How Can You Support an Apostle?
What Paul’s first-century associates can teach young people today

We tend to skim through biblical chapters like Romans 16 because they appear to be just a list of names. All of Paul’s epistles (plus the portions of Acts about his ministry) name more than 100 brethren supporting him at the time. Some are discussed in detail, but most are included in a passing comment. Each name is filled with meaning, representing a lifetime of history. (We characterized a handful of these in our 2020 musical Paul—Ambassador in Bonds, which follows the journey of one of these men who was determined to find and encourage Paul in his final imprisonment.)

When studying these names, an overarching lesson emerges about how important our support, loyalty and labor are to an apostle. And these passages reveal some practical ways even you as a youth can do this!

“[W]hat part does the individual local member have in taking the gospel message to all the world?” asked Herbert W. Armstrong in Mystery of the Ages. “This is done primarily and directly by the apostle. In this latter half of the 20th century it is done also by radio, television and in print! In the first century it was done by personal proclamation. Then what part did the individual lay member have in it? Much! Without this larger body of lay members the apostle could do nothing! … [Peter and John] needed the backing, support, encouragement of the brethren. They fervently prayed! Peter and John sorely needed this loyalty, backing and the prayers of the lay members. They were all a team together!”

As a youth attending God’s Church, you are part of this team!

Diligent in Service and Study

Paul mentions why he names all those people in Romans 16. We learn of people who were a great help to him: some by working hard, some by risking their lives, and some by sacrificing a great deal.

In verses 1-2, Paul mentions the deaconess Phebe, who was a “succourer of many, and of myself also” and the one with whom Paul was sending the epistle to the Romans.

Other strong and supportive women are mentioned in Paul’s congregations. Verse 6 mentions a “Mary” who “bestowed much labour on us.” Verse 12 mentions Tryphena and Tryphosa—two ladies “who labour in the Lord.” The Greek word for labor means to work till exhaustion. Verse 12 also mentions the man Persis who “laboured much” (the same Greek word).

Paul lauds Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple in Rome who “laid down their own necks” for Paul’s life. He said, “Unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (verse 4). Their support of God’s apostle warranted the thanks of all Gentile congregations!

In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul mentions Epaphroditus, “my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger,and he that ministered to my wants” (Philippians 2:25). We find, in the remaining verses of that chapter, that this man literally worked himself sick for God’s Work. He almost died for the Work—a loss Paul said would have compounded “sorrow upon sorrow” (see verses 26-30).

Paul’s companion Barnabas—another apostle himself (Acts 14:14), and one noted for being encouraging to the others (Acts 4:36)—was also mentioned in the Bible for having “hazarded [his life] for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).

In their congregations, young people certainly can labor diligently in support of God’s apostle.

Back in that epic list of names in Romans 16, Paul mentions one of his mighty ministers: Timothy (verse 21). He is called a “workfellow”—from a Greek word used to describe those in ministerial offices (e.g., used for “helpers” in 2 Corinthians 1:24), and he is later called an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).

Note this! Timothy was known for being well educated in the Bible from his youth. He was taught the Scriptures by his mother, Eunice, and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Consider the kind of support these two ladies gave an apostle even before they met him—simply by training young Timothy in the Scriptures.

How much of a support can you be to God’s apostle by how diligently you study your Bible today?

Righteous Reports

Eventually, Timothy became a chief aide to Paul. They worked together like a healthy father-son team (Philippians 2:22). He sent Timothy to Philippi—knowing there was not another minister so “like-minded” with him who would take such good care of the Philippians (verse 20). Sending Timothy, Paul said, would ensure “that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state” (verse 19). The phrase “good comfort” is one Greek word, meaning to be encouraged or in good spirits. Timothy going to Philippi and hearing the state of the congregation would encourage Paul.

Later he said these positive reports were like a sweet-smelling offering (Philippians 4:18).

This theme is found in Romans 16. After naming so many positive examples from that congregation, verse 19 says, “your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf ….” In other words, their well-known obedience encouraged Paul.

A similar statement is made about Timothy himself in Acts 16:1-2—when he was still relatively young and definitely not a minister yet.

Here lies a terrific example for young people. Verse 2 says he was “well reported of by the brethren.” Those kinds of reports—especially regarding our youth—are tremendously helpful to a minister.

Have you considered the encouragement you could be to God’s apostle because of your behavior? Are you “well reported of by the brethren”?

By contrast, consider the only seemingly negative thing Paul had to address in Philippians. There was apparently some sort of contention between two ladies: Euodias and Syntyche. They had to be singled out by name—the apostle beseeching them to be “of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).

Then in Philippians 2, Paul said to “be likeminded” and “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (verses 2, 5). Paul said this like-mindedness would fulfill his joy (verse 2).

Consider how you get along with others in your congregation. Would reports of those relationships encourage or discourage God’s apostle? Have you ever thought about how harmony in your friendships could be a way you can support God’s apostle?

Refreshed By Repentance

Some congregations did not always have good reports. While in Ephesus, Paul received word from the household of Chloe—alerting Paul to some contentions in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-11). How thankful we can be for this lady and her family! Her report stirred Paul to write an epic letter—one that covers so much material: from the meaning of the spring holy days to the resurrection, from understanding about judging angels to an in-depth definition of godly love.

One of the issues was that the brethren there, enamored by the polished speaking of Apollos, were not seeing the unified Body of Christ in the right way. Paul had to set them straight—even though Apollos did not encourage or approve of this (Paul spoke favorably of him in 1 Corinthians 16:12).

We know that they responded positively to Paul’s corrective epistle—and this gave tremendous encouragement to God’s apostle! In his second epistle to Corinth, he mentions that the minister Titus, whom Paul had sent there, was refreshed by the people (2 Corinthians 7:12-13)—causing Paul and Titus to “boast” on behalf of this congregation (2 Corinthians 8:23-24).

In Colosse, several names stand out for their support of an apostle (Colossians 4:7-11). They were “a comfort unto me,” Paul says. The Greek word for comfort implies relief and consolation.

One of those is Onesimus, “faithful and beloved” (verse 9). We know about this man from the book of Philemon. Philemon was, himself, a “dearly beloved … fellowlabourer” (Philemon 1). He gave Paul “great joy and consolation” (verse 7).

In verse 20, Paul asks Philemon to refresh him. How? By forgiving and receiving Onesimus—who at one time was a servant of Philemon and had probably stolen something. Onesimus had fled to Rome and eventually was converted by Paul. Onesimus had become profitable for the Work (verses 10-11). So Paul said “receive him, that is, my own heart” (verse 12, New King James Version).

In this case, Paul said it was like he was sending his deepest emotions—his heart was going along with that letter to Philemon. Paul begged him as a brother (verses 8-9) to receive Onesimus, not as a servant, but now as a converted brother (verses 15-16).

Onesimus’s repentance clearly was an encouragement to Paul, but Philemon’s forgiveness of Onesimus would also be of great support.

Helpful Hosts

As you can see, receiving whom the apostle sends is like receiving the apostle himself (Philemon 17). This principle is also found in Christ’s words of Matthew 10:41-42: “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

When a minister visits your congregation, he is there on behalf of God’s apostle. Oftentimes, on the holy days, the apostle sends headquarters ministers to various pcg congregations. The way you receive those of us in the ministry is not only a great refreshment to us, we are often inspired to send positive reports directly back to our apostle, Gerald Flurry.

Romans 16 praises people who opened their homes for services. Verses 3-5 shows that Aquila and Priscilla hosted services in their Roman home. This was obviously a wealthy couple (Acts 18:3). Various scriptures show they moved around a lot, and wherever they lived, they hosted services in their home.

The New Testament commends those who hosted gatherings of brethren in their homes. Mary, the mother of John Mark, hosted a congregational gathering when Peter had been taken prisoner (Acts 12:11-12). We read of an enthusiastic girl who played a significant role in this gathering (verses 13-14).

Along these lines, we find a similar example of someone who helped ease the burdens of apostleship in Acts 16. Lydia had insisted that Paul and Silas lodge in her house when they were preaching in Philippi (verses 14-15)—the mission that eventually got the two thrown in jail.

Lydia’s hospitality brings up a vital point in supporting an apostle. “[W]e have here the first example of that Christian hospitality which was so emphatically enjoined, and so lovingly practiced, in the apostolic church,” says The Life and Epistles of St. Paul. “The frequent mention of the ‘hosts’ who gave shelter to the apostles, reminds us that they led a life of hardship and poverty, and were the followers of Him ‘for whom there was no room in the inn.’ The Lord had said to His apostles, that, when they entered into a city, they were to seek out ‘those who were worthy,’ and with them to abide. The search at Philippi was not difficult. Lydia voluntarily presented herself to her spiritual benefactors ….”

One hardship of being an apostle then was simply having lodging when traveling into hostile areas. That is not so much the case anymore. But travel still presents a variety of stresses, and there are ways we can help ease these when an apostle or one of his representatives visits.

Romans 16:23 says that Gaius “is host to me and to the whole church” (Revised Standard Version). This is most likely the Gaius Paul baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14). And this is probably the same member who continued to serve the Apostle John, and who John commended for walking in the truth and giving the apostle “no greater joy” (3 John 4).

God’s end-time apostle writes in The Last Hour: “There is nothing in Scripture that indicates Gaius was a minister. He was probably a lay member, helping John do the Work in any way he could. Anyone John would send, Gaius would help. And other people would return to John and tell him what a great work Gaius was doing—how Gaius served them. … If you want to give joy to your minister, this is how: Like Gaius, walk in the truth; do whatever you can to further God’s Work. When I see God’s people getting out and serving, or when that news gets back to me, I am so thankful to God! Some areas of the Work would simply break down if not for people such as that!”

Gaius was praised because whatever he did to the brethren and even to strangers, he did it faithfully (verse 5).

This epistle is a huge monument to all the scattered brethren who are serving the Work!” Mr. Flurry writes.God wants us to know that He sees it all. … This is one of the most beautifully instructive examples in all the Bible, and it is for us today.”

Express Encouragement

Regardless of our rank or age, we can contribute to an apostle’s joy and encouragement. As stated, we do this through living righteously and harmoniously with others—generating positive reports.

Also, we can also be a direct source of encouragement by offering occasional, genuine words of appreciation.

Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages: “I frequently receive large cards—often beautifully illustrated or decorated—signed by the hundreds of local members of churches, giving encouragement and assurances of loyalty, backing and support. Lay members scattered over the world simply cannot conceive fully how much encouragement and inspiration this gives the one Christ has chosen to lead this tremendous worldwide activity, God’s Church!”

He said: “Without the continual encouragement of lay members and those over them locally, those of us operating from headquarters could not bear up under the persecutions, oppositions, trials and frustrations.”

No Shame

I have mentioned Paul’s imprisonments a few times. Consider how you might feel if the physical leader of your Church was on the news—imprisoned for what he was teaching. How you respond could be a tremendous support to God’s apostle.

In Paul’s final imprisonment, he writes of a man named Onesiphorus who “oft refreshed” him (2 Timothy 1:16). Onesiphorus is noted for not being ashamed that Paul was jailed and awaiting execution. This implies that some were ashamed. Would your faith be shaken? Would that make you question an apostle’s authority?

Onesiphorus’s support of God’s apostle went further: Paul mentions that he sought Paul very diligently and found him (verse 17)—implying that Paul was held in an undisclosed location.

Verse 18 shows that Onesiphorus also had a reputation for serving—not just in his support of Paul at that moment, but back in his home congregation.

This sums up much of what we’ve discussed here.

As youth, you can be a tremendous support to God’s apostle from how you serve in the congregation to how you study your Bible. You do so in how you behave and get along with others, how you respond to admonition and correction. You support God’s apostle in how you receive him or those he sends—in expressing words of encouragement, and in not being ashamed of his commission.

Great honor awaits those who support God’s servants. Apply these acts today, and Christ will apply these words, found in John 12:26, to you: “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”