Epaphras: One of You
We have heard the names of notable saints’ thunder down through the ages with Bible stories, history books and family genealogies. Enoch: who walked with God; Abraham: the father of faith and friend of God; Noah: the builder of the ark; Moses: the emancipator; David: the anointed King of Israel; Jonah and the big fish; Daniel in the lion’s den; John: the beloved Apostle; Peter: the transformed fisherman; and the apostle Paul: missionary to the world.
But what about Epaphras?
Chances are, you haven’t heard much about the preacher from Colossae. There are only a few verses about him in Scripture, but they do reveal a great deal about this amazing first century Christian minister. The Apostle Paul writes that Epaphras is “one of you.” He was a resident of the city of Colossae located in Asia Minor or modern Turkey. The city was built in the shadow of Mount Cadmus which towered over 8,000 feet. The region was also known for the cool water from the Lycus River which flowed with valuable trade too. It doesn’t appear that Paul had ever visited the city when the letter was written because many “have not seen my face in the flesh” (2:1). Other notable residents were Philemon and Onesimus (Colossians 4: 9; Philemon 12).
Epaphras the Evangelist
The Apostle Paul writes, “you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras” (Colossians 1:7,8). The preacher Epaphras taught the Colossae church the “grace of God in truth.” He had evangelized and planted the church which was now beginning to flirt with false teaching and apostacy. Epaphras had traveled many miles to influential Paul for help in remedying through an epistle or letter which bears apostolic authority, “Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the will of God” (1:1). Epaphras also sends greetings by Paul through the letter (4:12).
Epaphras showed great compassion by sharing the saving message of Christ to his fellow citizens and neighbors at Colossae first. His notable example shows that we should share the Gospel to those closest to us. We find the same quality in disciples like Andrew, who found his brother Simon Peter. Or, remember Cornelius, who brought the preaching of the Gospel to his whole household.
There is a mission field right next door or even in our own homes.
Epaphras the Servant
The Apostle continues describing Epaphras as “our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf” (1: 7). One of the most consistent teachings of Christ and the New Testament is importance of the servant mentality and heart. Our Lord was found on the night of His betrayal with a towel and basin washing the feet of His disciples, as a lowly servant. He commanded, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). When the disciples argued about greatness, Jesus clarified, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Epaphras' concern was for others. The Bible says that he was acting “on your behalf.” He was not motivated by selfishness, position, or ego but with the heart of a servant. Have your relationships ever suffered or faltered because your raison d'etre was only focused on your own best interest and not others? The Apostle Paul warned of such attitudes, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Epaphras the Zealous
Paul continued his profile on Epaphras by adding, “always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis” (4:12,13). In a world of cynicism and indifference, we should strive to be people of action and even urgency.
The Apostle John writes about another church in the same region as Colossae named Laodicea. The Scriptures declare, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3: 15-17).
Epaphras was a man of passion and action. His notable example encourages us to remember the church's work for the lost and vulnerable is transformative and vitally important.
Epaphras the Faithful
The Bible says that Epaphras was “faithful” and Paul further states that he was a “fellow prisoner” (Philemon 1:23). He was a man of profound commitment to Christ and the church. The false teaching that had beset the Colossae brethren had troubled him so much that he turned to the Apostle Paul for needed help. They were losing sight of the preeminence of Christ and the Gospel. Now, the church was being beckoned by the truth from the greatest missionary and apostle.
Epaphras may not be popular or as other well-known as other Biblical saints, but we should remember his exemple of evangelism, servitude, zeal, and faithfulness to the Lord. He desired the truth to be known and false teaching to be corrected.