“Whose I am, and whom I serve”
It would hardly be proper to conclude these notes about Paul’s companions and helpers without speaking of that One who was the best companion of all, and that was his Lord and Saviour. Some might feel we should have devoted the first chapter to Him rather than the last. This may be true, but He should actually be first, last and all the time. There is a reason, too, for using this last chapter to consider that Blessed Person who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. We did not want to conclude with any looking at man, no matter how saintly and noble. Our desire is that we should lay this volume down with eyes focused on God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him neither Paul nor any of us would amount to anything. We have His own words: “Without me ye can do nothing.” If we have in any measure been blest by looking at these dear saints of God it is only because we have seen Christ in them.
None of us really labor alone for we are all greatly dependent upon others. Paul had many to aid and assist him, some named in Scripture and many others unnamed, and he did appreciate each one of these fellow-workers. But thankful as he was for his human helpers, he was thankful above all for his Divine Helper, the One who promised to be his constant companion, so that in every time of trouble he would feel the touch of His hand and hear Him say, “It is I, be not afraid.” Now when did Paul get to know this Divine Companion? The first glimpse we have of Paul is at the stoning of Stephen, when those who cast the stones laid their garments at the feet of the young man Saul. There he heard Stephen’s message as he recounted Israel’s history and told how that nation had repeatedly rejected God’s message delivered through the prophets, and how they had now rejected the very one of whom the prophets had spoken. Then he saw Stephen looking heavenward and saying, “I see Jesus the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” All of this made a deep impression on Paul; the seeds of doubt were implanted in his mind and he had prickings of conscience as to whether he was right. Could this Jesus of Nazareth really be the Messiah? But he perhaps reasoned that the Jewish leaders could not be wrong and went on persecuting the believers, until …
There on the Damascus road, with warrants to bring about the arrest of any Christians, Paul himself was arrested by the Heavenly Sheriff. Smitten to the ground he heard the voice from heaven, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” He asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” and received the reply, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” At that moment he was convinced. No longer would he stifle his conscience and kick against the pricks. He saw now that he had been in the wrong and cried out, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” From that moment on his fervent desire was to do that which the Lord would have him to do. Here he became acquainted with the One who was to be his constant companion, nearer and dearer to him than all else, and who would be at his side every step of the way. He could honestly sing:
I’ve a blest companion, ever at my side;
He’s my Lord and Saviour, and He’s my guide.
This wonderful companion of Paul’s is the same unfailing friend of all who put their trust in Him “so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Paul was never alone for this blessed companion was ever at his side. When he and Silas were beaten and jailed at Philippi He was right there with them and so filled them with the sense of His divine presence that at midnight they were praying and singing praises unto God. When Paul was stoned at Lystra the Lord was there to catch him up to the third heaven to hear unspeakable words, and he came back to say, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” When those at Corinth opposed and blasphemed and his life was threatened, “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.” When he appeared before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem and they were ready to pull him in pieces “The Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” When he stood on the deck of the sinking vessel and it appeared that all of them would be lost, the Lord said, “Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” In every trying hour Paul had this blessed Companion at his side to give the courage, counsel and comfort that was needed.
We sing a little chorus: “Yesterday, today, forever; Jesus is the same. Friends may fail, but Jesus never; glory to His name.” Men may fail and do fail. In his final letter the apostle wrote: “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” This included former friends and helpers, some whom he had led to Christ and others who had been enriched by his ministry. Later in this letter he wrote: “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” He was referring to his first trial before Caesar, and at a time when he needed them the most these fair weather friends left him. Thankfully, he could go on to say: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” How blessed to know that Jesus never fails. The Lord Jesus Christ was Paul’s never-failing guide and Paul was His faithful follower. Paul is the pattern for all. He wrote: “Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.” Paul’s whole life was Christ. He could say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (gain for Christ)” and he also stated “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” His great aim was that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. Paul’s whole message was Christ. He said, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” and then also “We preach Christ crucified …. Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” He tells us that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and that we are sealed in Christ unto the day of redemption. He states that we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ and are without condemnation in Christ, and that we have been raised up and seated in the heavenlies in Christ and some day will be manifested with Christ in glory. From the moment Paul saw the Saviour on the Damascus road the risen glorified Christ filled all his vision and occupied all his thought.
Paul’s true and best companion and friend was indeed the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is the best companion that any could have. He is the One who promises never to leave nor forsake us, to supply all our needs, to give grace sufficient for every task or trial, and to receive us home to heaven to be forever with Him when life’s journey is ended. Without Him we cannot live and without Him we dare not die. Our heartfelt prayer is that each reader has claimed Him as their own.