Erastus is mentioned a few times in the New Testament, specifically in Romans, Acts and 2 Timothy. He seemed to be an important figure in the early Christian church, but not a huge amount of detailed information is provided about him. Based on the biblical references, here is what can be gleaned about who Erastus was:
Erastus the City Treasurer
In Romans 16:23, Paul sends greetings from “Erastus, the city treasurer” along with his greetings to the Christians in Rome. From this verse, it seems Erastus held an important position as the treasurer of the city of Corinth. As treasurer, he would have been in charge of managing the city’s revenue and finances. This indicates he was likely a man of high social standing and affluence in Corinth.
Erastus the Companion of Paul
In Acts 19:22, Erastus is mentioned as one of Paul’s companions who was sent by Paul ahead into Macedonia while Paul remained in Asia for a time. From this, we learn Erastus was a trusted companion of Paul and assisted Paul in the spread of the Gospel through his extensive travels. It is unclear if this is the same Erastus who was the city treasurer of Corinth. Some scholars believe they may have been different people while others think they were one and the same. If they were the same person, it could indicate that Erastus left his position as city treasurer to become a missionary with Paul.
Erastus Who Remained in Corinth
In 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul mentions that Erastus remained in Corinth while Paul was in prison in Rome awaiting trial under Emperor Nero. Again, it is debated if this was the same Erastus who served as city treasurer and traveled with Paul, or a different person. If the same, it suggests Erastus may have returned to Corinth after traveling for some time with Paul.
A Trusted Friend of Paul
While only brief details are provided about Erastus, it is clear he was an important figure. The fact that Paul mentions him by name in several epistles indicates they had a close relationship. Paul trusted Erastus to deliver the letter to the Romans and also to travel ahead on missionary journeys. This suggests Erastus played a key role in the early church’s growth and administration.
His Name and Position
The name Erastus means “beloved” in Greek. The fact he is called “the city treasurer” indicates he was a man of status and authority in Corinth. As an official in charge of finances for a major city, he would have been well educated, affluent, and connected to ruling authorities. For someone of his rank to associate so closely with Paul and the persecuted Christian church was significant. It has been suggested that because of his name, he may have been a freed slave who rose to prominence in business and civic duty.
A Co-Worker with Paul
Though Paul refers to Erastus specifically in his letters to the Romans and Timothy, Erastus was likely associated with Paul for many years as the early Christian church spread across the Roman Empire. As an experienced administrator with knowledge of regional commerce and politics, Erastus may have helped coordinate details of travel and teaching for Paul to reach new areas. His gifts of service and hospitality were likely invaluable.
House Churches in Corinth
Based on the biblical references, especially 1 Corinthians 1:16 and Romans 16:23, Erastus seemed to be based out of Corinth and may have even provided his home as a meeting place for early Christians. As a large city of commerce with a steady influx of travelers and traders, the church in Corinth faced unique challenges. With his resources and position, Erastus was situated well to host Paul and other apostles in their efforts to grow the Corinthian churches.
His Conversion to Christ
Nothing specific is recorded about how and when Erastus came to faith in Christ. But considering his prominent public role in Corinth and trusted partnership with Paul, he was clearly an ardent convert. To go from a pagan background to becoming a devout Christian willing to sacrifice reputation, career, and comfort for the Gospel was a dramatic change. As city treasurer, Erastus would have been accustomed to privilege and power. His life change serves as a portrait of the transformative salvation possible in Christ.
May Have Known Timothy
In 2 Timothy 4, Paul requests that Timothy come visit him in prison in Rome and also mentions Erastus who remained in Corinth. This indicates that Timothy likely knew Erastus and had probably collaborated with him previously in ministry work. Though Erastus seemed primarily based out of Corinth, he may have connected with other apostles like Timothy as the larger work of the early church spread across the region.
A Member of Paul’s Missionary Team
Considering Paul’s many journeys across Asia Minor and into Greece, it’s likely Erastus accompanied him on multiple missionary trips. As an instrumental member of Paul’s ministry team, Erastus would have encountered both receptive and hostile audiences in different cities. His administrative gifts proved valuable, and his heart for Christ was tested through the challenges faced on these pioneering missionary travels across the Empire.
Played a Supportive Role
While Erastus was clearly an important figure in the early church, he seemed to mainly play a supportive role in partnership with Paul and others. His own writings or teachings are not recorded in Scripture, but he is honored by Paul for his sacrificial service for the Gospel. The example of Erastus is a model of how God uses both upfront teachers and behind-the-scenes servants to build the church.
An Associate of Phoebe
In Paul’s letter to the Romans where Erastus is first mentioned, Phoebe is also commended as a “servant of the church” who would be delivering the letter to Rome. Scholars believe Phoebe likely had some connection to Corinth and may have known Erastus from his ministry there. Partners like Erastus and Phoebe exemplified the collaborative community vital to the early church’s endurance.
A Man of Good Reputation
For Paul to recommend Phoebe and Erastus to the Roman Christians in his letter, they clearly had a good reputation and Paul’s trust. As a prominent civic official, Erastus was likely known both locally and more broadly. His good name and character gave credibility to his faith. His sterling reputation transcended his worldly status and pointed to Christ.
An Example of Faith
While only a few details are known about him, Erastus serves as an inspirational example of someone who left comfort and prestige behind to fully embrace the Gospel. His wholehearted commitment led him to risk his position, wealth, and life to further God’s kingdom. For all believers who struggle with putting their faith first above worldly success, Erastus provides an encouraging model to follow Christ wholeheartedly.
Willingness to Serve
Erastus could have remained focused just on his city treasurer duties in Corinth, but instead he chose to devote himself to serving the early church’s missionary work. His administrative competency and generosity with his affluence and networks were invaluable assets he humbly offered up for kingdom purposes. His willing spirit to aid the apostles like Paul was a fruit of his faith.
As an influential civic official, Erastus possessed considerable privilege and power. But the call to follow Christ compelled him to leave the comforts of his high social position and identify with the fledgling Christian movement that was often persecuted. For someone of status to make these sacrifices out of devotion shows his primary loyalty was to Christ above all.
A Man of Means
The city treasurer position would have provided Erastus with financial resources and an expansive house. As a wealthy believer, he could have chosen to enjoy the comforts his affluence afforded. Instead, he leveraged all he had – money, house, relationships – to invest in the Gospel’s advancement. He provides an early model of a rich man who used all he had for God’s glory.
Networks for the Gospel
As city treasurer interconnected with regional commerce and governing authorities, Erastus had valuable networks of relationships he could utilize to help spread the Gospel. His connections opened doors for Paul and others to reach influential new audiences with the message of Christ. Erastus was strategic in utilizing his relationships for kingdom growth.
Faithful with Little and Much
Erastus exemplified faithfulness in both small details and larger efforts. From his attentiveness to detail in administering city funds, to his willingness for extensive travel to serve the church’s mission, Erastus proved trustworthy and tenacious. His devotion in lesser responsibilities prepared him for greater kingdom impact in partnership with Paul.
Though he held a respected position of authority, Erastus demonstrated a humble spirit of service to assist apostles like Paul however he could. He did not demand prominence or recognition, but quietly contributed his wealth, home, and abilities wherever needed. For all believers, Erastus provides an inspiring portrait of humble service for the Gospel.
The way Paul fondly includes Erastus in his letters indicates they shared a sincere friendship. Their deep relationship was rooted in a common mission to advance God’s kingdom. Erastus exemplified the kind of loyalty and sacrifice required of true discipleship that nurtures lasting bonds between fellow believers.
Gave Up Prestige for Persecution
As a respected city official, Erastus possessed significant community status and prestige. By converting to Christianity, he willingly gave up his esteemed position to identify with a persecuted minority sect. This demonstrates his primary devotion was to Christ and the promotion of the Gospel over any worldly acclaim and comfort.
A Follower of the Way
The early believers were known as followers of “the Way” before being called Christians. Erastus’ faith compelled him to a whole new way of life centered around Christ. His dramatic life change from prestigious pagan to devoted believer epitomized what it meant to fully embrace the Way of Christ. His life was transformed by the Gospel message.
While few biographical details are provided in Scripture about Erastus, the references reveal him to be a faithful follower of Christ who contributed greatly to the early church’s growth. Though he held a respectable position in society, he willingly sacrificed privilege and comfort to serve the advancement of the Gospel. His legacy stands as an admirable example of sincere devotion to Christ above all else. Erastus continues to inspire all believers to wholeheartedly serve God’s purposes.