Paul’s Partners in the Work of the Kingdom
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9 (NIV 1984)
As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. 2 Corinthians 8:23 (NIV 1984)
In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church, he addresses the issue of factions forming around certain leaders – particularly Apollos and himself. He defuses the argument with the statement that all are nothing more than God’s servants (doulos) and fellow workers (synergos) with God. And he continues that it was truly God who brought about the spiritual growth in their lives.
Paul’s perspective on the work was what Jesus taught in Matthew 11 – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV 1984)
Paul was very clear that he was yoked together with Jesus as he sought to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. And yet, while he was laboring as an “expert builder,” he was under no illusion as to who was truly bringing about the results. It was Christ!
Paul uses that same word picture of a “fellow worker” (co-laborer) in his second letter to the Corinthian church. But this time the term is used to refer to Titus, who had recently met Paul to report the response to his first letter.
It appears that Paul had entrusted the delivery of the first letter to Titus with that plan that they would meet in Troas to debrief on the response (see 2 Corinthians 2:12ff). But, for some reason Titus was delayed, and therefore Paul moved on to northern Greece and it was there that they met and Paul sent his second letter, again carried by Titus.
In describing his relationship to Titus, he says that Titus is a “partner and fellow worker.” Titus had previously joined Paul from Antioch to meet with the Twelve in the Jerusalem to discuss the essence of the gospel message that Paul was teaching among the Gentiles (see Galatians 2). Titus (probably a Gentile believer), joined with Paul and Barnabas on the trip to Jerusalem as “exhibit A” of what a Gentile believer looked like. And Titus was later sent on special assignment to Crete by Paul to help establish the work after Paul had left behind a foundation for the spread of the gospel (see the book of Titus).
Paul acknowledges two partners in his work – Christ, first and foremost, and Titus, illustrative of his teammates like Apollos, Silas, Timothy, and Luke. Both are key to accomplishing the work. Christ the center of our work as Kingdom leaders and then the team whom God gives us to accomplish our calling.
Who are your ‘fellow workers’ or ‘co-laborers.’ Have you told the Lord recently how grateful you are for the privilege of being yoked to Him? And have you expressed to your co-laboring team (including your spouse) how appreciative you are for their hard work and sacrifices that they are making?