A Question I Was Asked:

What Happened to the Other Jews Among Paul's Companions (Colossians 4)?

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In his final instructions and greetings in Colossians 4, Paul mentions several faithful servants, these include Onesimus, Tychicus, Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. He then says, "These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me." (11b). What happened to the other Jews?

UK Apologetics Reply:

You are expecting that there were many Jews among Paul's fellow labourers in the Gospel, but the truth is that there were very few. Much of this can be put down to the terrible problems which Paul had with the Pharisee-inspired legalists (which he sometimes referred to as 'the circumcision'). These people refused to accept that Gentiles could become true believers without fully embracing the full legal gamut of old covenant observance. They just could not accept nor understand that God had opened a new way for Gentiles to become true believers. Despite this, the Acts 15 conference at Jerusalem fully supports the approach of Paul and Barnabas (that is, with there being no requirement for Gentiles to become Jews and Israelites with full legal observance), moreover the record of the council's conclusions are now part of our New Testament, yet - even following this - problems would continue for a long while, with Paul the Apostle experiencing much persecution.

A new syncretist, mixed 'gospel' started to emerge from these legalists and Paul started to be accused of preaching his own message (some still teach this today). Paul the Apostle writes some of his strongest messages in opposition to these people (including a large section of Galatians). Let us look at some of this:

6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - 7. which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse! 9. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10. Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-11).

The Judaists were angry and apparently jealous that the Gentiles were being offered what might have seemed like a new and different route to God, even maybe an easier route to God. They just could not stomach it!

Paul even ends up stating the following:

1. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 7. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8. That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." 10. I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:1-12).

Paul even wishes that these perverters of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would go away and emasculate themselves (since circumcision figured so highly in their reasoning!).

Finally, Paul clearly states what 'circumcision' actually means:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

Robin A. Brace. October 1st, 2019.