“And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15
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People sometimes imagine that Paul was a spiritual superman: an intrepid missionary, theological genius, and multi-gifted polymath, who never shrank from duty or danger in the cause of Christ. Doubtless, he braved hardships and opposition that would overwhelm most human beings – a survey of his multifaceted trials in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 makes this apparent (see also 2 Cor. 12:10 & 1 Cor. 4:9-13.) This, however, is only one side of the story; the apostle also depended upon the encouragement of the other parts of the Body of Christ – that well-known metaphor for the spiritual body composed of believing Jews and Gentiles who are indissolubly linked in the church.
“Remember The Prisoners As If Chained With Them”
Paul’s journey as a prisoner being transported to Rome provides an excellent window into the fellowship that he enjoyed with believers – even some who were heretofore unknown to him. When the ship landed at Sidon, the officer in charge of the prisoners permitted Paul to go to his “friends” for refreshment (Acts 27:3); they were probably Christians that he knew from previous trips. Upon coming to territory unknown to himself in Italy, Paul enjoyed the hospitality of local saints (Acts 28:14) and was further cheered by the approach of representatives of the believers from the imperial capital city. As verse 15 says: “…when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Though he relied on the Lord throughout his service, the Almighty also saw fit to use His people to comfort and strengthen His apostle to the nations.
“If One Member Suffers…”
So often in life’s hard times I have been similarly comforted by the Body of Christ. When by the bedside of a dying loved one, who can calculate the value of a fellow-believer standing by to pray and weep with those who weep? When in a sickbed, faithful saints who visit, write, or call often make the difference between sadness and circumstance-defying joy. At funerals, in times of family trouble, and even visiting Christians who are in prison, members of the body serve each other by their presence and their prayers.
Like Head, like Members
These activities bear the unmistakable mark of the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18.) He is a master at consoling the mourning (Jn. 11), visiting the sick (Mk. 1:29-31), and dealing with family dysfunction (Mt. 20:20-28.) As His people abide in Him they produce the fruit – righteous acts of beauty – that savor of the Lord’s mercies and goodness. In His Spirit’s power, believers use their time, talents, and spiritual gifts to edify and strengthen one another. Where would we be without such a beautiful body to aid us under the guidance of the perfectly wise Head, the Lord Jesus Christ? Thank God, we need not contemplate this possibility for long, for the Body is eternally linked to Christ and will be with Him forever in glory.