Col 4:10-13 “Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”
Even though he was a prisoner, the Lord had caused the fact that Paul was both a Jew and a Roman citizen to put him in a position to minister. For the two years of his imprisonment, Paul was able to rent his own residence and minister to many. Aristarchus was apparently a prisoner with Paul and not just a fellow laborer, although he was certainly that as well. Aristarchus was with Paul during the riot in Ephesus (Act 19:29) and apparently continued with him.
Mark (also known as John), who was a relative of Barnabas, went part way with Paul and Barnabas on what is referred to as the first missionary journey. Mark turned back at some point and did not complete that first trip Acts (13:13), apparently to Paul’s displeasure. At the time of his second journey, Paul approached Barnabas about a repeat trip. When Barnabas insisted on bringing Mark along again, Paul refused to travel with Barnabas and instead took Silas with him (Act 15:36-41).
We are often tempted to think of the characters in the scripture as being somehow superhuman. It is in these personal glimpses that we realize that these were men with the same nature that we possess. With that realization should also come the understanding that if God could use these men in His service then He can certainly use us as well. Also, it shows that God is able to tender our hearts since Mark (rendered here in the Roman “Marcus”) was obviously back with Paul and ministering to Paul while he was on house arrest.
Furthermore, Paul was obviously convinced of Mark’s faithfulness to the cause and also to the fact that news of their previous rift might have reached the ears of the brethren at Colosse. Paul was careful to remind them that they were to receive Mark if he was able to come to them. Mark was obviously very concerned about the church and was a companion of Peter (1Pe 5:13) as well as Paul. Paul and Mark’s fellowship apparently continued to the end of Paul’s life, as he requests Mark’s attendance in what is considered to be his last letter (2Ti 4:11).
Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus were the only men of Jewish faith (of the circumcision) who were Paul’s companions in his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul points out something that we, as fellow laborers in the gospel, need to remember: fellowship with others who labor in the kingdom of God is vital! God’s gives us each other as consolation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he points out with Epaphras, it is also important that we are fervent in prayer for the church.
Epaphras’ efforts in prayer are described as a fervent labor. It is something done with passion and action. Prayer is not something done just every now and then: again, Epaphras’ efforts are said to be happening always. He was passionate in his desire to see the church stand mature and full furnished in all the will of God. Too often, we look around us and give in to despair because there seems to be so few interested in the kingdom of God. We need to be more like our brother Epaphras and have a great zeal for the church; so great that our prayers would be a constant, passionate labor before the throne of God in the church’s behalf.
May we take comfort in our fellow laborers, having confidence in God’s purpose for His church and being thankful to Him for faithful companions in our labors!