“Get me my amanuensis,” shouts an angry Paul.
An amanuensis is the guy that writes letters. In this case he’ll write out the angry ranting of a perturbed apostle. You see, Paul was just informed that some dudes are going about Rome preaching in such a way that it will stir up trouble for him.
Their preaching is relatively orthodox but it’s vindictive. They hope that as they preach Paul’s gospel that it will cause more pain for him in prison. And Paul’s going to have none of it. After all he’s got a name to protect. So, Paul calls for his amanuensis to set these turkeys straight and put them in their place.
It’s the year 62 when he writes his first letter exposing the folly of these goons that are causing him trouble. Five years later he’s still in Rome—though not in prison. He has dedicated the rest of his life to debunking these men that sought to give him problems in prison.
That letter to the Colossians had to wait. So did his letters to Timothy and Titus that he intended to write. Hopefully they’ll figure things out on their own. Titus is alone and bewildered in Crete without the apostles instructions, but he understands how busy Paul has become with these pestering fellows in Rome.
And Onesimus has it rough. His relationship with Philemon was never restored. Onesimus returned but he didn’t have a letter of recommendation from Paul. Paul wanted to send that letter but again he never quite found the time, most of it was swallowed up in this great controversy at Rome.
Paul died in 67 AD with a stack of letters that he intended to respond to. The instigators at Rome were still instigating. Now Paul was gone and they had free reign. Their hearts had grown colder and hardened by the years of controversy. They were firmly entrenched in their position and now set about stirring up trouble for all those that followed Paul’s gospel.
And 2,000 years later their ilk can still be found in the church. We’ve also got less ammo to refute them. No Colossians to help us exalt in the sufficiency of Christ. No Philemon to help us rejoice in the freedom that Christ gives. No Timothy. No Titus. So we have little help in church structure.
In fact we’ve lost some of the most precious things that we could use to help us know the best way to handle these instigators. Paul never wrote them because he went a different path. He spent his time engaging in foolish quarrels and controversies rather than ignoring them and rejoicing in God’s sovereignty to even use stupid and wicked men to further His gospel.
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that this isn’t what really happened.
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will…the former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
Sometimes the best thing to do is to move on and rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty even over goons that mean to cause you harm.