“These are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, and they have become a source of great comfort to me.” – Colossians 4:11
[From ws 1/20 p.8 Study Article 2: March 9 – March 15, 2020]
This article was refreshing to review. For the most part it was free of material omissions and contained very little dogma or doctrine. As Christians we can benefit from the examples discussed in this watchtower article and the lessons for us.
The opening statement in paragraph 1 is profound. Many Christians do indeed face stressful or even painful situations. Serious illness and the death of a loved one and natural disasters are common cause for distress. What is unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses is the statement that “Others are enduring the intense pain of seeing a family member or close friend leave the truth.” Witnesses need additional comfort to deal with the great distresses that are caused by following the unchristian Organizational doctrine. At times the reason for leaving the “Truth” (the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses) may be because one is in pursuit of real truth (John 8:32 and John 17:17). Jehovah would be pleased if that was the reason why someone no longer associated with the Organization.
Paragraph 2 outlines the challenges and life-threatening situations that the apostle Paul found himself in from time to time. It also mentions the disappointment Paul experienced when Demas abandoned him. While Paul had every reason to be disappointed with Demas, we should be careful not to infer that everyone who leaves the Organization of Jehovah’s witnesses does so because they “love this present system of things”. Likely, this is the parallel comparison the Organisation would like us to draw. Also consider the example of Mark who also left Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, yet later become a reliable friend to Paul. We may not know the exact reason why a brother or sister may decide to pursue a particular course.
According to paragraph 3 Paul received comfort and support not only from Jehovah’s Holy Spirit but also from fellow Christians. The paragraph mentions three fellow believers who assisted Paul and these Christians will be the subject of discussion in this article.
The questions which the article will endeavour to answer are the following:
What qualities allowed these three Christians to be so comforting?
How can we follow their fine example as we try to comfort and encourage one another?
LOYAL LIKE ARISTARCHUS
The first example which the article refers to is that of Aristarchus, who was a Macedonian Christian from Thessalonica.
Aristarchus proved to be a loyal friend to Paul in the following way:
- While accompanying Paul, Aristarchus was captured by a mob
- When he was finally set free, loyally stayed with Paul
- When Paul was sent to Rome as a prisoner, he accompanied him on the journey and experienced shipwreck with Paul
- He was also imprisoned with Paul in Rome
The lessons for us
- We can be a loyal friend by sticking to our brothers and sisters not only in good times but also during “times of distress”.
- Even after a trial ends, our brother or sister may still need to be comforted (Proverbs 17:17).
- Loyal friends make sacrifices in order to support their brothers and sisters who are in genuine need through no fault of their own.
These are great lessons for us as Christians, as we should always be supportive of brothers and sisters who are distressed particularly in relation to their service to Christ.
TRUSTWORTHY LIKE TYCHICUS
Tychicus, was a Christian from the Roman district of Asia.
In paragraph 7, the writer states the following, “About 55 C.E., Paul organized the collection of relief funds for Judean Christians, and he may have let Tychicus help with this important assignment.” [Bold ours]
2 Corinthians 8:18-20 is cited as the reference scripture for the statement.
What does 2 Corinthians 8:18 -20 say?
“But we are sending along with him Titus the brother whose praise in connection with the good news has spread through all the congregations. Not only that, but he was also appointed by the congregations to be our travelling companion as we administer this kind gift for the glory of the Lord and in proof of our readiness to assist. Thus we are avoiding having any man find fault with us in connection with this liberal contribution that we are administering”
“And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.” – New International Version
Interestingly there is no evidence to suggest that Tychicus was involved with the distributions of these provisions. Even reading through a variety of commentaries, it becomes clear that there is no conclusive evidence which could lead to identifying the brother spoken of in verse 18. Some have speculated that this anonymous brother was Luke, while others think it was Mark, others refer to Barnabas and Silas.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is the only one which partly alludes to Tychicus, saying, “If the brother were an Ephesian delegate, he must have been either (2) Trophimus or (3) Tychicus. Both these left Greece with St Paul. The former was an Ephesian’ and accompanied him to Jerusalem”
Again, no real evidence is provided, simply speculation.
Does this take away from what we can learn from Tychicus as modern day Christians? No, not at all.
As mentioned in paragraphs 7 and 8, Tychicus had many other assignments that prove he was a reliable companion for Paul. In Colossians 4:7 Paul refers to him as a “dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.”- New International Version
The lessons for Christians today in paragraph 9 are also valuable:
- We can imitate Tychicus by being a trustworthy friend
- We do not only promise to help our brothers and sisters in need but actually do practical things to assist them
So why have we gone to such great lengths to explain that there is no evidence that Tychicus is the brother that mentioned 2 Corinthians 8:18?
The reason is because most Witnesses would take the statement at face value and assume (wrongly) that there is strong evidence which lead the writer to mention this as support for his or her viewpoint, but in reality there really is not.
We should avoid speculation for the purpose of supporting a pre-conceived viewpoint or conclusion. There is sufficient evidence to support the fact that Tychicus offered practical assistance to Paul from the other cited scriptures and therefore there was no need to include the unsubstantiated statement in the paragraph.
WILLING TO SERVE LIKE MARK
Mark was a Jewish Christian from Jerusalem.
The article mentions some of Mark’s good attributes
- Mark did not put material things first in his life
- Mark showed a willing spirit
- He was happy to serve others
- Mark helped Paul in practical ways, perhaps supplying him with food or items for his writing
Interestingly this is the same Mark which Barnabas and Paul had a disagreement about in Acts 15:36-41
Mark must have displayed such good qualities that Paul was willing to forgo whatever misgivings he previously held when Mark left them in the middle of their first Missionary journey.
Mark for his part must have been willing to overlook the incident that lead to Paul and Barnabas going their separate ways.
What are the lessons for us according to the article?
- By being attentive and observant, we can likely find practical ways to help others
- We need to take the initiative to act despite our fears
This is generally a good article, the main points being around being loyal, trustworthy and willingness to help deserving ones. We should also importantly remember that more than fellow Witnesses are our brothers and sisters.