Name some people who stand out in Paul’s epistles. Barnabas and Timothy come quickly to mind for me. Like many missionaries today, these were familiar faces in the first-century church. But who stood behind them in their ministries? Turns out it was a lot more than three people.
- In his letter to the Romans, Paul commends Phoebe and greets Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcussus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Asyncritus, Plegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Juia, Nereus (and his sister), Olympas, Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus.
- In 1 Corinthians, besides Aquila and Prisca, he mentions Apollos, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus.
- Paul sent Tychicus to the church at Ephesus. (6:21)
- He mentions Tychicus again in Colossians, along with Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus (Justus), Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha and Archipus.
- He says the Thessalonians sent Timothy to him. (1 Thess. 3:6)
- He mentions Onesiphorus in 1 Timothy 1:16, lists five mentioned in other letters, then adds Carpus, Alexander, Erastus, Trophimus, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia.
- Besides Tychicus, he names Artemas, Zenas and Apollos in his letter to Titus.
- Finally, Paul sends greetings to Philemon from five he mentioned in other letters.
If I counted correctly, this adds up to 62 behind-the-scenes saints Paul names who joined with him to grow the first-century church. Besides those mentioned by name, he greeted and commended countless anonymous others who were associated with them.
Here’s an idea for an exercise. Take some time this week to read what Paul wrote about these people. I think my favorite commendation is the one for Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus in 1 Corinthians 16:18: “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours,” Paul wrote. And for that refreshment, he says, “Therefore acknowledge such men.”
Perhaps Paul’s acknowledgments can be a catalyst for you to do the same. Why not drop a few notes to those who serve behind the scenes to support your up-front ministry, or those who labor anonymously with you in support of others? And if you want the rest of us to know about their service, write a comment to this blog.