Friday, 11 September 2009

St Paul And His Partners

Article 3 ~ September 2009

Prominent among the disciples of Jesus named in the Gospels were Peter, Andrew, James, John and Paul.

There were others, men and women whose contributions to the growth and influence of the Christian faith were equally acceptable.

They were those willing, able and available to play lesser roles in the plan Jesus had to bring people to real faith and trust in God and to believe that in Him God was personalised as a man among them.

The leaders were dependent on these others to enable them to meet their joined commitments to Jesus.

The truth inherent here is that God does not only need those who do extraordinary things but all those who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.
This article "Paul and his Partners" illustrates that reality in his life.

There can be no doubt of the very large contribution St Paul made to the progress of the Christian Faith as a teacher, preacher and author. The church's indebtedness to this one man is readily acknowledged, and evidenced in that his thinking, insights and perceptions on the faith, are taken as the true and acceptable beliefs of Christians always and everywhere.

Very many books have been written on the person, worth, work and writings of Paul. They describe him as the pastor, missionary, writer exemplar of Christianity; and tell of the respect he earned from his fellow believers for his total, selfless, committal to Christ. They showed him, by their care for him, in the many experiences of his most active and adventurous life, a devotion that made it possible for him to keep going in spite of the handicaps of ill health, injuries, persecutions and imprisonments.

Paul greatly valued his many friends. He named some of them for their very much appreciated contributions to him in care and concern, and often at considerable cost to themselves. They shared with him in the making of Christians, building up their local churches and living out the faith in their communities.

Among them were those whose ability, commitment, self-sacrificing zeal for the faith made them pastors and leaders of such competence that by them the church of Christ had an amazing growth. There were others, "ordinary Christians", who lived their lives quietly and responsibly in doing what they could for the continuance and development of the church where they were. The situation has similar characteristics then and now.

To recall friends of Paul is an exercise in understanding and appreciation their worth in their several and diverse relations with him.

There is Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, who on becoming a Christian gave all he had to the church (Acts 4: 36, 37). Available for service he was sent to Antioch (Acts 11: 19, 24) and thence to Tarsus where he persuaded Paul to go back with him to Antioch. Later the two of them were taken at Lysta to be manifestations of the gods Jupiter and Mercury (Acts 13:3). They were together at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15: 1, 2) and with Silas they visited the churches to advise them of the findings of the council.

Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John Mark whom Barnabas wanted to take with them on a missionary journey. The two went their separate ways in the remaining tours (Acts 15: 36-41). In spite of the break they remained good friends caring for one another (1 Cor 9:6; Gal 2:1, 9:13; Col 4:10; 2Tim 4:11). John Mark, nephew or cousin of Barnabas was probably the boy who followed Jesus to Gethsemane and was injured escaping from there (Mark 14:32). Scholarly, he was called "the interpreter of Peter". His Gospel is largely the dictation of St Peter.

Silas (Acts) Silvanius (Epistles) (2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess1:1) was chosen by Paul to travel with him when he broke with Barnabas. Silas was jailed in Philippi. Later Paul left him and Timothy at Thessalonica while he went on to Athens and his confrontation with the scholars at Mars Hill. Silas and Timothy were in Corinth with Paul and are mentioned in his letters to the church there.

Timothy of mixed race, Greek and Jew, was also with Paul on his second missionary journey. It was on his promptings Paul wrote the letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. He was with Paul in Corinth when he wrote to the Romans (Acts 20:2; Romans 16:20) and in Troas in his imprisonment there (Col 1:1; Philemon 1) and on the apostle's request in his jail at Rome. Helpful to Paul at Rome were Onesiphorous, an Ephersian Christian (2 Tim 1:16, 19; 4:19) and Onesimus, a runaway slave who on Paul's advice returned to his master Philemon at Colossae with good result to both Christian men, (Philemon) Tychius who accompanied Onesimus had been with Paul when he went to Jerusalem and was described by him as his "beloved brother." It was he who brought the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.

Not all Paul's friends were equal in ability and quality. There was Demas who had had potential as a Christian (Col 4:14; Philemon 24) but who abandoned the faith (2 Tim 4:10).

There were many more than these that received creditable mention by Paul. These are the reminder of the value of friendship and the beneficial effects it had on Paul always thankful for his friends and himself a good friend. Paul and his partners is the reminder that however important the Christian leader there must be those who are his/her dependable co-workers always at hand when they are needed. He or she and they go forward together in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord. (read especially 1 Thessalonians).

Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

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