We all know about the twelve men Jesus trained. They traveled with Him for about three years. But do you know the eight men Paul trained? He, too, had men travel with him… men he trained.
Paul’s way was remarkably similar to the way Jesus raised up men. Unfortunately, a flat-surface, onedimensional study of the New Testament will not reveal this. You will not find this training or the men being trained if you read Paul’s letters in the order you find them in your New Testament. You must read Paul’s letters in the order he wrote them. It is then that these eight men practically jump off the pages, and you see them everywhere!
What you are about to read is not for everyone. We must tread carefully, as most men are not ready to break with today’s seminary way of training, and they should not. The training of men in Century One and today’s training are mutually exclusive.
MEET THE EIGHT
Let us meet the eight men trained by Paul: Titus, Timothy, Gaius, Aristarchus, Secundus, Sopater, Tychicus, and Trophemus.
(Later the eight were joined by Epaphroditus, who went by the name Epaphras in Asia Minor and Epaphroditus in Greece.)
You have seen these names before, but a traditional, flat, one-dimensional Bible study cannot reveal these men and their roles. It takes context and reading Paul’s letters in the order in which he wrote them.
WHY THESE MEN?
Jesus trained twelve men. These men were Jews and would not have been enthusiastically going out and preaching Christ to heathen Gentiles. It would take being struck down by the blinding light of God to get just one Jew to do this. God needed Gentile workers to raise up churches in a Gentile world. It was that one Jew who gave the world Gentile church planters.
It was these eight men who went out preaching Christ where His name was not known. You may have noticed their names when reading your New Testament, but the arrangement of Paul’s letters (as read today) do not aid us in seeing these men fully. The eight catch our attention only as we read the New Testament chronologically, with historical context, times, dates, places, and in alignment with Acts, when applicable. It is then that these men emerge onto the stage . . . front and center. They become very visible, letter after letter.
If you are a Gentile, these men have played a key role in your salvation. Looking at church history in reverse, you see these men taking Christ to us non-Jews. We meet the eight before we meet the apostles. Yes, these men came after the Twelve, yet the eight belong to the same era as the apostles.
It is these men who took Christ to us in Europe and Asia Minor. Keep in mind that when we meet these men, we are meeting the Gentile expression of the church.
The Twelve were with Jesus. The eight never met Jesus. They came after He had ascended. What does this mean? We look to these eight men to discover how men
are trained after Jesus ascended! It also means it is to the eight we look to see how men should be trained today.
From which church did each of the eight men come?
What were the qualifications required for coming to be trained in Ephesus? When did they arrive? How long before they began training?
What previous experiences (including persecution)did each man know in the church from which he came? What are their backgrounds and culture? What language do each of them speak? Why did they all convene at Ephesus?
Again, our present, one-dimensional Bible study cannot answer these questions. In fact, these questions are not even considered today! But with chronology, the characters in the story spring forth.
Let us now face one of the most important questions of the faith.
How are men to be trained now that the Lord is not physically present on the earth? Seminaries? Surely not. It flies in the face of all reason. (Not to mention the fact that there is no scriptural basis for today’s seminary method!) The answer is found in the life of a church planter named Paul. It was Paul’s way of training men that has become our North Star. (That was a long time before the man-made invention of seminaries. Nor do the two bear any resemblance.)
What qualifications allowed these men to be trained by Paul? What was Paul looking for in these young men?
In order to enter most evangelical seminaries, you must have a letter from your pastor. Not so with the Twelve or the eight. The qualifications for these men fit nowhere in today’s concepts of training!
These eight men arrived in Ephesus and remained for nearly three years, but that was not the beginning of their training. Their training had begun in church life before they arrived in Ephesus. They each had met crucial experiential qualifications before they walked through the gates of Ephesus.
QUALIFICATIONS TO BE FIRST-CENTURY STYLE
All eight men had previously lived in church life before arriving in Ephesus. And some church life it was! Living in the daily experience of church life was part of both qualification and training. This is qualification one!
Did each man have a call from God? Unbelievably, we do not know, except for Timothy. The rest? Either called or compelled by revelation of Christ and the church.
APPROVED UNDER THE GLARE OF THEIR CHURCH
Each man’s local gathering (who knew him utterly) approved him. Then he packed, left home, and set out for Asia Minor.
WHO TRAINED THEM?
They were then trained by an old church planter, a church planter with lots of church life experience. Nor did Paul train these men the way men called of God today are trained (Preaching 101, Systematic Theology 101, etc.).
AFTER TRAINING ENDED
There is also another world we rarely consider. What did these men do after the training ended?
WHAT DID THE EIGHT DO NEXT?
Actually, what these eight men did after training was an extension of their training. Training did not end after the men departed Ephesus. The answer to that question is something which must be restored. Know the answer to that question and you will even find the ultimate purpose of training, of being a worker, a co-worker, and even discipleship!
Have you been called of God? Have you be drawn by a revelation of Christ and the church? Are you desperate for a spiritual life that goes far beyond your own present state?
Do you know what you have been called to do? Today’s approach to the way men are trained for the Lord’s work does not fit that calling! For some, your calling is not to be a pastor of a church. After all, the modern-day practice of the pastorate is extra-biblical, invented during the Reformation. (Honest!)
There was a first-century way of training men, and that training fit a first-century calling. As the story unfolds, this incredible way of training emerges as nothing less than awesome. Truly it is the kind of training only God could think up!
Let us get to know these men Paul trained. We will commence with the first man to appear on the stage. We will meet him in full dimension. (By the way, it appears his brother or uncle did not like him.)
TITUS, THE FIRST TO BE QUALIFIED
His name is Titus. He appears in the story before Timothy. His home was in the capital of Syria…Antioch. He was Greek. He was one hundred percent Hellenized (Greekized). His culture was Greek. His gods were Greek. His language was Greek. His haircut was Greek. His education was Greek. Titus was a heathen!!
In order to better know Titus, let us estimate his age. This can aid us by giving us a sense of the passing of time. (True, we do not know his true age, but by establishing an age we can watch Titus move through time for the next 40 years.* If you prefer a different age, please use your own estimate.)
What were Titus’s qualifications for ending up in Ephesus? How was he trained? The answers are beautiful when seen in the context of the church! Not to mention
It is possible that Barnabas raised up the church in Antioch. If not, at the very least he greatly aided the Antioch church in its early years! Among those who gathered in that ekklesia was a young, uncircumcised Greek: Enter Titus!†
Timothy appears in about the year 48. Titus appears as early as the year 43. We estimate Titus to be 4 years old on the Day of Pentecost, making him 17 or 18 in 43/44 when Paul arrived in Antioch with Barnabas from Cilicia.
Given the chance, would you choose the experiential training Titus received or going to a seminary?
TITUS IN THE YEAR 43
In 43 Titus is seventeen. Mark this: Titus witnessed the beginning of the church in Antioch. He was more or less “there from the beginning.” Titus entered into the daily experience of the life and adventures of the Antioch church.
Whatever you know of the church in Antioch, as told by Luke in Acts, Titus saw it! Titus entered into and began experiencing something called church life …that is, the outliving of the ekklesia day after day.
(The term church life is not a reference to today’s traditional way of having church.) It is there in Antioch that Titus gained one of the ingredients which later qualified him to be trained. You cannot give what you have not previously experienced. Having been in church life for a good period of time is qualification number one. Titus had church life in his own experience to draw from. He did not read about it. He lived it!
This was only the beginning of Titus’s remarkable journey. Consider all that happened in Antioch! What a church it was to experience!
Early on, Titus sat at the feet of Barnabas and heard him tell tales of the Day of Pentecost and the wonders † Did he have a brother or uncle studying to be a doctor? If so, we have real reason to believe that this doctor-later-turned-author did not like Titus.
Titus heard all about everything covered in Acts1:1 to 13:1.
Because Titus was present when the church was born, he saw the “how” of Barnabas raising up the church. Titus knew the man who knew the apostles. (Titus later met all the apostles.) Some background for a kid of 17! Some ingredients for training!
Titus, a Gentile Christian, was in Antioch when Barnabas arrived with Paul. That must have been quite a moment for the church, considering Paul’s reputation as a former persecutor of the church. Titus lived in close proximity to Barnabas and Paul from 43 to 47. He also knew Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ’s cross. He knew Lucius of Cyrene and Manaen. Titus was nearby and heard about the prayer meeting where five men who, while ministering to the Lord, heard the Holy Spirit separate Paul and Barnabas to be sent out to the Gentiles. Titus was present when Barnabas and Paul left Syria (in 47) for Cyprus and then Galatia. Later, Titus was in that awesome meeting when Barnabas and Paul returned home to Antioch (in 49) and told the church their story of their two years’ journey and the planting of four Gentile churches way up there in someplace called Galatia . . . an astonishing tale indeed. Titus heard not only how the Lord opened the door to the Gentiles, but also the grizzly travel conditions, the beatings, the stoning, and rejection.
He also heard of the time John Mark left the journey at Pamphylia and returned home to Jerusalem. Shortly after that report, lo and behold, Peter came to Antioch to visit the church (in the year 50). Titus witnessed the commotion and turmoil in the church caused by the (Christian) Pharisees who had come from Jerusalem, demanding that he (and all Gentiles) be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses.
Titus was there, front and center, when Paul rebuked Peter . . . in front of the church! That is a pretty large slice of pre-training right there! (By the way, church life is still tempestuous.)
Titus was most likely overwhelmed when he discovered that he was selected by the Antioch church (Paul even said by revelation) to go to Jerusalem. He was to go with Paul and Barnabas to meet with the Twelve and there to work out the problems caused by the legalistic visitors who had come to Antioch from Jerusalem. Titus, in Jerusalem, was an eyewitness to the very serious issue
of salvation by Christ only or salvation by Christ plus. This very heathen-looking (and uncircumcised) young Greek also met with the Jerusalem church, the Twelve, and John Mark. Titus was a living, walking, breathing embodiment of the issue at hand: Should Titus and his kin be cut with a knife?!
Titus watched Paul and Barnabas stand nose-to-nose with the Pharisees and give up not even an inch to anything they said. He must have stood breathless as he witnessed the Jerusalem letter being dictated by James and Peter. It must have been a heart-stopper as he then watched, dumb-founded, as the Twelve, then the Jerusalem elders, then Silas, then Paul and Barnabas signed that letter (in the year 50). And when the quill was handed to him, I speculate he probably just about fainted. (I would have.)
Titus returned to Antioch. On the way, he came to know John Mark! (The man Peter calls Marcus my son.) Did not Titus inundate John Mark with questions? After all, here was a young man, only slightly older than he, who had heard and seen the Lord. He knew of the death of James, the deliverance of Peter out of jail, and he was on Paul’s first journey.
(“Come on, John Mark, write some of this down and make me a copy.”) Then Titus witnessed Paul and Barnabas having a falling out because of John Mark. Here is more rock-bottom reality available only in church life.
Titus, like the 50 million other people living in the Roman Empire, heard that the Emperor Claudius had ordered all Jews (about 20,000) out of Rome in late 49. Titus was there in Antioch when Paul learned about the Judaizers who had tried to wreck the Antioch church and from there had traveled all the way to Galatia to destroy those four new churches. (This invasion was taking place while Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem.) Titus was right there in the room when Paul actually penned the Galatian letter! Titus watched the very first piece of Christian literature being written. But, more important to Titus than all of the above, he was asked to deliver the Galatian letter to the Galatian churches (Galatians 2:3). This was summer of the year 50.
Now we have Titus traveling alone, delivering the Galatian letter to four churches in a land he had never seen. Paul would arrive shortly after Titus reached Galatia, and he would have Silas in tow. (No wonder Paul did not bother to mention the Jerusalem letter; he just let the two witnesses tell the story.)
Having delivered the letter to Galatia . . . ah . . . what happened next? Titus returned home to Antioch and continued on in that wondrous, hair-raising experience called church life. Or is it possible that Titus was on Paul’s second journey? We will never know because Luke never mentioned Titus. It was as though Titus never existed. All we know of Titus we learn from Paul’s letters.
After Acts 13:1, Titus is there in the events recorded in Acts, but he is never mentioned in Acts! Why? Did Luke, the physician turned historian, really dislike Titus that much? Or…?
This we do know, Titus lived in the raw realities of church life—Christians caught up in the drama of what church was really like.
This, dear Christian reader, is step one in first-century style early Christian training! This is training for the body of Christ, right in the daily dynamic of the outliving of the church. Would you prefer less?
At that time, in the spring of the year 50, Titus was age 24.
Pass through and survive church life and you will be a man, my son, fit to go on to the next step!
Now we come to the second of those eight men. Here is where the fun really starts.
We will leave Titus for a little while, but pick up with him again when he meets this second man.
When Barnabas and Paul were on that first church planting journey, they met a young, very overlookable kid! He was living in one of the four cities where Paul planted a church.
It was in Lystra that Paul met a half-breed (half Jew, half Greek). Though Luke did not mention this boy as he recorded Paul’s first time in Lystra, the lad was there. So were the boy’s mother and grandmother. Both seemed to be devoted to God. The young man’s name was Timothy. The year Paul first came to Lystra was the year 48. We will estimate Timothy’s age to be twenty in the year 48.
Let us look closely at this future co-worker to Paul and close friend of Titus. (If Titus actually delivered the Galatian letter before Paul and Silas arrived, then Timothy and Titus met. Perhaps not, but perhaps!) Timothy witnessed the “how” of Paul raising up a church. Once more, we have a man “there from the beginning” . . . the beginning of a church.
Timothy saw Paul being stoned and left for dead. That certainly is a good way to get acquainted with life that is lived outside the accepted norm. Timothy watched Paul leave Lystra and Pisidia and Iconium and Derbe.
He also saw a band of Pharisaic legalists come as pretentious visitors from Jerusalem with a letter from James the brother of Jesus. It is almost at the exact time that Paul is stoned in Lystra—where Paul had met Timothy— that the third of the eight arrives on the scene. His experience and Timothy’s experience merge!
It is still 48. Paul leaves Lystra and travels to Derbe.
We will give Gaius the age of twenty-five in 48 A.D.
What do we learn of Gaius? He was there at the birth of the church in Derbe (“there from the beginning”). Also, Paul spent less time in Derbe than any other ekklesia. At some point, Gaius and Timothy met one another, as Lystra and Derbe were close (84 miles). Gaius was there when Paul left the church in Derbe . . . left the church all on its own. Not long after that, early in the year 50, Gaius was the first to meet the Judaizers from Jerusalem. Because the Judaizers came by land, they arrived at the city of Derbe first. Derbe was probably the least prepared to handle those men with “another gospel.” Gaius saw these legalistic men attempt to defame Paul and to convert or destroy the four Gentile churches. Gaius, like Timothy, saw the four churches pass through a reign of confusion.
It was on Paul’s second journey (in the summer of 50) that Gaius met Silas. We can say that up to this point, Gaius and Timothy’s experiences were virtually identical.
Gaius also watched Timothy walk up to those Judaizers—face to face—confronting them in all four churches.
The two young men heard Paul report about the church in Antioch, about the legalistic Jews’ visit there, and of the gathering in Jerusalem of all the apostles. Timothy and Gaius filled Paul in on the details about these same Judaizers’ visit to Galatia and how Timothy went head-to-head with them. Silas was there with Paul and told his version of the Jerusalem council. The two men also saw Silas unroll a letter signed by all of the Twelve.
After Paul visited Lystra and Derbe on his second journey, things changed. Paul circumcised Timothy. Does that mean Gaius had inferior qualifications? No. Never forget, just being in church life is a qualification within itself! Also, while Gaius was with Silas, be sure he and Timothy plied Silas with questions. As we leave Gaius, we will give him the age of twenty-six. We will meet him again in Ephesus, with Timothy and Titus (even though the beloved physician refused to mention him).
Dear reader, envy those young men. And yes, church life is still that exciting, not to mention tempestuous, if not downright dangerous!
Paul and Silas left Galatia in late 50 and continued on their way. It is very possible Titus is also with Paul. We will never know because Luke—in Acts—never mentions Titus being there; in fact, Luke never mentions Titus, ever. Scholars believe Luke either disliked Titus intently or, far more likely, Luke was the older brother of Titus, and did not want to be found presenting his younger brother in a good light. There are two men often present in this saga recorded in Acts: Neither of them are mentioned in Acts. They are Luke and Titus. It is only in Paul’s letters that we find three men mentioned in these events. The conclusion is obvious. The men who left Galatia in 50 were possibly Silas, Timothy and Titus. We will never know. Luke, why did you leave Titus out of everything you wrote?
Timothy was twenty in the year 48; he is now twenty-two. Be impressed. Timothy had stood up to the Judaizers at age twenty-two!
A GLANCE AT THESE THREE
Unless single brothers have greatly changed, those three men (Titus, Timothy, and Gaius) quizzed Silas for every detail of his life! And of one another!
Learn, then, why experiencing church life in your locale . . . in your life before being trained . . . is so important. (Again, this is not a reference to modern church life).
The one unique ingredient of Ephesus was that a man was present who was totally outside all old religious tradition and who was a weather-beaten old church planter with two decades of church planting and even more years of church life.
As Paul, Silas and Timothy set out on the second journey, Gaius continues his experience of church life in Derbe. (Titus is either back in his home church in Antioch or with Timothy on journey two. We will never know. Luke, why? Historians are not supposed to be prejudiced.)
Timothy, Paul and Silas eventually headed out for Greece with Timothy walking between two men whose experience dates back to Pentecost, to the Twelve, and to Barnabas. Timothy also walks between two men who were at another huge event, the Jerusalem council. Timothy also learned the perils of travel in that age. That is important. How do men handle the rigors of travel and long periods of time from home and families? This is one of the best measures of men there is. (Stay-athomers are not cut out for this job of church planters.)
Did Silas tell Timothy what it was like at Solomon’s Portico, of Stephen, Aristarchus, Phillip?
We now prepare to meet the next three future church planters. All were born in the small country of Greece.
IN THE MEANTIME, UPIN GREECE†
In late 49, the Emperor Claudius ordered all Jews out of Rome. There were thirteen districts in the city of Rome. The people in Philippi (Greece) looked upon themselves as the fourteenth district in Rome. The people of Philippi—a Greek city—spoke Latin, they wrote Latin, their money was Latin, so were their clothes, customs and their architecture. Further, they were citizens of the city of Rome, made possible by a decree of Augustus.
By late 50, the Philippians had run every Jew out of the city limits.
Ironically, in the year 50, Paul and Silas—both Jews—arrive in Philippi! Timothy, you will recall, had seen Paul stoned in Lystra. Now he watched Paul beaten (with Roman rods) in Philippi. Timothy also saw Paul and Silas thrown in jail and then shackled.
Next, Timothy watched two men rejected by an entire city. This is excellent training for a young man entering the Lord’s work.
You need church life first-century style if you aspire to be trained first-century style.
True church life is not easy to come by! You may have to look for it.
† If we are ever to understand our New Testament, we need to pay attention to surrounding major events.
All the men who were trained in Ephesus had known church life before they were trained.
THESSALONICA GIVES US TWO MORE MEN
After leaving Philippi, the three men move south to the capital of Macedonia in northern Greece. Paul enters the city of Thessalonica in the year 51.‡
They are now about to encounter two more future workers… in one church.
ENTER ARISTARCHUS AND SECUNDUS
When Paul raised up the Thessalonian church, among the converts were two future church planters. They are number four and number five (of eight). The names of these men are Aristarchus and Secundus. Both were Greeks. Again we see that prospective church planters had been “there from the beginning.” These two
men came to know not only Paul and Silas, but also Timothy as well. (Plus Titus? We do not know.)
These two men were there “from the beginning,” and it is important that they saw the how of the birth and growth of an ekklesia.
‡ I feel certain Titus was with Paul by this time. The words “we” begin to
appear in Acts. Luke is letting us know that he himself is present, but does not use his own name. If Luke is present, can Titus be far behind?
The church in Thessalonica had a hallmark. They seemed to revel in persecution. They loved to hear stories about how the church in Jerusalem was persecuted . . . probably along with the stories told by Silas! This church also seemed to have a vivid imagination when it came to eschatology.
Aristarchus and Secundus probably saw Paul’s beaten and scarred back. They watched Paul being forced out of the city by an assortment of local citizens, government officials, and Jews. Nonetheless, this rather slap-happy ekklesia seemed to enjoy all this persecution and social rejection. Before the persecution began, if we know anything about enthusiastic single brothers, these two young Greek men pumped Silas and Timothy with many a question.
One night the two listened to Paul tell about a riot in Rome led by Jews who believed that if Paul led a revolt in Rome, the Jewish Messiah would appear in Rome and would overthrow the Romans. The coming Messiah did not come. Instead, Claudius ordered all Jews out of Rome. From that day on, the Jews considered Claudius to be the anti-anointed one (an antimessiah).
Aristarchus and Secundus’ journey in church life began in persecution. They entered into a tumultuous life at the very outset.
The entire city hated this Christian presence. Further, in Century One, church life and adventure were one and the same.
A few weeks after their conversion, these two men not only found themselves in a group of believers surrounded by rejection from government, citizens, and Jews, but at that very time, Paul left them on their own during those hair-raising days. Paul left the church all alone. Paul was an example to these two young men by life, by word and, later, by his letters.
Just as Titus had seen the birth of a church in Antioch, Timothy a church in Lystra, and Gaius a church in Derbe, these two men, Aristarchas and Secundus, had a ringside seat at the birth of a church and living in church life right in the midst of persecution. And then these two men and their church were left alone!
It is the year 51.
We will estimate these two men to be age twentyfive in the year 51.
By now, Gaius has seen Paul leave Derbe; and Aristarchus and Secundus have seen Paul leave Thessalonica.
At this point, Timothy has seen Paul leave six churches.
ENTER BEREA AND A YOUNG JEW!
The story of the birth of the church in Berea is almost a duplicate of what happened in Thessalonica. One reason for this is the fact that some Thessalonians came to Berea to stir up trouble. The other reason is that the two cities were geographically close.
In Berea, there seemed to be a good number of Jews in the synagogue who were converted to Christ. These converts managed to gain access to the synagogue’s Hebrew scrolls. Each Saturday they requested certain passages be read to them. (Jews were supposed to hear these readings. The Gentile converts were not ever allowed in the same room.) A priest unrolled the Hebrew scroll and he read the requested passages.
One convert was Sopater, a Jew.
Sopater, too, was “there from the beginning.” He entered into the boiling pot of church life which was there in Berea from virtually the outset of the church’s beginning.
In the year 51, we will give Sopater the age of twenty-five.
Timothy has seen Paul leave the church in Philippi, Thessalonica, and now Berea. Timothy and Aristarchus and Secundus watch as Paul leaves Thessalonica!
Paul is still averaging being with a church less than six months per church. Will there ever be such men who will dare to follow this divine habit?
Paul leaves Berea in great haste. “The brothers” escorted Paul to Athens. (Was Sopater one of those brothers?) Paul stayed in Athens about a month, while Silas and Timothy stayed in the Thessalonica/Berea area. Later they came to Athens and gave Paul a report on the status of the churches in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea.
After that, Paul moved on to Corinth. Once in Corinth, he heard a second report about the churches in Thessalonica.
What Paul heard caused him to write a letter to this exuberant and persecuted church. (Who delivered the letter to Thessalonica? We will never know.) Aristarchus and Secundus were present in the meeting when Paul’s letter was read to their church. By mirroring (inverting)that letter, you will be able to gather an idea of what had recently happened in the church there.
After Paul sent his letter, he had Timothy revisit the church in Thessalonica. Aristarchus and Secundus had a ringside seat to watch all that happened in the Thessalonica story. Again, if we know anything about single brothers, the two men once more plied Timothy with yet more questions. Among other things, they wanted to know what happened in Athens and Corinth. Timothy, in turn, inquired as to how the church in Berea was doing.
There is no question that Aristarchus and Secundus had visited the Berean assembly. Paul instructed Timothy to stay in Thessalonica, with Silas in Berea. This gave Aristarchus, Secundus, and Sopater two men to quiz for information.
You will notice their training was not from out of a book.
PAUL IN CORINTH
Paul had left these churches he raised up in Greece—left each church within four to six months. Paul now had six possible future workers. And he had plans. Big plans.
PAUL RETURNS HOME—WITH PLANS
Unlike the other cities, Paul was in Corinth for eighteen months.
But he still left the church in Corinth. Paul, Silas, and Timothy all left Corinth and, with a quick stop in Ephesus, they then journeyed to Jerusalem and the church there. Do not overlook this: Timothy was with Paul and Silas when their second journey ended. It ended in Jerusalem, and Timothy was there.
Timothy visited the church in Jerusalem in 54. Titus had been in Jerusalem in 49.
THAT BRIEF STOP IN EPHESUS
Before going to Jerusalem, Paul had made a side stop at the famous city of Ephesus. He asked Aquila and Priscilla to move there. Paul had plans. Later, there in Ephesus, Paul would one day train men to raise up churches.
After a short visit in Ephesus, Paul and Timothy visited Jerusalem and there bade goodbye to Silas. Timothy and Paul set out for Antioch where Paul reported on his second church planting journey.
Timothy has now seen the Antioch church.
(Did Timothy meet Titus for the first time, or was it that he and Titus had already traveled together?) What was the “church count” for Timothy? So far, four Galatian churches—Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth; a glimpse of Ephesus and the church in Jerusalem; and now Antioch.
And all we offer young men are four walls of a seminary! You thought you had only one choice . . . may I suggest that you have another!
Very soon at Ephesus, you will observe something no seminary will ever afford—the greatest cross-pollination of spiritual experience and practical church experience in all history. Paul wrote a letter to the Galatian churches, including Lystra and Derbe. He then wrote a letter to Thessalonica. (We can be sure this letter was read in Berea, which was just up the road.) Paul asked each church to send a specific man: a brother from Derbe, two from Thessalonica and one from Berea. He did not send a letter to Antioch because he was in Antioch at the time with Timothy and Titus at his side. The message was the same to each brother: Leave your city and meet me in Ephesus. So it was, dear reader, that it came to pass that six young men set out for Ephesus. Those six men soon arrived in Ephesus. Collectively they had “seen it all.” They saw an experienced church planter raise up churches. More than that: They saw his life given to and for the churches. They saw Paul’s life poured out for the churches. Then they watched Paul leave the churches in the care of the One they believed in! What a Lord Paul had! What a Lord he gave the churches!
It is the year 54.
By that year, the Daggermen, begun in Iconium in 52, were trying to find Paul. Also in 54, Claudius died. A sixteen-year-old boy by the name of Germanicus Nero ascended the throne as ruler of the empire.
There is a strong possibility that Paul had thought that just maybe Germanicus would lift the ban against Jews living in Rome. His mother Agrippina was known to be sympathetic to the Jews.
The sixteen-year-old Nero—and the aging Paul—have fourteen years left to live. Paul will spend at least six of those fourteen years in jail, while Nero will be living a fantasy that belongs only to a madman. After all, Nero was the nephew of mad Caligula!
While Paul trained men in Ephesus, he also kept a close eye on Nero, hoping the young emperor would allow the Jews to return to Rome. If so, Paul would go there. If not, Paul had a plan to circumvent the ban. One way or the other, Paul was determined to be the person who first planted a Gentile expression of the ekklesia in Rome.
THE EPHESIAN LINE OF CHURCHES
When Paul created the concept of the Ephesian line, it was pure divine genius. It was soon thereafter that Paul came up with another divine concept: how to plant a church in Rome (a city without a single Jew in it), and how to be the one who would plant it. The Gentile version of transplanting a church would be Paul’s way of shipping a full grown, complete church all the way to Rome!
In a multi-dimensional (historical, cultural, political, biblical) view, Paul’s letters are aligned with Acts 15:40 through Acts 18. This view cannot be seen in a onedimensional Bible study. Verses sewn to other verses (out of context and not in chronological order) cannot compare to a multi-dimensional look at the Scriptures.
What you have read so far is not today’s seminary education, is it? Nor can a seminary compete with this way of raising up men called of God.
Dear ones, we have been hoodwinked through the centuries into believing that formal schooling is required! Reread Acts and Paul’s letters. See the drama . . . feel the ebb and flow of life. Watch these men plant churches . . . and leave. How could a seminary education possibly replace such a God-given pattern?
THE MIRACLE THAT HAPPENED IN EPHESUS
Six men arrived in Ephesus from six different cities, each bringing six different cultures, languages, customs, geography, and governments. They met in a setting foreign to all of them! Nonetheless, consider what each man can bequeath to the other five.
Titus can tell the other five all about Barnabas, Paul, Antioch, the Peter-Paul confrontation, the Jerusalem Council, the Twelve, Silas and the Jerusalem letter, and Paul’s letter to the Galatians about the invasion of the legalists.
Timothy can tell just about anything about Lystra, Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, a brief trip to Ephesus, his own trip to Jerusalem, and Antioch. Timothy can also tell them all about the hazards of traveling in places all over the empire, what it is like trying to keep up with the audacious, tireless Paul, and about the beatings, jailing, stoning, and whipping that Paul endured. He can tell them just about anything that has do with Silas, and anything else they might want to know, anywhere, any place!
Aristarchus, Secundas, and Sopater can tell them about living in Greece and the Greek world, about the Greek churches, the Greek mind, their visiting the ekklesia in Philippi and the tumultuous time in Corinth, and what it was like to live in a sea of social rejection in Thessalonica for years.
And you? All you have is seminary.
It is the year 55. The ages of these men? Titus is thirty-two. Timothy is twenty-eight. Gaius is thirty. The three Greeks (Aristarchus, Secundus, and Sopater) are all twenty-eight.
All of these men have had experiences of seeing the birth of at least one church. Each man can stand up and say “I was there from the beginning.” (The Twelve could say the same thing.)
Soon, they will all be able to say it… twice.
THE BIRTH OF THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS
The eyes of these six men watched Paul raise up the body of Christ in the city of Ephesus. Those six men, all who were at the beginning of the ekklesia in their home city, now watch Paul nurture the young church in Ephesus for the next three years.
What a beginning! Even Timothy must have been impressed. (See Acts 20–21.)
All six could now say, “I was there from the beginning . . . two times.”
And what will you be able to say after years of sitting in class taking notes from your professor?
We now watch the six become the eight!
FROM SIX MEN TO EIGHT
Even before these six men passed through the city gates of Ephesus, Paul began the church in Ephesus. How? In a most amazing way. He met twelve followers of John the Baptist. (John had long since died, in 27 or 28. This was the year 54, over 20 years later.) Paul baptized all twelve of these men. When the six arrived, Paul marched into the city of Ephesus… with twenty men (the eight plus twelve) as the beginning of the church in Ephesus.
Among those twelve converts were two men (most likely biological brothers) named Tychicus and Trophemus. These two men did what all first-century believers did: They entered into both salvation and church life simultaneously.
Three years later these two men, Tychicus and Trophemus, became church planters in the kingdom.
So it came about that the six men Paul had trained actually turned out eventually to be the eight!
Eight men were trained.
Eight men were sent.
Jesus trained twelve. Jesus sent twelve.
The Holy Spirit sent Barnabas and Paul.
What of the six? The six were sent by the church. But never fail to add that it is when we see those passages that describe Paul’s trials, ordeals and physical sufferings do we realize what these men experienced with Paul. This life is what Paul passed on to those eight men, along with the daily experiences of living in the church. These men were trained by a beat-up old itinerant church planter.
Each man’s story was a little different from the others, but Tychicus and Trophemus were unique. These two men experienced church life and were in training at the same time. They were trained in the same place where they had been converted, and in a brief amount of time.
This way of training is so utterly different from the seminary. Why? One reason is that the original premise of the seminary is flawed.
AFTER EPHESUS, THE NINTH MAN
While Paul was living in Ephesus, it appears he led a young man to Christ whose name was Epaphras. Epaphras was from Asia Minor, but not from Ephesus. Epaphras came from a small village called Colossae, located ninety miles east of Ephesus. This remarkable man later became a church planter, and later even a co-worker of
Paul’s. Epaphras turned out to be an amazing man. He became number nine to be trained! But more than a coworker, Paul out-and-out called Epaphras an apostle! (Our Bible translations—perhaps under the influence of John Darby—refuse to properly translate the word that Paul used to describe Epaphras.) In Greek, Paul called Epaphras an apostle. Other translations call him “an ambassador.” There are more than just the Twelve plus Barnabas and Paul who are sent ones. Sirs, why not allow Epaphras to be what he is? After all, Epaphras raised up three churches. These three churches, all near to one another, were Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. Further, when Paul wanted to go to Europe, to Philippi, but could not, he sent Epaphras, a man from a village in Philippians 2:25.
Asia Minor, to take his place in to help the church in Philippi. Paul asked Epaphras to be the one to become the apostle to Philippi.
So it is, we ultimately had nine young Gentile church planters to carry on Paul’s work.
Did the training end after Ephesus? And what did these men do after they departed from Ephesus?
WHAT WAS PAUL’S WAY OF TRAINING MEN IN EPHESUS LIKE?
The training in Ephesus, what was it like? (Like a seminary?) And after Ephesus, what happened?
Let us hope Paul told them of his life. That would probably do more for them than we could imagine. It is the way men lived during crises that matters to young Christian workers. (Look through Paul’s letters: he had plenty of crises to deal with!)
But let us go to the hallmark of his words. Paul knew of and spoke of that which had to do with other realms. He always had an other-realm gospel which centered on Jesus Christ.
Let us hope he taught them practical things to reflect the many practical solutions which he had found for a menagerie of problems. Certainly there was experience enough in that room concerning raising up churches. (Dare we say he spoke of the eccentricities of God’s people?) He explained how to survive persecution and its effect, externally and internally, and come out neither bitter nor damaged.
Paul taught them to lose, which is perhaps the greatest of all lessons to learn in the labyrinth of church planting. Eight men saw Paul’s own words in action. That was training enough. Add in the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Lord, and Paul gave that which, in modern terms, cannot be given: He gave them a spiritual life, a Christ-centered matrix. Paul spoke to those men of matters which seminaries know little and practice even less.
Paul presents Christ to those men! A living, breathing knowledge of Christ. Should you question that, then reread his thirteen letters. Their centrality is Christ. He gave them divine encounter. What Paul gave those men was an infusion of his own life, which was “to live is Christ.”
Never forget, these men watched Paul raise up the church and grow up the church. Those were spiritual churches he raised up. He did not suddenly become a man of methodology.
Paul drew from his experience and then passed that wisdom, born in fire, on to them. He gave these men a lifetime of church life, church planting and the Cross. They noticed that at the core of it all, he had the constant words “know Christ, know nothing but Christ.”
He probably gave them some hard-won advice about travel—on oceans, in oceans, bandits, betrayal, rivers, storms, rats, and lice. This is not classroom setting, nor captivating pulpit oratory. Paul gave them suffering. He showed them the cost of the daily living by Christ. Paul’s way of training was in two words, Paul’s life. Paul’s training was Christ.
Paul gave these eight the centrality of Christ in all things and the centrality of the ekklesia.
PAUL WAS A CHURCH MAN
Paul did something else that is lost to us. He raised up church men. And, in his consistent habit, he also left them.
The Cross which Paul gave them was the cross of first-hand experience, not a book nor a theory. The Cross, by the way, is loss, not gain.
DID PAUL TEACH THE BIBLE?
The seminary teaches the Bible as so centralized, and as the solution to all things, that this singular approach almost leaves out the centrality of Christ in all things. It comes close to establishing the Bible as central in all things.
Keep this in mind always: The only part of the New Testament that existed in 54–58 was Galatians, I Thessalonians and II Thessalonians; and that, dear ones, was all Paul had penned. What of the Old Testament? With the possible exception of Timothy, none of these men could read Hebrew. No, the Old Testament in Greek was not available to these uncircumcised unwashed, unclean heathen.
We of the twenty-first century are only now beginning to understand how rare it was for a synagogue to have a complete Old Testament. And all copies—presumably less than fifty copies anywhere in the world—were in a language called old Hebrew, a language no longer spoken at that time. Be sure, no Gentile, nor Paul, could get their hands on a complete Old Testament. It would have been unlikely to ever see the Torah in a Jewish synagogue there in Ephesus.
Paul did share aspects of the Old Testament and did so by means of the time-honored oral tradition. And all that he gave them of the Old Testament was the Christ of the Old Testament . . . as you see reflected in Paul’s letters.
PAUL AND THE EIGHT MEN IN THE MARKETPLACE
Eight men had a ringside seat to watch Paul as he worked with the church in Ephesus . . . and as he worked with his hands in the marketplace repairing tents. This was on-the-job training at its best.
NEXT, PAUL SENT THOSE MEN OUT INTO ASIA MINOR
While still in Ephesus, Paul sent these men out to nearby towns in Asia Minor. That is, Paul engaged in a high compound of on-the-job, local, apprentice-type training coupled with “turn them loose and let them practice.”
Some of the churches which John later mentioned in Revelation were raised up by these eight men.
Paul then went farther. Paul kept on training these eight men after their time in Ephesus ended. This, in fact, may have been the most important part of their training.
Let us pursue what happened after the training. Would you believe he took them as tourists to Jerusalem (the eight meeting the Twelve)?
AFTER THE TRAINING ENDED
Paul gave the eight a tour of the Holy City. In fact, Paul’s arriving in Jerusalem with the eight ended Paul’s public ministry. When the training in Ephesus ended, Paul took the eight men with him to Philippi, and then to
the port city of Dyrrachium (today Durres) in western Greece, just across from Italy. There at Durres, they turned north for a brief journey into Dalmatia. They then came back to Philippi in Greece and on down to Corinth. There Paul wrote Romans! What he did next might be the same anyone might wish to do today. He took the eight men on to Jerusalem. (Perhaps to avoid their being charged with the one charge made against Paul, that he had never been to the church in Jerusalem, Paul brought these men to Jerusalem. The year is 57–58.)
After his arrest in Jerusalem, the record of Acts tells us Paul sent some of these eight men out into Asia Minor, Greece and Italy. (Back in Israel, John Mark was writing the first biography of the life of Jesus Christ – A.D. 55–56). Meanwhile, Aristarchus and Luke stayed with Paul where he was in prison in Caesarea. Aristarchus later accompanied Paul on his prisoner’s journey to Rome.
It strongly appears Luke was in Rome with Paul. Luke appears to have been writing the Gospel of Luke and starting the book of Acts, either in Caesarea or Rome.
During the last days of Paul’s life, these men, including Epaphras and even John Mark, along with Titus and Timothy, came to be with Paul in Rome. (You will see all this clearly, but only if you follow Paul’s letters in the order in which he wrote them.)
From the year 58 to 68, we surmise these men did what they were trained to do, strengthen churches and plant new churches.
Today we await the return of the itinerant church planter, the start-a-church-and-leave-it church planter— a Christ centered man outside the religious traditions of his day.
HOW THESE MEN WERE NOT TRAINED
THIS IS THE KEY TO TRAINING
These men received training that did not resemble the Plato/Aristotle/cubicle lecture room/sit-and-take-notes which typifies today’s seminary. Why have we settled for such a low-realm, frontal-lobe way of training men?
True, every professor in a seminary is a hero to someone in that seminary; but when we look at Paul’s life, the life of our seminary professors pales in comparison.
The eight sat at the feet of one of the most despised men of their era. What else is there about this man?
OUR GREATEST MISTAKE
Perhaps the greatest and most universal mistake we Christians make concerning the training of men is the unconscious assumption that teaching men the Scripture is the total of what training is. Learn the Bible and presto! You are trained and you are also qualified!
(Trust me, dear reader, as one who has trained men according to what you are reading here, integrity ranks above all else. It is not Greek, not education, not spiritual power, nor exegetical insight, nor even oratory abilities.)
Paul’s way shows us a far, far broader view than teach them the Bible, and let them go,” which is essentially the Bible school way of doing things.
Come to the seminary for several years, learn the Bible (by sitting in a chair in a cubical), and then walk across a stage, receive a certificate. That is all it takes for men to be trained!
Paul became involved! These eight men observed Paul’s life. They heard his experiences. Paul himself was always part of their curriculum. So was their own experience of church life in Ephesus. Church life Pauline style was the foundation of their days.
Let there be a few daring souls who are not satisfied with the current training methods. Let there be those who seek the church as she was in her early days… free and functioning. And then, let there be those who wish to live in such church life!
WHO IS QUALIFIED TO DO THE TRAINING?
A beat-up old man who did one thing . . . he planted churches. (He also did a little writing!) He did the training. No one else. A sunburned, blue collar worker. A man hated. Loved. Revered. Despised. Lied about beyond all telling, yet as true to his calling as realities can afford. As Theodore Roosevelt observed, it is not the spectator, nor theorist, nor critic, nor lecturer, but “the man in the arena . . . bloodied and bruised.” Only those men and those men alone know true success and true failure.
I wonder: Could any man be truly trained unless he sat under a man despised? What good would it do, otherwise?
If the eight had questions, Paul had answers!
He, in turn, trained the men to do what he did. He was a master builder, a church planter (of the kind of churches of that day, not the kind of churches of our day). These eight men did not pastor nor do anything similar to what seminaries produce.
We would be hard pressed to successfully justify the existence of any training that took place in the New Testament era other than that of raising up church planters.
Repeat: All callings in the New Testament era pointed in only one direction: called to plant churches. (Not to plant a church and then stay there!) Might this be your calling? Your only calling?*
If so, seminary may not be . . . !!
Is there any kind of calling in the New Testament other than being a church planter? I know of no other. Mark this: it is the kind of church planter whose hallmark was/is to plant churches and then leave, with occasional return visits. It is the most visible kind of church planter recorded in Century One, be it the apostles, Paul, Barnabas, or any others.
Is there a chance you were called to such a walk? Only one question remains. Are you willing, even daring… because in this day, daring is a necessity. That is, are you willing to leave the institutional church and its mindset? If you cannot understand that question, you do not understand the task to which you are called. If the answer is yes, then it might be wise for you to begin looking for a beat-up old church planter who has lived his entire ministry “outside the box,” a man who will give you Christ with just about every breath he takes!
You want to go to a seminary? You want to learn to be a pastor (a position that never existed before the Reformation)?
If you want to be a pastor, by all means go to the seminary.
On the other hand, the prototype we are seeing was an old church planter who had a passion for non-legalistic ways. He was a man outside the box. If you had lived “But I feel called to teach in a Bible school.” That is pretty good, to be called to a non-Biblical, non-existent calling!
in Century One and you were looking for such a man, you might have decided against it’s being Paul . . . too many horrible rumors about that man! If you cannot be trained by such a beat-up old man, then either (1) go to seminary, if that is satisfactory to you, or (2) if no such man exists, start a revolution—a revolution that leaves the box and leaves it forever. For yourself, though, do not train men until you are a beat-up old church planter yourself, one who has planted freedom-steeped churches. Churches which, after you planted them, you left, and they continued on. Churches which have lasted despite the fact they were born and raised in the whirlwind of persecution! Churches where everyone functions, and what they speak and what they know is Christ. Churches where no whiff of sacedotalism exists, and elder, elders, and eldership are never discussed! (Please see The Organic Church, SeedSowers Publishing House.)
And be sure that the man who trains you is not salaried—that he works with his hands in order to earn his own living.
That should not be too hard to find, should it?
We will close by looking at how the eight died.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THESE MEN?
You know how life ended for Paul, but how did the eight/nine die?
THE FIRST TO DIE WAS….
Secular history gives an accounting of the fate of Aristarchus. He was the first of the nine to die. He died in the year 64, at the hands of Nero, burned as a torch to light Nero’s garden. The other men? If church tradition can be trusted, they all died violently.
Paul’s public ministry ended when he was arrested in Jerusalem in the year 58.* After that, the eight men watched Nero’s attempt to destroy the Christians in
Rome. They also saw Israel sink into civil war (65–66). They watched 60,000 Roman soldiers march on Israel, * A man who looked like the Gentile Trophemus was the cause of Paul’s imprisonment in Jerusalem. Then came Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea, followed by his imprisonment in Rome. That is a period stretching from 58 to 63. By 66, Paul was in prison again, and by 68 Paul was dead.
………..and news later reached them that Jerusalem had been destroyed (August of the year 70).
After Paul died, those of the eight who were still alive became the men who kept on taking the Gentile gospel and raising up Gentile churches.
HOW DID THE REST DIE?
Was John Mark pulled apart by wild horses? Did Timothy die in Asia Minor and Titus on Cypress? Did Epaphras die in Philippi? Sopater in Rome? This is what
tradition tells us.
Gaius’s death is unknown to us, so also the death of Secundus.
There is another way to die. Most men in the ministry superannuate from the pulpit and then begin drawing their denomination’s pension until they die. That is the “other way” to die.
On the other hand, there are a few who do not feel that is an appropriate way for a minister of the gospel to die. It is for these men this book is written. They will move as Paul moved, raising up churches where Christ is all in all and God’s people function in every meeting and live in freedom.
We have come to the end, and now it is time for you to make a decision.
If you have read to this point and are content to take your training in a seminary, then by all means, do so. Join the ranks of the vast majority.
Sir, if you can take the seminary route, you have earned the right to all that institutionalized Christianity is waiting to bestow on you!
But, if you absolutely cannot go that way, then you might want to ask around to see if anyone knows of a man—he will not be in the institutional church—not even remotely—who is still alive who has a medallion around his neck.
Yes, I placed that medallion around that young man’s neck in my old age. Further, that medallion is engraved with an electric chair on it. On the reverse side are the words “Die Daily.”
Be sure to ask him how it came to be that he possesses that medallion, and what it cost him in years and tears.
Perhaps his answer will be that he received that medallion in the remote Waldensian valleys, located high up in the northern Italian Alps. That medallion is his equivalent of another man’s MDiv. . . and much, much more. Be sure, he either paid with blood to wear that medallion, or he watched an old man spill his.
Why the Waldensian mountains? Because long, long ago there were a people called the Waldensians who regularly sent out men to plant churches across Europe. They did so in the darkest days of the Dark Ages. In those days, so long past, before the Waldenses sent out their church planters, they first held a funeral for the one they were sending. Why? Because those Waldensians knew they would never see the worker again, nor know where he fell. So it was that they held the funerals of those men, knowing of their certain death and in places of which they would never know.
Young man, young woman, your heart should seek no lower standard for your calling! What shall you do if the man who wore that medallion died long ago? Then look around. There are a few things about God we can predict. He will raise up another man not to dissimilar from the men who came before.* Find him. Follow him. Or be him.
God give us such men . . . for whom Christ is their magnificent obsession . . . and Lord, give us back the church!
Some such men were Priscillian, Columbo, Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale, Conrad Gaeble of the Swiss Anabaptists, Zinzendorf, Watchman Nee, Prem Pradham, and Bakht Singh.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gene Edwards holds a B.A. from East Texas University, and a B.D. as well as an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1955), where he graduated at age 22. He is the author of over 30 books; some two million have been printed. His publishers are Zondervan, Random House, and Tyndale. He is a frequent guest on national Christian television and Christian radio. His best-known books are The Divine Romance, A Tale of Three Kings, and The Day I Was Crucified, as Told by Jesus Christ. He has written five books dealing with suffering and pain. He pioneered and still belongs to the house church movement. He has been called America’s most loved Christian storyteller.
During the early years of his ministry, Edwards was a pastor; and then, as an evangelist, he held city-wide campaigns sponsored by ministerial associations. He has been a frequent guest on TV and national Christian radio and a lecturer at seminaries and Bible schools throughout America as well as conference speaker on four continents. He and his wife make their home in Florida.
1. Organic Church
2. Problems and Solutions
3. Starting a House Church from Scratch
4. Seminaries Way and Paul’s Way of Raising Up Workers
5. Why So Many Home Churches Fail