Paul’s Partners and Friends

These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me” (Col. 4:11).

- Colossians 4:10-11

Onesimus and Tychicus, whom Paul mentions in Colossians 4:7–9, were Gentile Christians, but there were also several Jewish Christians that Paul counted among his friends and workers while he wrote to Colossae from prison. Three of these men are mentioned in verses 10–11, and it is to this text that we turn for our study today.

Aristarchus is the first Jewish believer mentioned in verse 10 as one of the three “men of the circumcision” included in Paul’s “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” Like Tychicus in verse 7, we do not know a lot about Aristarchus, but it is noteworthy that the apostle refers to him as his “fellow prisoner” (v. 10). It is possible that he was literally in chains as well for some perceived crime against the Roman Empire, but many commentators take this as a reference to Aristarchus’ willingness to voluntarily stay with Paul in his sufferings and provide for any of the apostle’s needs while he was in prison. We do know for sure that Aristarchus was a traveling companion of Paul from Macedonia, specifically the city of Thessalonica (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2).

Mark (Col. 4:10) is the same John Mark who was the son of Mary, a woman whose house was used as a meeting place for some of the early Christians (Acts 12:12). He is also the man named in the early church as the author of the gospel of Mark, a text that finds its origin in the preaching of the apostle Peter. Since Rome is traditionally seen as the place of Mark’s composition, Paul’s mention of him in Colossians 4:10 lends credence to those who believe Paul was in Rome when he wrote Colossians, and the imprisonment recorded in Acts 28:17–31 could very well be the period in which the apostle penned this letter.

John Mark, who was the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), is also known for being in the middle of Paul and Barnabas’ split in Acts 15:36–41. This split was due to their disagreement over Mark’s usefulness for ministry, and it is not entirely clear in the Acts account whether Paul was right in his refusal to take Mark with him on that occasion. Colossians 4:10–11 shows us, however, that whatever the problem, Paul and Mark were eventually reconciled and became partners in ministry once more. May we seek such reconciliation in our own lives.

Coram Deo

As much as it depends on us, we should always seek to be reconciled to those with whom we are at odds, especially if they are believers in Jesus. Of course, there will be some occasions when our offer of reconciliation will be rejected, but that does not mean we should not attempt it or do what we can to make amends if we are in the wrong. May we be models of reconciliation in the church and in the world.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 50:15–21
1 Samuel 24
Matthew 5:21–26
1 Peter 5:13

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