In this second sermon on Profiles in Partnership, Pastor Neil talks about Paul’s partners in the ministry of the Gospel. In the same way, God also calls us to the ministry. Will you answer the call? Here are some excerpts:
Barnabas was Paul’s former missionary partner, mentioned here because of his relationship to Mark, his cousin. It was not his real name. His real name was Joseph. Acts 4:36 says he was a (Jewish) Levite from the island of Cyprus. Barnabas was his nickname. It means “son of encouragement.” He had the spiritual gift of encouragement. He went around encouraging people, including both Paul and Mark.
Despite his first failure as a missionary, Mark came to be a valued partner in ministry with Paul. God chose Mark to write one of the New Testament Gospels. Mark’s account of the life, teaching, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus was the first of the New Testament Gospels to be written. Quite an impact for a guy whose first ministry experience ended in failure.
What we can learn from JJ is that you don’t have to be famous in order to have an impact. His friendship and support made a difference to Paul. You don’t need to be in the spotlight to have an impact as a follower of Jesus. Your labors in the Lord may be hidden from public view, but that doesn’t mean they are not valuable. It doesn’t mean they are not effective. It doesn’t mean they are not appreciated. God sees, knows. He smiles when you find your place in the work of His kingdom. God smiles when you come alongside others and offer love and comfort and support in the name of Jesus. Like JJ.
Next, in verse 12, we have Epaphras who, like Onesimus, was from Colosse. The Colossians had a special place in Epaphras’ heart because he was one of them. In addition, Paul speaks of Epaphras as a “slave (doulos) [or ‘servant’] of Christ Jesus.” In the Letter to Philemon, Paul speaks of Epaphras as “my fellow prisoner (sunaichmalotos) in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 23), indicating that, like Aristarchus (4:10), Epaphras was being held with Paul in prison in Rome.
Colossians 1:7 tells us that Epaphras, not Paul, had actually planted the church in Colosse. Paul says: “You (Colossians) heard it (the gospel) from Epaphras, our beloved (agapetos) fellow servant (sundoulos), who is a faithful (pistos) minister (diakonos) of Christ on our behalf.” Epaphras was a man whose heart and life were so changed by the gospel that he wanted everyone in his hometown of Colosse to know the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only did Epaphras have a heart for the gospel. He was also a man of prayer. A prayer warrior.
After Epaphras comes Luke (4:14). Paul calls him the “beloved doctor” (ho iatros ho agapetos). Like many of Paul’s friends and partners in ministry, Luke was a Gentile (non- Jewish) believer in Christ. He was with Paul on some of his missionary travels– not only a physician but an historian as well. He wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. (The usual title for the Book of Acts is ‘the Acts of the Apostles,” but it has often been said that a better title for it would “the Acts of the Holy Spirit.”) Here is a little trivia about Luke that you may not know: He is the only known author in the New Testament who was a Gentile. We do not know for sure who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews, since the writer is not identified anywhere. But of all the rest of the writers in the New Testament, Luke is the only one who was not Jewish.
Two more names appear in these final verses of Colossians. The first is Nympha. Nympha, as far as we know, was a Christian woman in Colosse, who hosted a house church in her home. In those days, they didn’t have church buildings like we have. As the gospel spread, followers of Jesus met together in homes, where ‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the [life together of] fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Nympha graciously opened her home for the church to meet there. The growth of the church was aided and impacted by ministry of hospitality, as believers opened their hearts and homes to both believers and seeking unbelievers.
Do you know what God has called you to do? If the answer is yes, do it. If your answer is no, then ask God to show you what He wants you to do – even now, in the age of COVID. Can you encourage someone who is lonely? Help a neighbor with groceries or in some other practical way? Can you pray? Show an interest in your neighbors? Teach a class? Invest some time and love in the children and youth of our church? Volunteer in a community ministry? See to it that you fulfill the ministry you have received in the Lord.
Pastor Neil has much more to say about this topic– partnership. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.