to supply provisions in the battle field. Epaphroditus was one among them. Paul delegated young men like Titus to handle the difficult front such as Corinth and Crete. As a well experienced soldier of Christ, Paul encouraged Timothy, Archippus and others to sharpen the Sword.

Not only brothers, there were also many sisters who assisted him in the ministry. Phebe could carry a very important document all the way to Rome. Aquila and Priscilla were willing to lay their life for the sake of the Gospel. Paul was vigilant enough to identify trouble makers like Alexander, the copper Smith, Demas, Hymenaeus and others.

One of the secrets of victory is the unity among the soldiers. In Biblical history we read about extinction of many mighty and great armies by infighting. (Judg.7:22; 1 Sam.14:20; Ezekiel. 38:21). So, let us stop fighting for silly matters and face the enemy unitedly with prayers and with the whole armour of God. Paul was a great and successful soldier of Christ who could boldly declare at the end of his life. “I have fought a good fight...” (2 Tim4:7).

Dr. Koshy Mathew

About the Author:

Dr. Koshy Mathew is the Editor, Harvest Times for Family, GLS Mumbai.

This article appeared in the August 2018 publication of Harvest Times.