Partners in Ministry2 Corinthians 8:16 – 9:5Theme: Sharing.This week’s lessons teach us the blessing of carrying each other’s burdens.
LessonAs we’ve read, Titus had a great deal of enthusiasm. But he exercised that enthusiasm in partnership so that when he and Paul worked together, they were somewhat like two farm animals yoked in a common yoke, shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, going about the Lord’s work.
It is significant that when Paul established leadership in the churches, he always established a plurality of ministry. The Church of Jesus Christ is not a democracy. It is not a monarchy either in the sense of one individual assuming the right of king and ruling. If anybody is king, it is Jesus. And under Jesus, there is this plurality of leadership, the eldership in the church. It is the way Paul established it and the way Jesus set the pattern. Titus is an example of that.
Second, there is this brother whom Paul mentions in verse 18. As I said, it is a bit of a puzzle why he does not mention this brother by name. Just about anybody you can think of who was associated with Paul in his ministry has been proposed as a candidate for this brother. I suppose the number-one candidate is Luke, the beloved physician who traveled with Paul often, and who is the author not only of the Gospel that bears his name, but also of the Book of Acts.
This was an identification that was very strong in the early history of the church. That is likely due to an erroneous interpretation of verse 18, which reads, “And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the Gospel.” Now, some people assume that what Paul was referring to here was Luke’s Gospel, the Third Gospel. You can find other arguments to support it.
In Acts, there are portions of the book in which Luke, the writer, uses the first person plural, “we,” as he tells the story. It indicates that he was traveling with Paul at the time. At other times he does not use the plural. That would indicate that he was not traveling with Paul at the time, so at this particular juncture in the story of Acts, the “we” drops out. As far as this matter of Luke’s Gospel is concerned, the problem with it is that as we try to date these books, it would seem that Luke’s Gospel was written after 2 Corinthians.
At any rate, Paul does not use the word gospel in that sense. Paul talks about the Gospel. But he always means the Gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the Good News, never a historical document though we use the word to refer to the Gospels that chiefly tell the story of Jesus Christ. So the top candidate probably in most scholars’ minds is still Luke. But it is far from a conclusive thing.
Some people have suggested Barnabas who traveled with Paul in the early days. They had a falling out over John Mark. We do not have any indication that Paul and Barnabas ever traveled together again. That would be a good argument against the brother’s being Barnabas. Perhaps even a stronger one is that Barnabas was in the ministry with Paul before Titus was. He was older. Furthermore, he is called in Acts an “apostle,” as Paul himself was. It is hard to see Barnabas, if he was older and an apostle, as being subordinate to Titus, who, as Paul writes this, was obviously in charge of the delegation. If that is the case, well, probably we have to rule him out.
Silas is another candidate. The trouble with that theory is that Silas had ministered in Corinth. He was very well known to the Corinthians, so Paul would have been much more likely to say, “Silas, our brother,” or something like that.
Other possibilities for this brother mentioned in verse 18 include Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, and Gaius. There have been scholars who have proposed each of these. The reason for that is that these men are mentioned in Acts 20:4 as having accompanied Paul for the final distribution of the money. This verse gives the list of all who were there when they finally left these Greek city-states and went by ship to Jerusalem. It tells where they came from. They were an official delegation. However, each of these men whom I’ve just mentioned is identified as being a Macedonian–that is, from the province of Macedonia.
Why is plurality of leadership in ministry a positive thing?
Why is Luke a possible candidate for the identity of the unnamed brother in 2 Corinthians 8:18?
Why is Barnabas an unlikely candidate for this unnamed brother?