Tychicus—A Trusted Fellow Slave
ON VARIOUS occasions, Tychicus traveled with the apostle Paul and acted as his messenger. He was an emissary who could be entrusted with money and with responsibilities of oversight. Since the Scriptures highlight his trustworthiness—a quality essential for all Christians—perhaps you would like to know more about him.
Paul described Tychicus as his “beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow slave in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:7) Why did the apostle view him in that way?
The Jerusalem Relief Mission
A material need developed among Christians in Judea in about 55 C.E. With the help of congregations in Europe and Asia Minor, Paul organized a collection to assist them. Tychicus, who was from the district of Asia, played a role in the relief mission.
After giving instructions on how to handle this contribution, Paul suggested that trustworthy men be sent to Jerusalem or go there with him, carrying the proceeds. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4) When he set out on the long journey from Greece to Jerusalem, he was accompanied by several men, one of whom apparently was Tychicus. (Acts 20:4) Such a large company may have been needed because they were carrying money entrusted to them by several congregations. The need for security may have been a notable factor, since highwaymen posed a threat to safe passage.—2 Corinthians 11:26.
Since Aristarchus and Trophimus accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, some think it likely that Tychicus and the others did so too. (Acts 21:29; 24:17; 27:1, 2) Because Tychicus was involved in this relief program, he is one of several suggested as being the “brother” who worked with Titus in Greece to arrange the collection and who was “appointed by the congregations to be [Paul’s] traveling companion in connection with this kind gift.” (2 Corinthians 8:18, 19; 12:18) If the first commission fulfilled by Tychicus was a responsible one, his second was no less so.
From Rome to Colossae
Five or six years later (60-61 C.E.), Paul was hoping to be released from his first imprisonment in Rome. Tychicus was with him, hundreds of miles from home. Now Tychicus was going back to Asia. This enabled Paul to dispatch letters to Christian congregations in that area and to send Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, back to Colossae. Tychicus and Onesimus carried at least three letters now included in the Bible canon—one to the Ephesians, one to the Colossians, and one to Philemon. A letter may also have been delivered to the congregation in Laodicea, a city about 11 miles [18 km] from Colossae.—Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7-9, 16; Philemon 10-12.
Tychicus was no mere mailman. He was a trusted personal messenger, for Paul wrote: “All my affairs Tychicus, my beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow slave in the Lord, will make known to you. For the very purpose of your knowing the things having to do with us and that he may comfort your hearts, I am sending him to you.”—Colossians 4:7, 8.
Scholar E. Randolph Richards points out that a letter bearer “was often a personal link between the author and the recipients in addition to the written link. . . . [One reason] for needing a trustworthy carrier was [that] he often carried additional information. A letter may describe a situation briefly, frequently with the author’s assessment, but the carrier is expected to elaborate for the recipient all the details.” Though a letter might deal with teachings and urgent matters, other things would be conveyed orally by a trusted messenger.
The letters to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon say little about how Paul was getting along. Tychicus thus had to relay personal information, explain Paul’s circumstances in Rome, and grasp conditions in the congregations well enough to be able to provide encouragement. Messages and responsibilities of this kind were entrusted only to those who could be relied upon to represent the sender faithfully. Tychicus was such a man.
Oversight in Distant Assignments
After being released from house arrest in Rome, Paul contemplated sending either Tychicus or Artemas to Titus on the island of Crete. (Titus 1:5; 3:12) During Paul’s second Roman imprisonment (probably about 65 C.E.), the apostle again sent Tychicus to Ephesus, possibly to take the place of Timothy, who could then journey to be at Paul’s side.—2 Timothy 4:9, 12.
Whether Tychicus went both to Crete and to Ephesus during this period is not clear. Nevertheless, references like these suggest that he remained one of Paul’s close associates until the last years of the apostle’s ministry. If Paul was thinking of sending him on responsible and perhaps difficult missions in place of Timothy and Titus, it is apparent that Tychicus had become a mature Christian overseer. (Compare 1 Timothy 1:3; Titus 1:10-13.) His willingness to travel and to be used in distant assignments made him useful to Paul and to the whole Christian congregation.
Today, self-sacrificing Christians willingly serve God in local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses or make themselves available to promote Kingdom interests elsewhere. Thousands have gladly accepted assignments as missionaries, traveling overseers, international servants in construction projects, at the world headquarters of the Watch Tower Society, or in one of its branches. Like Tychicus, they are not conspicuous, but they are hard workers, ‘faithful ministers’ who are dear to God and loved by other Christians as trustworthy ‘fellow slaves in the Lord.’