Divine Summons 22

Chapter 5

I Have Many People in this Town

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.”

(Acts 18:9-11)

Everyone on a mission needs a sidekick or band of brothers to share the journey.  Batman had Robin.  Luke Skywalker kept company with a couple clumsy robots.  Scooby Doo solved mysteries with van full of hippies. Frodo Baggins had Sam to keep him company.  In the Bible it’s no different.

From the very beginning we see that, “It is not good for man to be alone; therefore let us make a suitable partner for him” (Gen 2).  Therefore Adam had Eve.  Moses had Aaron.  David had Jonathan.  Jesus had the Twelve. And the Apostle Paul was joined in his missionary travels by the likes of Barnabas and Silas, Titus and Timothy, Dr. Luke and many others.

Paul’s letters to his churches are filled with warm greetings to dozens of people who God brought into his life to share in his ministry.  Romans 16:1-16 provides Paul’s longest list of personal greetings found in his letters.  Look at this long list of the hands and feet that participated in Paul’s apostolic ministry, the Body of Christ pitching in and working together for the advance of the gospel:

Be sure to welcome our friend Phoebe in the way of the Master, with all the generous hospitality we Christians are famous for. . . . Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, who have worked hand in hand with me in serving Jesus. They once put their lives on the line for me. And I’m not the only one grateful to them. All the non-Jewish gatherings of believers also owe them plenty, to say nothing of the church that meets in their house. Hello to my dear friend Epenetus. He was the very first follower of Jesus in the province of Asia. Hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be!Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Christ before I was. Both of them are outstanding leaders. Hello to Ampliatus, my good friend in the family of God. Hello to Urbanus, our companion in Christ’s work, and my good friend Stachys. Hello to Apelles, a tried-and-true veteran in following Christ. Hello to the family of Aristobulus. Hello to my cousin Herodion. Hello to those who belong to the Lord from the family of Narcissus. Hello to Tryphena and Tryphosa—such diligent women in serving the Master. Hello to Persis, a dear friend and hard worker in Christ. Hello to Rufus—a good choice by the Master!—and his mother. She has also been a dear mother to me. Hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and also to all of their families. Hello to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas— and all the followers of Jesus who live with them. Holy embraces all around! All the churches of Christ send their warmest greetings!

It is safe to say that Paul was not lacking company as he fulfilled God’s apostolic calling. The deep bond that unites people who share a common mission and go through similar struggles is one of a kind.  Like war buddies who have spent time in the trenches and lived to talk about it, fellow bondservants in Christ love to swap stories and share the memories — some good and some bad.  Paul had many stories to tell, and many comrades who could call him on it when he started to exaggerate the facts.

Listen to the warm and tender words with which Paul writes to his beloved friends in Philippi as he reflects back on their partnership in the gospel:

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:3-8).

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