Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
Roll Call At Rome!

Philemon 23 and 24

John L. Kachelman, Jr. 


I. When Socrates was building a house for himself in Athens, he was asked why a man so eminent as he would not build a house larger and more suitable to his dignity. Socrates replied that he thought the house was quite large enough and would be thrilled if he could see it filled with real friends. 

II. Real Friends! They are a genuine treasure -- priceless in value (Pr 27:9). In these closing verses of Philemon, we see the Apostle Paul surrounded by a small cadre of real friends. Five names are listed. Each name has a marvelous history. These same men are found in Col 4:7-17 which indicates that the two letters were written at the same time. 

III. Take a few minutes and examine this "roll call" at Rome. As consideration is made regarding these five brethren, a lesson regarding the blessings of genuine friendship will be noticed. 


I. The list briefly noted. 

A. EPAPHRAS (v. 23; Col 1:7-8; 4:12-13). 

Here was an outstanding saint! He was the one responsible for establishing the Colossian congregation. He is described as: a faithful minister, a servant of Christ, a hard laborer, and a fellow prisoner. He was one who prayed hard for fellow-saints and was dearly loved by Paul. 

B. MARK (v. 24; Col 4:10). 

This is the John Mark who wrote the second gospel. He was the son of Mary, whose hospitality blessed the Jerusalem saints (Ac 12:12). The mention of Mark reminds the readers of the fact that broken fellowship and disappointing brethren can be restored and renewed. Mark had failed Paul in his early career but had been restored to a place of "usefulness." Surely Philemon would see the similarity with Onesimus (Phil 11). 

C. ARISTARCHUS (v. 24; Col 4:10; Ac 19:25). 

He traveled with Paul on the ship to Rome and stayed with him in prison there. He was devoted to Paul and to the gospel. As a devoted friend, he shared the suffering of Paul and served him. 

D. DEMAS (v. 24; Col 4:14; 2 Ti 4:10,11). 

Each time he is mentioned, it is in the company of Luke. He is forever remembered as "the disappointment" because he deserted Paul in prison, going back to the world. 

E. LUKE (v. 24; Col 4:14). 

The "beloved physician" was Paul's most devoted friend. He is one of the greatest men in the New Testament. He was a cultured and educated man. His gospel and Acts reveals that his temperament was cheerful. At the last, when all were not able or willing to be with Paul, it was Luke that remained true and was at his side. 

II. The lesson discovered. 

A. Friends are a great blessing! (Eccl 4:9-12). 

1. An old truism -- "Joys shared are doubled; sorrows shared are halved." Such is exactly what happens with friendship. 

2. One of the greatest blessings a true friend can give -- he/she can lighten the burden of sorrow and multiply the bliss of joys. 

3. Paul found this to be true when he was in prison. 

B. Friends "stick with you" at all times (Pr 18:24).. 

1. Genuine friendship accepts unconditionally. 

2. Paul found this true with the five in Rome. "Fellow-captive" literally means "a prisoner of war taken at spear point." Aristarchus was referred to as such (Col 4:10) and now Epaphras is. 

3. Some suggest that these five took turns keeping Paul company in prison. As such, they were allowed to be with him if they would submit to the same restrictions -- military guard, chains, etc. If this is correct, it reveals the devotion of these five friends to Paul. 

C. Friendship is enhanced by mutual labors and shared devotion -- "fellow-workers" (v. 24b). 

1. This title was one of Paul's favorites and stressed the mutual level of Christianity. Regardless of one's training, education, or economic status, all who are in Christ share a mutual work. 

2. Paul loved the thought of partnership as he worked for the Lord! He delighted in having "fellow-workers!" 

3. Friends delight in working together and friendship is deepened by the cooperation and concern that exists in joint endeavors. 

D. Friendship can be sabotaged! 

1. "Demas!" -- The disappointment! The deserter! How his defection must have pained Paul! (Philip 3:18,19). If the Apostle's greatest delight was in the company of "fellow-workers," his greatest agony had to be in the reflection of those former comrades who had deserted the Lord's army! 

2. Disloyalty to God ruined the bliss of friendship shared between Paul and Demas. "Why?" and "How?" are questions only Demas and God can answer -- but it was disloyalty to God that broke the bonds of friendship! 

III. The lingering directive from the lessons. 

A. There is only one thought that arises from a consideration of these facts -- the practical gospel directs all believers to pursue and develop genuine friendship with one another! 

B. The genuine friendship you share with another Christian will enable you to strive steadfastly toward the Victor's Crown! (Rv 2:10). 

1. Pr 27:6, 17. 

2. These kind of friends are few. They stand the test of time and storm and are precious. 

3. Let us take heed and develop the kinds of friends that Paul possessed with these five brethren in Rome! 


I. This "role call" at Rome lists only five associates of Paul -- Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. We can add others to it, men and women who served with Paul and sacrificed because of the friendship they shared. 

II. Paul's friends enabled him to endure. He was one who knew the necessity of friends and carefully cherished his friends. He acknowledged their thoughtfulness and kind acts. He loved and trusted them. Those who left and proved disloyal caused his heart great agony. In Christ, Paul found all spiritual blessings and among those blessings were genuine friends! 

III. Let all develop and maintain friendships like Paul possessed!

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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