(Seventh in a Series)
This edifying series of chapel talks comes from the archives of our
Spokesman Assistant Editor, Prof. Em. Paul R. Koch • Eau Claire, Wis.
“And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days” (Acts 20:4-6).
Fellow-travelers on the Way of Life:
When I call you “fellow-travelers,” I am not calling you a bad name, although during the Cold War of the 1950’s, if Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin called someone a “fellow-traveler,” that was enough to strike fear, for he meant the person was a communist sympathizer or worse.
The term itself is neutral; it’s a good name if the fellow-travelers are competent, reliable friends, and you decide to travel together to be mutually supportive and helpful. It’s still hazardous to travel abroad, and tourists put their lives at risk especially around the Mediterranean. It’s not only the foreign languages, strange customs, and weird foods—it’s the pickpockets and bogus beggars. You do well to go in the safety of a group of fellow-travelers led by an experienced guide.
The book of Acts records whole bunches of such friends that were fellow-travelers with Paul, the great apostle and missionary. Of course, Paul depended on the Lord Jesus to be with him and keep him from all harm, but there were benefits in taking along stalwart fellow-travelers, men with skills and brains and experience Paul could depend on.
Here’s the setting behind this arrangement: “And when the Jews plotted against him [the Apostle Paul] as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.”
We get the picture: Paul was in danger from Jews who considered him a traitor to his/their religion—so he was regularly on the run, and on this specific occasion he outfoxed the hit-men by changing his travel plans and taking along some stout fellow-travelers as body-guards.
We know little about six of these seven, for they are among God’s obscure saints. They put their secular jobs on hold, left family members behind, put some personal belongings into a backpack, and took to the road. Why? Because they understood that Paul should not be left alone when Satan and the Jews had so much to gain by killing him. Besides, he was carrying sizeable cash donations from Gentiles for the relief of their Jewish brethren in Jerusalem—so they joined Paul on his trip back to Jerusalem via the round-about route of revisiting the saints along
Keep in mind that the Christian life-style was called “The Way” for good reason, for God’s children were traveling through this wilderness on their way home to the heavenly Jerusalem. Therefore they behaved as travelers with a life-style that was different; Christian life was notable for purity and virtue and morality; they had learned who Jesus was and what He had done in love; that made them different.
Here we are, centuries later, also fellow-travelers through life, all on the same route with our passports stamped in red with the words, “Approved by Jesus, God’s Son”; the destination on the ticket is heaven; we are headed to our heavenly home; we appreciate having Christian friends and companions on our journey.
Having said all that, let us ask ourselves: are we sharing our best with one another; are we willing at a moment’s notice to step up and help; are we providing blessings to others?
As Christian friends and fellow-travelers, we want to put our heart into our daily contacts–in order to be blessings to everyone. Of course, only that will be a blessing which is spiritually wholesome. No garbage will ever be beneficial to us or to others; no manure will ever be edifying; dirt will not help anyone to contact the Lord Jesus.
You see, Jesus warns us against bad company—the sort that is ever-ready with un-Christian motives and soiled morality, adept at doing Satan’s dirty work. We don’t let ourselves be thrilled with the sinfulness that motivates others; we don’t let ourselves be enraptured by the warmth of un-Christian companionships. Rotting garbage and decomposing manure produce warmth too.
I picture Sopater and Aristarchus and Secundus, Gaius and Tychicus and Trophimus–God’s obscure saints on our right and on our left, going ahead and waiting for us at the crossing. They went to school before us and graduated in the first classes out of the Christian Academy of the day; others like them are walking in their footsteps today, and others will tomorrow.
God’s obscure saints are with us on every side as our classmates and friends, our fellow-travelers to help one another along the way.
Ten years from now we should be able to look back and say, “I had good friends at school, and as adults we stayed close in the fellowship of our Christian congregation; we helped one another grow up as children of God; God did a lot for us through our God-revering fellow-travelers. God put us together, and we have stayed together through thick and thin. Even when parted by death, we will be together again on the other side of the grave, with Jesus forever.
We thank You, Jesus, for all these blessings! Amen!
Let us join our hearts and voices in hymn 478, stanzas 1,2, and 5.
“The Saints on Earth and Those Above”
The saints on earth and those above
But one communion make;
Joined to their Lord in bonds of love,
All of His grace partake.
One family, we dwell in Him,
One Church above, beneath;
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream, of death.
Lord Jesus, be our constant Guide;
Then, when the word is given,
Bid death’s cold flood its waves divide
And land us safe in heaven.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Heb. 12:22-24
Author: Isaac Watts, 1709;
Charles Wesley, 1759, cento, alt.
Composer: John Day, 1572
Tune: “St. Flavian”