The Person Every Leader Needs

Oct 3, 2014

Aristarchus of Thessalonica

Aristarchus of Thessalonica

This is a short excerpt from my new book, New Testament Snapshots. Aristarchus is one of those people in the New Testament that we don’t know a lot about. What we do see, however, is a man who knew the power of “being there.” He was always there when Paul needed him and his life is a great example for us.

One of  the times that Aristarchus is mentioned is Acts 20:4. Here Luke gives us a little more background on him. We learn that he is from Thessalonica. After the riot and uproar in Ephesus, Paul had left and gone to Macedonia, where Philippi and Thessalonica were located. He then continued on to Greece where Corinth was located. Luke tells us that several men were traveling with Paul, one of whom was Aristarchus.

It was during this time of travel that a plot against Paul’s life was discovered. This forced Paul and his team to alter their travel plans. They went back through Macedonia on their way back to Syria. This made the trip much longer but was evidently safer for them all.

Aristarchus is mentioned one more time in the book of Acts. As Paul was starting his ill-fated journey to Rome as a prisoner, Luke writes, “When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of an army officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. And Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us.” (Acts 27:1-2)

Anyone who has read the book of Acts knows what a harrowing trip this was. The ship encountered a violent storm. The sailors were unable to control the ship and it was driven by the wind for almost two weeks. There was a real danger of everyone perishing at sea. The ship ended up being driven by the wind onto a reef off the coast of Malta. The ship sank and those on board had to swim to shore.

Paul also mentions Aristarchus in two of his letters. In Philemon, he is mentioned with Mark, Demas, and Luke, and identified as a “co-worker.” In Colossians, we find out that Aristarchus was also a fellow-prisoner with Paul. “Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings.” (Colossians 4:10)

Even though he stays in the background of the New Testament narrative, Aristarchus provides us with an incredible example of faithfulness and loyalty. His three mentions in Acts all involve severe hardship because of his relationship with Paul. The first was the riot in Ephesus. Undeterred, Aristarchus travels with Paul to Macedonia and Greece, where a plot was discovered on Paul’s life. It was probably understood that any of Paul’s companions would be in danger from this threat as well. When Paul was being transported to Rome as a prisoner, Aristarchus made that trip also, almost losing his life with everyone else on the ship.

Later on, we find out from Paul that Aristarchus was also a prisoner with him. From everything we have seen of his relationship with the apostle, it is not hard to speculate on why Aristarchus was arrested. He was likely taken into custody because of his relationship with Paul or because of the work that he was involved in with the apostle.

Aristarchus was one of those people that every leader wishes they had more of. He was someone who was not afraid of hardship. He was willing to be inconvenienced. He was faithful and loyal to the very end.

A historical tradition associated with Aristarchus was that he was martyred under Nero’s reign. Nero was the Emperor until 68 AD. If Aristarchus was put to death during Nero’s rein it was probably around the same time as the Apostle Paul’s death. Tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded in Rome in 67 AD. In life and in his death, Aristarchus never shrank back from suffering for his faith.

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If you are interested in the book that this excerpt comes from, just click here for more information on New Testament Snapshots!

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