God likes people to work together. He set the pattern of Father, Son and Holy Spirit living, loving and working together (Ephesians 3:14-15); and the family business of God is extended to include all who trust in Jesus. So although Paul was appointed as an apostle, he did not exercise a solo ministry. Even in prison he gathered colleagues together to support each other, and pray as they preached Christ (see the notes on Colossians 4:10-14).
Fellow-prisoner and fellow-worker seem to sum up much of real Christian ministry. These men were still working for the Lord. Even though the prison walls and constraints did not allow them to do entirely as they wished, they were used by the Lord to achieve what He wanted. Indeed, without the times in prison, we might never have received Paul's letters to instruct us in how to follow Jesus. They understood how to receive and use the grace of Christ. Philemon would also need that grace to deal wisely with Onesimus, and so Paul prayed that Philemon would live in that grace too.
The family business of God is world-wide. Even this little message is shared by over 30,000 people in 198 countries. Never think you ought to do Christ's work on your own; always look around and see who is willing to work with you. We never know what may be expected of us next but,surrounded by wise friends and eager hearts, God's people work best together as He intended. The circumstances may not appear to be ideal to us, but the Lord always arranges things so that the right people are in the right place at the right time to work with Him. So seek out believers at work and in the community; and when you know you can trust them, press ahead together in prayer and ministry.
© Dr Paul Adams