Do you remember your childhood best friend? I transferred to a different school when I was in 7th grade and soon realized how different my new world was. If you’ve ever had to move like that, then you know how overwhelming, or even slightly scary, that can all be. One of the things that made it easier was a good friend. My first friend at this new school ended up becoming one of my best friends. He helped me “learn the ropes” and made the chaos of new beginnings enjoyable. Who was your childhood best friend? What made them so special?
Too often we forget that the individuals we read about in the Bible were real people. The Apostle Paul, as an ordinary human, had friends. Paul, as a preacher and an Apostle, certainly gave himself over to study, to prayer, and preaching. But he also enjoyed his friends, whom he trusted dearly. One of the Apostle Paul’s friends marked out for us in Scripture is the man Tychicus.
Tychicus is mentioned in several books of the Bible. In Ephesians 6:21, Tychicus is marked out in these words, “the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (ESV). Who was this man? Tychicus was a dear friend of the Apostle Paul. Tychicus was a Christian man. Tychicus appears to be a faithful pastor. What is a pastor? A pastor is a man set apart for the proclamation of the Word of God, and the shepherding of God’s people (cf. 1 Tim. 2:12; 3:1-7).
Looking chiefly at that the final verses in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, how was Tychicus hoping to be a good friend? He was carrying Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. Can you imagine how nerve wracking that would have been? Tychicus had to deliver the very autograph, that is, the original copy of the letter of Ephesians to the Ephesians themselves. Talk about pressure! But not only was he called to deliver it like a Greco-Roman mail man, but he also read it to the church.
Tychicus also was sent by Paul to do the same sort of delivery-service for the church of the Colossae. Listen carefully to Paul’s words at the end of Colossians, “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.” (Col. 4:7-8 ESV) These comments by Paul are almost mirrored in Ephesians.
Notice though, that Tychicus was sent to encourage the hearts of the churches. How would he accomplish this goal? He does it by updating the churches on how Paul was faring in prison. We understand this quite naturally. We know that when someone we care for gets sick, or hurt, or is going through a difficult time, we want to know how they are doing. We want to know how we might be able to help them. Paul doesn’t list everything out in his letter, but leaves Tychicus to explain the matter to comfort and reassure the saints.
How else would Tychicus encourage their hearts? He shared the Word of God. Tychicus literally brought the book of Ephesians to the Ephesian church, and the book of Colossians to the Colossian church. He subsequently read them to the churches. Think with me about the significance of this act. The very first time these churches heard these letters it was through the tone and cadence of this friend of Paul. Each statement of God’s mercy, each call to action, repentance, and obedience came through this elder of Christ’s church. To what end? The upbuilding and edification of Christ’s church.
Although no other individual is listed at the end of Ephesians, if we merely glance over to the end of Colossians we find a whole host of people working alongside Paul for the sake of Christ’s sheep. We see figures like Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha, and lastly, Archippus. Paul was not a single-handed soldier akin to a spiritual Rambo. Paul always worked alongside others because God’s church is a community and not an assortment of individuals.
Church, we need to grow in admitting our need to work alongside other Christians. Too often I hear from other believers that they have a privatized Christianity that is content to live apart from other Christians in a local church. Though common in our area, it is entirely foreign to the New Testament. Christians found support as they sang God’s Word together. Christians found encouragement as ordained ministers faithfully delivered God’s Word to God’s people. Christians found hope as they prayed with and for one another, both in public and in private.
Perhaps our lives are spiritually anemic and cool because like a coal that’s fallen from the fire we too have been separated from our brethren. If the Apostle Paul had friends who invested in him, served him, and loved him in Christ – we should as well. The church is not an optional feature in your Christian walk. It is God’s gift for you. May your eyes be opened to your need for godly friends today who will both encourage you, and call you out when you cling to self-destructive foolishness.