Philemon Day 15 Friends & Neighbors
March 3, 2023
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philemon 1:23-25)
How often do we skip right over these benedictions in Scripture? If you’re anything like me, do you ever wonder why these verses are included and important to the Bible?
2 Timothy 3:16 (emphasis mine) tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable [. . .] so that the [woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Therefore, these closing verses are God-inspired and useful in our journey! Let’s jump in and see what we learn as we meet Philemon’s coworkers.
Epaphras is first mentioned in Colossians 1:7-8, then again in 4:12:
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills.”
Here, we gain some insight into this man with an unusual name. Possibly one of the founders of the church in Colossae, Epaphras partnered with the Apostle Paul in deep care for the church and in ministry.
Mark, often referred to as John Mark in Scripture, is more familiar as the author of the gospel of Mark. John Mark was also a cousin to Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), who often traveled with Paul; Mark is introduced in Acts 12:12, 25.
Paul’s relationship with Mark was tumultuous. While we don’t know the details, at some point, Mark left the group of missionaries traveling with Paul. (Acts 15:36-40) It’s possible Mark was young, immature, or just took a wrong turn, as many of us do in our journeys following Jesus. This upset Paul so deeply that when Mark tried to rejoin the mission, the team parted ways over his return.
The letter to Philemon, however, leads us to believe they were reconciled. In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul even requested, “Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” Paul’s words indicate the men had grown to rely on each other as they served together to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next is Aristarchus, who we learn from Acts 27:2 is a Macedonian from Thessalonica and a companion of Paul. We meet him when Acts 19:21-41 describes a riot in Ephesus. Aristarchus, as Paul’s traveling companion, was swept along as the mob converged on a local amphitheater.
Additionally, he accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys (Acts 20:1-6), as well as on his trip to Rome. In Colossians 4, Paul referred to Aristarchus as a “fellow prisoner.” Throughout the trials accompanying spreading the Gospel, Aristarchus remained a devoted co-laborer with Paul.
Demas, like the other men, started out as a “fellow worker” of Paul’s and was with him in Rome. (Colossians 4:14) However, 2 Timothy 4:9-10 reveals his commitment was short-lived, “Make every effort to come to me soon, because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone on to Thessalonica.”
As I was researching these men, one commentary made an interesting point: at least three of them (Epaphras, Aristarachus, and Mark) were faithful workers in sharing the Gospel, starting churches and going on missions with Paul, yet I cannot recall a sermon preached about Epaphras or Aristarchus.
Yet, clearly they were hard-working and faithful companions to Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament. From their stories, we learn we don’t have to be well-known to do great work for Jesus. These lesser-known men were simply faithful to God’s call and faithful to their mentor, Paul. Here is a lesson for all of us!
As I write, I’m reminded of the song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
We were not made to do life alone. (Genesis 2:18)
We all need people in our lives.
People to serve with us, to encourage us, to stick by our side no matter what.
People who will continue the work of Jesus when we can’t.
People who share the desire to serve our Father.
Personally, I have been blessed with such people. My kids call us the Kool Momz; these ladies (Marla, Dawn, and Katherine) love Jesus and desire to honor and serve Him as much as I. We pray together, eat together, laugh together and support each other.
This past fall, Katherine’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer, devastating news that rocked her to the core. But God knew and He had worked to bring the four of us together so she did not walk through that deep valley alone. We stood in the gap for our hurting friend, doing whatever was needed, whenever it was needed. And when they received the news the cancer was gone – we celebrated together!
I pray each of you will find your people, those with whom you can do life.
Those who will encourage you, challenge you to grow in Jesus, pray with you, study with you, walk beside you during the hard, and celebrate with you during the good.
The grace of God bonds us not only as friends, but as family.
Life is better together!
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