Sunday, 29 July 2018
…as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers. Philemon 1:24
This verse, along with verse 10 (which mentions Onesimus), place the writing of Philemon at close to the same time as the writing of the book of Colossians. Here is what it says in Colossians 4 –
Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. 8 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, 9 with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.
Later in Colossians 4:17, Paul addresses Archippus, who is still in Colossae, and who is also an addressee in this letter to Philemon (verse 2). It can be inferred then that the timing is the same, and the letters were probably sent at or near the same time.
“Mark” is John Mark who went along with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, but who left that task before it was finished. Because of this, on the next missionary journey, there was a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along again. The disagreement was so severe that they split apart, each going his own way. Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, and off they went in different directions. However, Paul had obviously received Mark with an open hand once again and they were there together.
Aristarchus is a fellow Jew who is listed three times in Acts (19:29, 20:4, and 27:2). He is also named in Colossians and here in Philemon. Though a Jew, he was a Macedonian from Thessalonica as well (just as Paul was from Tarsus of Cilicia).
Demas is noted next. Eventually, he will forsake Paul as is recorded in 2 Timothy –
“Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:9-11
Finally, he mentions “Luke.” This is the same Luke noted in Acts 17:10, and he is recorded as being with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11. He is a Gentile. He is also a physician, something readily supported by his annotations in both the Gospel of Luke and in the book of Acts. His carefully worded statements demonstrate an observant eye and an understanding of both health and healing issues.
These men are called “my fellow laborers.” They all sent their personal greetings to Philemon, thus adding in one more reason for Philemon to grant Paul’s request. All of them were aware of the situation, they were obviously aware of Paul’s letter and its contents, and they were all friends of Philemon. It would be hard indeed to not approve the request Paul has made without offense to all of them.
Life application: Is holding fast to one’s pride worth losing friends in Christ? Philemon had been offended by the actions of Onesimus, but he was also faced with either forgiving him and doing as Paul requested, or he might lose his Christian brothers in the process. In the end, anything lost through Onesimus’ disobedience was promised to be restored. The only reason to not approve the request would be pride. Let’s hope he did the right thing, and let us also endeavor to do the right thing as well.
Lord God, the one thing we cling to in this life, and which is the most detrimental of all, is the sin of pride. This is especially true in salvation. We don’t want to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior, that nothing we can do will save us. Instead, we must submit ourselves to the only One who can – Jesus. Help us to put away our pride for salvation, and to keep it away in our salvation. Help us in this, O God. Amen.