Paul was a hard worker with a strong personality and singleness of purpose. Such persons can be loners with few friends but many admirers. However, on his travels, two or three fellow workers often accompanied Paul. At least eight of these close fellow workers are mentioned by name (Acts 13:2; 15:22, 37; 16:1–3; 19:22; Col. 4:7, 10, 11; Philem. 24).
To this must be added Paul’s greetings to 24 people in Romans 16, in addition to general greetings to households. The apostle believed in teamwork, especially in pioneering situations. At the same time, however, he did at times have conflict with fellow laborers. Read Acts 15:38–41. What happened here, and what does it tell us about the humanity of even these great workers for the Lord?
“It was here that Mark, overwhelmed with fear and discouragement, wavered for a time in his purpose to give himself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work. Unused to hardships, he was disheartened by the perils and privations of the way. . . . This desertion caused Paul to judge Mark unfavorably, and even severely, for a time. Barnabas, on the other hand, was inclined to excuse him because of his inexperience. He felt anxious that Mark should not abandon the ministry, for he saw in him qualifications that would fit him to be a useful worker for Christ.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 169, 170. The account in Acts reveals that Paul expected his companions to persevere in the toils and perils of their mission.
For Paul, the close team constituted a church in miniature. He stressed the importance of setting a good example, the imitation model of mission. Dutiful yet loving relationships among team members became a pattern for the churches, which were often based on households. The team also provided an ideal setting for the training of new evangelists and missionaries. Of course, at times things didn’t always run smoothly, as in the case of John Mark. Read 2 Timothy 4:11. What does this text reveal about growth and forgiveness?
We all make mistakes. How can you learn to forgive those whose mistakes have hurt you? And think also about those whom you’ve hurt with your mistakes. How have you sought to bring healing in those situations? Or if you haven’t yet, why not do it now?
Adventist Sabbath School Lesson for Adults Q3 2015 «Biblical Missionaries» Lesson 12 – Paul: Mission and Message