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


Philemon 1:23-25
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 Colossians.

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 of God."  

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 Philemon's home.  

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 lately, Cheryl 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. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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