The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
October 9, 2011
1) Philemon 1:23-25 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
We now come to the end of Paul's letter to Philemon, in which he
closes by including greetings from several who are with him in
Rome. He states in Philemon 1:23,24: "Epaphras, my fellow
prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus,
Demas, Luke, my fellow workers."
The name "Epaphras" is an abbreviated form of "Epaphroditus," but
these two names are not referring to the same person in the
NT. Epaphroditus was a messenger to the Philippians who
brought word to them of Paul, during his first Roman imprisonment,
and also made the 700-mile journey back to Rome to bring their
financial support to Paul. Mention is made of him in
Philippians 2:25-30 and 4:18. But Epaphras was a messenger to
the Colossians and was also from there himself (Col. 4:12,13).
He, apparently, had been involved in teaching the gospel to the
Also included in giving his greetings is Mark (v. 24). He was
Barnabas' cousin and the one who had briefly accompanied Paul and
Barnabas during the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey,
but then departed from them. He had been with them on the
island of Cyprus, from Salamis (on the east) to Paphos (on the
west), but then left Paul and Barnabas when they had come to Perga
in Pamphylia (Acts 13:5,13,14; 15:38). It also appears,
however, that instead of meeting them on the island, he was with
them from the start at Antioch in Syria, according to Acts
12:25-13:5. Mark is also known as "John" (Acts 12:12):
"...John who was also called Mark...." Various Bible versions
refer to "Mark" as his "surname," which, though can mean a family
name or last name, it can also mean "a name added to a person's
name, as one indicating a circumstance of birth or some
characteristic or achievement; epithet" (Random House Webster's
Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus). Thayer shows that "Mark"
means "a defense." This passage in Acts 12 also tells us a
little more about Mark. His mother was named Mary, and she
appears to have been fairly wealthy. She had at least one
servant and a house large enough to accommodate "many" Christians
who had been praying. As a result of Mark's desertion of Paul
and Barnabas at Perga, Paul did not want Mark to join them in the
next missionary journey (Acts 15:36-40). So now we see Mark
teaming up with Barnabas; and Paul with Silas. About 11 years
later, however, Paul speaks very favorably of Mark: In Philemon
1:24, he is one of Paul's "fellow workers." And from what we
see in Colossians 4:10, Paul wanted Mark to be well received by the
brethren. Toward the close of his life, Paul writes in 2
Timothy 4:11, "Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with
you, for he is useful to me for service." In commenting on
Mark's life, one writer points out that Mark's "biography proves
that one failure in life does not mean the end of usefulness."
According to Fausset, Alexandria was "the final scene of Mark's
labors...and martyrdom." But we can also point out that the
good work of Mark will last as long as time itself, for it is he
whom God used to write the second book of the New Testament.
Aristarchus had also sent his greetings to Philemon.
Aristarchus was from Thessalonica in Macedonia and had accompanied
Paul during his third missionary journey. For mention is made
in Acts 19:29 of his having been with Paul when he came to Ephesus:
"The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one
accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus,
Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia." After Paul had
been in Greece for 3 months, but had to depart when a plot was
formed against him, he returned by way of Macedonia and took
Aristarchus with him, as Acts 20:3,4 shows. According to
Colossians 4:10, Aristarchus had been in Rome with Paul; and from
Acts 27:1,2, we see that he had actually been in the same voyage
with Paul to Italy. Here in Philemon 1:24, Paul refers to
Aristarchus as one of his "fellow workers." According to
tradition, Aristarchus was martyred, during the persecution of Nero.
Also giving his greetings is Demas. "Demas" is an abbreviated
form of Demetrius or Demarchus. He is the same one who years
later had forsook Paul: In 2 Timothy 4:9,10, after exhorting Timothy
to "Make every effort to come to me soon," Paul then states, "for
Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to
Thessalonica...." For a while he had been a fellow worker with
Paul, according to Philemon 1:24, but by the time Paul wrote his
last epistle, 2 Timothy, Demas had turned away.
Paul shows that Demas had "loved this present world." Do you
think Paul had that in mind when he stated, just two verses earlier,
"in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day;
and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His
appearing"? That's quite a contrast: Demas loved this present
world, but Paul speaks here of those who are looking forward to the
Lord's "appearing"! So they were also looking forward to a new
"world" that would be heaven itself.
I have heard some who have interpreted Demas' "having loved this
present world" as referring to his love for lost souls; but if that
be so, why does Paul refer to Demas as having "deserted" him?
Note, too, how Paul uses that phrase "present world" in 1 Timothy
6:17: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not
to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches,
but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy."
We know that "world" is used to stand for various things in the
Bible, but here it is not referring to the people. There are
many things in the world today that have their subtle charm or
appeal, but can draw people away from Christ. Compare, for
example, 1 John 2:15-17.
Lastly, Paul mentions Luke as sending his greetings. In
Colossians 4:14, Luke had also sent greetings to the Colossians and
is referred to by Paul as "the beloved physician." Here, in
Philemon 1:24, he is also seen as one of Paul's "fellow workers."
Paul's first encounter with Luke is in Troas, where the "we"
passages begin in Acts 16:10-12. It appears that Luke had
remained in Philippi after Paul and Silas had left there on Paul's
second missionary journey: Acts 16:40, "They went out of the
prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the
brethren, they encouraged them and departed." Notice that it
is not "we" that departed, but "they." So Luke did not leave
with them. During Paul's third missionary journey, he meets up
again with Luke in Philippi (Acts 20:5-7). So Luke was one who
was with Paul at this time to have the Lord's Supper together on the
first day of the week. Luke had also accompanied Paul on his
voyage to Rome (Acts 27:1-8). He is seen on the island of
Malta where they fled for safety, following the shipwreck (Acts
28:1,2). And he went all the way into Rome itself with Paul
(Acts 28:12- 16). So Luke was with Paul at that time.
Luke was also with Paul during his second Roman imprisonment, near
the end of Paul's life. This can be seen in 2 Timothy 4:11,
where Paul says, "Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him
with you, for he is useful to me for service."
Luke's name is found only three times in the Scriptures; and it
should not be confused with "Lucius," which is another person.
But, of course, as pointed out above, there are various "we"
passages in the book of Acts that include Luke. He was a
Gentile. One indication of Luke being a non-Jew is inferred
from Colossians 4:14 and verse 11. For in verse 14, Luke is
mentioned as sending his greetings to the Colossians; but just three
verses prior (v. 11), he is not included among those "from the
circumcision" who were with Paul as "fellow workers for the kingdom
It was Luke whom God chose to write the third book in the NT, as
well as the book of Acts. From Luke 1:1-4, it appears that
Luke had not been an actual eyewitness of Jesus.
Luke is thought to have probably died as a martyr somewhere between
A.D. 75 and A.D. 100.
Paul then closes his letter similarly to his others. Philemon
1:25 states, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your
spirit." The "your" in this verse is plural, so though this
letter appears to have been a personal letter written to Philemon,
Paul's greeting and closing-wishes include all the church in
Wishing God's grace upon them is something Paul does at the
beginning and close of every epistle he writes. We think of
this "grace" as not only "unmerited favor," but also as a favor that
is shown by God Himself. A favor like that consists of
numerous blessings, but here Paul focuses on the spiritual
blessings; for this grace is to be "with your spirit."
Compare this, for example, to 3 John 1:2, "Beloved, I pray that in
all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your
soul prospers." Prospering in our souls is, by far, the
greatest way we can prosper! Commenting on the phrase "with
your spirit," Zerr writes that "This is significant, for a true
Christian is bound to have unpleasant experiences as it pertains to
his body (2 Timothy 3:12); yet he may be comfortable and refreshed
in spirit all the while." This type of contrast is also seen
in 2 Corinthians 4:16, where Paul tells the Corinthians, "Therefore
we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our
inner man is being renewed day by day."
So may God's grace be with our spirit as well. For then we
will truly prosper and be healthy in the most important ways -- and
that is, spiritually!
If you need God's grace in your life, why not avail yourself of that
today. Paul had confidence that Philemon would receive
Onesimus back in the right way -- a forgiving and gracious way --
and we can have even more confidence that the Lord will truly
welcome us the right way, too, if we will simply return to Him,
according to His word. For every sinner has run from His
Master in heaven; and, therefore, has a need to return to Him.
In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus indicates, in the Parable of the Prodigal
Son, God's gracious welcoming to any wayward soul. How
thankful we should be that God will receive us -- and regardless of
how sinful we have been -- if we will repent of our sins and
submit to the Lord's condition for pardon.
News & Notes
John Crews (Richard and
Cheryl's son) had been experiencing some pain off and on since
Friday (10/14). When he started also developing a fever, his wife
urged him to go to the hospital, which he did. The problem
turned out to be his appendix. It was, therefore, removed today
(10/19); and he is now recovering from it. Let those of us who
are Christians be praying for him.
Let us also be remembering R.J.
Evans in our prayers who recently began feeling the effects
of his radiation treatment for his prostate cancer. It is
causing him to feel fatigued, which he was told would probably be
the case, after about 4 weeks.
Others to be praying for are R.J.'s wife Jackie who has been having much difficulty with back
pain, Clyde Jackson who
recently had surgery due to lung cancer, Cheryl Anderson who has not been feeling well
Crews who has had health problems for quite some time,
and Peggy Lefort and her
mother Geneva Wilson who
have also been sick.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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