There are many names that I skipped, because there’s not enough for an article. But the Holy Spirit sees fit to include them, so they are all special in their own way.
They put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus) and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You Lord, who know the hearts of men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry” (Acts 1:23-26).
When a congregation appoints elders, there isn’t a limited number of positions—every man who is qualified should serve. But there was only the twelfth spot open for an Apostle, and thus it was necessary to draw lots. I like to think that Luke’s silence indicates he didn’t pitch a fit, but found other ways to serve God in the kingdom. Let us not regret the opportunities we don’t have, but use those God grants!
But some men joined [Paul] and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:34).
Here in Athens, intelligence and faith and courage met, like it does today on college campuses. There may not be many like them among the scoffers, but their faith is often very strong.
[Paul] decided to return through Macedonia. And he was accompanied by … Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia (Acts 20:3-5).
Trophimus was a frequent Gentile companion of Paul. In Acts 21:29, the Jews saw him with Paul in Jerusalem, and assumed Paul brought him into the Temple, which incited mob violence. Trophimus experienced illness many years later. Paul said, “Trophimus I left sick at Miletus” (2 Tim. 4:20). I often hear Pentecostals say that it is never God’s will for a child of God to be sick. Paul could perform miracles (Acts 19:12). Yet, it was God’s will that Trophimus remain sick. Obviously, the Pentecostal doctrine needs scrutiny.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well (Rom. 16:1-2).
Paul vouches for Phoebe’s character as a faithful Christian, a true “sister” in the family of God. Since he asks for the Romans’ assistance “in whatever matter she may have need,” it seems that she is on an errand from Paul. It shouldn’t surprise you to think that Paul would entrust an important job to a sister in the faith. The Bible frequently mentions the contributions of women to the church; in this chapter alone we have Priscilla, Mary “who has worked hard for you” (16:6), Tryphanea and Tryphosa who are “workers in the Lord,” (16:12), and two or three others. Whether or not Phoebe held the official title of “deaconess,” as a few translations suggest, she certainly fulfilled the role of servant to the church and “helper of many.”
Now I urge you brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints) that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors (1 Cor. 16:15-16).
Paul mentions Stephanas at the start of the letter (1:16), that his household was one of the few he personally baptized. They went on to devote themselves to serving the brethren. Paul says that Christians should “acknowledge” such men and “be in subjection” to such men. I don’t believe this is due to any authority, such as that wielded by elders (1 Tim. 5:17, Heb. 13:17). It is simply a recognition that in devoting themselves to teaching and serving, their work is worth recognizing and encouraging (1 Thess. 5:11-13), and they deserve respectful consideration in what they say, since it comes from the perspective of those who study the Bible and demonstrate their care for the church.
Say to Archippus: “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Col. 4:17).
Don’t avoid the word “ministry.” Every Christian is a minister in some fashion. Whatever role we receive to play, let us perform it to our maximum effort. Don’t worry about fulfilling someone else’s ministry. Don’t worry about riches and the cares of life that you forget about your ministry. Fulfill your ministry.
May this cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1-2) spur us on toward the finish! –John Guzzetta