Paul was certainly not a loner. He worked with Timothy (Colossians 1:1) and a large mission team of other coworkers (4:7-17).
Tychicus (4:7-8, 11) was a Jew from the province of Asia (Acts 20:4), and became a disciple when Paul was teaching in Ephesus (Act 19:9-10). He joined Paul during the third missionary journey, and Paul sent him on a mission back to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12), and also intended to send him to support Titus in Crete (Titus 3:12). This is on the assumption that Paul sailed to the nearby island of Crete during his second missionary journey after his long stay in Ephesus (Acts 18:21). Tychicus came to Ephesus, where Paul called him a beloved brother (Colossians 4:7). He was sent back with Onesimus to carry the two letters to Laodicaea (now preserved as the Epistle to the Ephesians) and Colossae. (These notes are on the assumption that Paul wrote from Ephesus, rather than Rome as suggested in the Appendix by Bishop Barry. We know from 2 Corinthians 11:23 that Paul suffered earlier imprisonments).
Onesimus (4:9, 11) Was a Jew who had been enslaved in Colossae, but he escaped to the big metropolis of Ephesus (130 miles away). He came to faith through Paul during his imprisonment there (Philemon 10-16). Paul treated him like a son (Philemon 10). He traveled with Tychicus (see above) to deliver the letter to the Church in Colossae, and also carried Paul's personal letter to his slave owner Philemon. As a runaway slave he could have been thrashed, and even executed for escaping from slavery, but Paul trusted Philemon to welcome him now as a Christian and a new member of the church in Colossae (Philemon 16). He would continue as a slave unless Philemon decided to free him.
Aristarchus (4:10, 11) had been a member of the synagogue in Thessalonica, and came to faith when Paul preached there (Acts 17:1-8, 20:4). He joined Paul in Ephesus and was dragged into the arena by an angry mob (Acts 19:29). He was in prison with Paul in Ephesus when Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:10). He then accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey from Troas across to his home town in Macedonia and down into Greece (Acts 20:4-6). He later traveled with Paul on three different ships during the perilous sea journeys from Caesarea to southern Italy (Acts 27:1- 2, 5-6, 28:1, 11-13).
John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (4:10, 11) came with Paul to Antioch (Acts 12:25). And he was sent out as the assistant to Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:5). But he left them half way, and went home (Acts 13:13) to his mother in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Paul refused to have him in his team for the second journey, and this caused a serious rift between Paul & Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). But Mark went back to strengthen the churches in Cyprus with Barnabas (Acts 15:39), and Eusebius records the tradition that he went on to preach in Alexandria. Here in Ephesus the rift has been healed. Later when Peter (see 1 Peter 5:13) realized that the original eye witness apostles were growing old, it seems he got Mark to write down all he could remember of Jesus' life and teaching, and Mark left his signature in that Gospel (Mark 14:51-52).
Jesus who is called Justus (4:11) was also with Paul, but we know nothing about him except that he was Jewish by race, he had the same name Iysous as Jesus, and he was an encouragement to Paul during those difficult days of his imprisonment in Ephesus (Colossians 4:11).
Epaphras (4:12) was a Greek from the city of Colossae. He came to faith when Paul was teaching in Ephesus (Acts 19:9-10), and he went on to found and lead the three congregations in Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae (Colossians 1:7, 13). He came to see Paul when he was imprisoned in Ephesus to share with Paul the serious situation that had arisen there (Colossians 1:7) due to Gnostic teachers who had come in (Colossians 2:8, 16-23, see this commentary Chapter 3). The Roman authorities in Ephesus put him in prison with Paul (Philemon 23), perhaps to keep him as a witness in the trial.
Luke (4:14, Philemon 24) was a Greek physician. We can tell from the "we" and "us" passages in the Book of the Acts that he wrote (Acts 16:10-13, 16-17) that he joined Paul in Troas during the second missionary journey over to Philippi. Paul left him there to nurture the two congregations of the Church in Philippi who gathered at the jailor's household (Acts 16:33-34), and the home of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40). On the assumption that 2 Timothy was written from Ephesus when Paul was abandoned by his friends, expected to be martyrred, and was "rescued from the lion's mouth", Luke was the only companion who stayed with him (2 Timothy 4:6-11). Luke sailed across from Philippi during the third missionary journey to rejoin Paul's team in Troas (Acts 20:4-7) and went with him on the way to Jerusalem (Acts 2:13-15, 21:1-17). While Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea (Acts 23:33-35, 24:27) it seems probable that he sent Luke to talk to Mary the mother of Jesus and other eyewitnesses of Jesus' early days. Luke then wrote his Gospel using Mark's Gospel as a framework, adding in the information he had gathered, and the material which Matthew the converted tax collector had taken down verbatim from Jesus's teaching. When Paul was sent to Rome for trial, the "we" passages continue as Luke accompanied him on the long sea journeys (Acts 27:1-8, 16, 20, 27, 29, 37, 28:1-2, 7, 10-16). While in Rome it seems that Luke wrote the Book of Acts, and intended to report the result of Paul's trial before Nero (Acts 28:30-3). But by then the situation for Jews and Christians had become very dangerous, and Paul told Luke to finish off the book at that point and take it back for publication in Asia Minor.
Demas "in love with the present world" had deserted Paul (2 Timothy 2:15, 4:16) when he was about to be thrown to the lions in Corinth. This is on the assumption that Paul's team in 2 Timothy 4:9-20 reflects the situation of Acts 20:1-3 during the third missionary journey. On this view Paul began 2 Timothy certain he was about to die (2 Timothy 4:6-8). But Onesiphorus came in the nick of time (ropy = the decisive moment wrongly copied as romy= Rome ?) and stood by Paul (2 Timothy 1:16-18). Paul was able to add a postscript to the letter announcing the miraculous delivery from being thrown to the lions in the arena (2 Timothy 4:14-17). But, like Peter, Demas was soon restored, and Paul again counts him as a member of his team in Ephesus (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24).
For Paul the supreme privilege was to be involved in the mission of the Messiah's church (Philippians 3:12-14, Colossians 1:1). By the time he wrote the Epistle to the Romans he had planted churches in all the major cities all the way (1500 miles) from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Romans 15:19, Illyricum is present day Croatia). And he joyfully accepted the immense personal cost that was involved (2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Philippians 3:7-10). But he did not make his own apostolic life a rule for others. As we will see, there were other gifts of the Spirit to exercise in each local church.
No one is forced into the Messiah's service. But it is obvious that the Messiah's Church (Matthew 16:18) can never be planted throughout the world without a tremendous commitment to mission and the kind of apostolic team that worked with Paul. It will also become clear in chapter 3 that the vague religiosity that took hold of the congregation in Colossae, and is very common in our day, inevitably undermines the kind of commitment that moved Paul and his team.
Chapter 2 .....