Paul’s Team of Brethren
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:16, 17,
16 But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest [spoudaios], he has gone to you of his own accord.
It appears that Titus had been the one who went to the Corinthian church to pick up the collection and to bring it to Paul to add to the donations from other churches. Paul did not send him to Corinth to do this, for “he has gone to you of his own accord.” He took the initiative because he believed strongly in this mission. So Paul commends him for his earnestness, or diligence.
The Famous Unknown “Brother”
Then we read in 2 Corinthians 8:18, 19,
18 We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; 19 and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness.
Who was this “brother”? Dr. Bullinger believed that it was Luke, who was Paul’s traveling companion. He says, “The brother was probably Luke.” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, however, says,
“Paul does not further identify the brother…. No one can dogmatically assert that Luke is the brother here referred to.”
Certainly, Luke may fit the description, but Paul does not name him directly. Obviously, he was well known to the Corinthians and to other churches also. But it seems unlikely that Paul would have sent Luke with Titus to fetch the donations from Corinth.
Furthermore, when Luke tells the story of Paul’s journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem in the twentieth chapter of the book of Acts, he continues to use the pronoun “we.” It is understood, then, that Luke had not left Paul’s side as they traveled from Philippi to Troas (Acts 20:6), then to Assos (Acts 20:13) and Mitylene (Acts 20:14), Chios, Samos, and Miletus (Acts 20:15). Yet Paul sent a group of seven other disciples ahead, intending to meet them later in Troas (Acts 20:4).
It appears, then, that these seven accompanied Paul and Luke from Troas to Miletus. In Miletus, Paul met with the elders from nearby Ephesus to give them a trip report and to discuss the donations. Acts 20:33-35 says,
33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Paul and Luke and their other companions then continued their journey, stopping first at Caesarea on the Judean coast. There Paul and Luke were joined by “some of the disciples,” including Mnason of Cyprus (Acts 21:16). So by the time Paul arrived in Jerusalem, his company had swelled to at least ten disciples. One of their motives in accompanying Paul and Luke may have been to guard the large amount of money that they were carrying to Jerusalem.
Trophimus was one of those men in Paul’s company. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Paul visited the temple more than once before his arrest. On the occasion of his arrest, an angry mob wanted to stone Paul, assuming that he had brought a Greek into the inner court. Acts 21:29 says,
29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
It is likely that Trophimus had accompanied Paul from Ephesus and may have been the unnamed and famous “brother” mentioned in 2 Cor. 8:18. Though many today are unfamiliar with Trophimus, he was well known in the early church, having been exiled from Judea within a few years after the ascension of Jesus Christ. He was among the group that had been put into an oarless boat in the Mediterranean Sea. The group included the family from Bethany (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), Sidonius (later known as Restitutus, “the man born blind” in John 9:1), and Joseph of Arimathea, who was Mary’s uncle and therefore also Jesus’ great uncle.
Lazarus had been the first bishop of Cyprus, but apparently, he had been visiting Judea when he was arrested along with the others. These refugees survived their ordeal and landed at Marseilles on the coast of Gaul, now southern France. They split up and began to preach the gospel in the nearby cities, except for Joseph, who went north to Britain. Lazarus became the first missionary to Marseilles and is buried there today at the old church of St. Victor.
Trophimus preached with great power and soon converted much of the city of Arles. The people of that city worshiped Diana, the same goddess worshiped in Ephesus. Diana was said to have come to earth from heaven as a mere image. Trophimus was familiar with the mindset of such worshipers and was able to relate to them as few could. No doubt he preached how Jesus came to earth from heaven in the image of God, contrasting Jesus with Diana.
A few centuries later, Arles was stated to be the first church established in the region of Arles, where Trophimus had ministered. One of the first early church councils was held in Arles in the year 314. A century later the church in Vienne claimed that it was the first church and therefore had the right to appoint bishops. Thus, Pope Leo took away from Arles the right to appoint bishops and gave it to Vienne.
A group of nineteen bishops appointed by the church in Arles then lodged a complaint to the Roman pope, writing,
“Every one in Gaul knows, and the holy Roman Church is not ignorant that Arles was the first city in Gaul which received for its bishop St. Trophimus, who was sent by the Apostle St. Peter, and that from this stream of the Faith, derived from an apostolic source, religion has spread little by little, and that other towns received bishops before that of Vienne, which claims the primacy today with so little shame.” (from The Coming of the Saints, p. 120, citing Patrologia Latina, vol. liv, pp. 880, 881)
The point is that Trophimus was indeed quite famous. It seems that some had seen Trophimus with Paul in Jerusalem, and so they supposed that Trophimus had sneaked into the inner court with Paul.
There was a sign posted on the gate of the inner court, which read,
“No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the Holy Place; whoever is caught will be to blame for his subsequent death.”
The actual sign was discovered by M. Ganneau in 1871 while excavating the site. The dividing wall itself is mentioned in Eph. 2:14, where Paul says that this “dividing wall” had been abolished in Christ. But on the occasion of Paul’s arrest, any Greek who passed through that dividing wall—and anyone who may have assisted him—was in danger of being executed.
Trophimus, of course, was not there, nor did it seem to matter to the chief priests, who used this charge as an excuse to demand Paul’s execution. If Trophimus had been there, it is probable that he would have been stoned before the Roman guards could intervene.
But, as early church history tells us, Trophimus lived for another 36 years until his death at Arles on November 28, 94 A.D.
Paul was Entrusted with the Donations
Paul was carrying quite a lot of money to Jerusalem, so it is no surprise that he was accompanied by a fairly large group of men to provide security. But he had another motive as well. Paul wanted to avoid any appearance of theft or misuse of the money. While Paul did many things that were not recorded in his letters, he was careful to mention this to the Corinthians in order to avoid possible accusations from his critics.
In 2 Cor. 8:20, 21 Paul confirms this writing,
20 taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21 for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Then Paul mentions a third unnamed brother in 2 Cor. 8:22,
22 We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent, because of his great confidence in you.
This “tested” and “diligent” brother was probably one of the seven listed in Acts 20:4, who were sent ahead to Troas. It may have been Timothy, who had proven himself over many years. Paul continues in 2 Cor. 8:23,
23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.
Titus was not one of the seven sent to Troas. It appears that he returned to Corinth to deliver Paul’s second epistle and later to take the Corinthian donations to Ephesus to deliver them to Paul as he passed through on his way to Jerusalem.
If this is what happened, then we may understand why the elders of the church in Ephesus all came to Miletus to confer with Paul and the group. They came not only to visit with Paul but also to give him the donations from Corinth.
The way Paul words his letter, he seems to associate Titus with the donations themselves, as if he were the trusted messenger. After calling Titus a messenger (apostolos), 2 Cor. 8:24 says,
24 Therefore openly before the churches show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.
In verse 23, Paul says that Titus was a “partner and fellow worker” who could be entrusted with a sizable sum of money. “Therefore,” Paul says in verse 24, send the money with him and thereby show the churches “the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.”