Relationships – Paul and his Helpers

He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

  • Acts 15:30-41

He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

  • Acts 20:4-6

Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.

  • 2 Timothy 4:19-21

(They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

  • Acts 21:29

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

  • Philemon 1:23-25

A Quote

[Acts 16:22]: Sopater of Berea … Trophimus of Asia. Paul’s traveling companions came from the various provinces in which he had ministered. These men were likely the official representatives of their churches, chosen to accompany Paul as he took the offering to Jerusalem.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

Note: Although Timothy and Titus are mentioned in either the Scriptures or the discussion, the special relationship Paul had with those two is next week’s relationship lesson.

In the first two Scriptures above, eight men are named, but Luke is also implied by the use of the first person plural.  Of these eight men, only Sopater and Secundus are only mentioned this one time.  While all were probably useful in the missionary work of Paul, those two especially may have only gone with Paul to Jerusalem to safeguard the donations from their specific church.  All the others are mentioned elsewhere in Acts or in the Pauline letters with a note that these people are a help in one way or another or they simply give their greetings.

When Paul is in Rome, he is under house arrest, since he is a Roman citizen.  He cannot come and go, but these friends can.  They were Paul’s eyes and ears, but also his messengers.

Paul is careful in listing those who are of great help.  He even says that John Mark is very important to him (2 Timothy 4:11, which also mentions Luke again).

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

I could suppose the addition of Luke should have been here, but Luke being the author and then switching from third person to first person plural is powerful evidence that he was reunited with Paul at the time.

We can infer also that Trophimus did not enter the temple, but is Luke giving the people in Jerusalem credit for thinking Trophimus might have entered the temple, or did they see an opportunity to rid themselves of Paul who was taking the Gospel to the Gentiles?  Anyway, the resulting riot led to Paul’s arrest and eventual trip to Rome to plead his case before Caesar.

The other mentions of people in the letters expand the lists to people who may not have been with Paul on the third missionary journey which ended with Paul being arrested.

Rev. MacArthur infers that Titus may have been with them on the trip from Macedonia to Troas, but he is not mentioned.

Gaius from Derbe is mentioned in other places, and 3 John is a letter specifically to someone named Gaius.  This might be a different Gaius, but the ministry of Paul established churches throughout Asia Minor and the Apostle John became the bishop of that region, which includes Derbe.  This could very well be the same Gaius.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

There are tons of gaps here.  If you are telling a short story, you have plenty of characters to work with, but you know little about them.

If you are writing a novel, you may need more characters who fill in the gaps, some that may not even be in the Scriptures.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

We all need others.

God commands us to be around other people, love one another, and help others.  Some of that help requires a logistics system.  In other words, who gets the food from one place to another?  Who carries the monetary donations?  Who protects those people doing all the carrying?

Then in Paul’s letters, who distributes the letters?  Who brings back the replies?

And who checks on all these churches that Paul started?

A lot of these questions are similar to the same issues we have today.  If we have the ability to travel, we could become a courier.  If we can cook …

I hope you get the point here.  As Paul had friends that he was sure to mention in his letters, he was pointing out that he had a relationship with those people that went far beyond their contribution to the mission that glorified God and spread the Gospel.

What little thing can you do, that in the overall working of things is just as important as the big splashy things that gets some people the attention?

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.
  • And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered.  Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.
  • Not blindly trust our buddies from our youth as advisors and there may be emotional ties that make their advice sound better than it is.
  • Understand that good cannot compromise with evil.
  • And sometimes you have to weather the storms, both in the home and in the world of public opinion.

A Closing Prayer

We look to You for guidance.  Paul had a lot of people in his entourage, Jews and Gentiles.  He relied on them, and he thanked them publicly.  We need to give credit where credit is due, and we need to volunteer when a need is discovered, and we have the skills and the time to do it.  Help us to glorify You in everything that we do.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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