Study 8 EPAPHRAS: AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
(Scripture Portion: 2 Corinthians 4: 1-12)
In Colossians 4:12 the apostle Paul describes Epaphras as “a servant of Christ Jesus”. He is mentioned only three times in the New Testament – in Colossians 1:7-8; 4:12-13 and Philemon 23. He was a native of Colosse and a zealous worker for the Lord; through his ministry many of his fellow-countrymen had been converted, and thus the church at Colosse had been founded. In this church, as well as in the assemblies at Laodicea and Hierapolis, Epaphras exercised a pastoral and a teaching ministry (Colossians 4:12-13).
1. EPAPHRAS WAS A BELOVED FELLOW-WORKER
In Colossians 1:7 the apostle describes Epaphras as his “dear fellow-servant”. There was a special reason for referring to him in this way. At the time this epistle was written Epaphras was with Paul in prison, and he had visited Paul to seek his advice and counsel concerning errors which were creeping into the church at Colosse. But he did not only seek help, for without doubt he gave much help to Paul, comforting him and ministering to him in a number of different ways. What a great privilege it was for Epaphras to minister to God’s honoured, suffering apostle, and how natural that Paul should feel a deep affection for Epaphras!
2. EPAPHRAS WAS A FAITHFUL MINISTER OF CHRIST
He was undoubtedly a successful servant of the Lord – but Paul emphasises that he was “a faithful minister of Christ” (Colossians 1:7). Can there be a greater commendation than this? Epaphras was the minister of the church at Colosse, but more important than that, he was a minister of Christ – he was directly responsible to the Lord Himself. It was from the One who sat upon the throne that he received his orders, and to Him he was faithful. Look up the following references in the order given, and check up on this important question of being faithful to the Lord:- (1) Matthew 25:21; (2) Luke 16:10-12; (3) Luke 19:17; (4) 1 Corinthians 4:2; (5) 1 Timothy 1:12; (6) 2 Timothy 2:2; (7) Revelation 2:10.
3. EPAPHRAS WAS A BEARER OF GOOD NEWS
Look at Colossians 1:7-8: “Epaphras…who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” Nobody knew the church members at Colosse better than Epaphras, yet he said all the good things he could about them. He extolled their virtues and kept silent about their shortcomings. Be careful that you are never guilty of criticising your church or assembly; your careless criticism may breed disaffection among the members and bring dishonour upon the Name of the Lord. Notice that Epaphras was not only “of” the church at Colosse; he was “for” the church at Colosse. If you are “of” a church (belong to one), be sure you are always “for” it as well, for the Lord’s sake and for the sake of your fellow-believers – look up James 1:27.
In his book, “The Sins of the Saints”, Dr Herbert Lockyer has this searching paragraph under the heading, “The Bitterness of Criticism”. “Bitter, unworthy and un-Christ-like criticism is the dead fly causing the ointment of many a good life to send forth a stinking savour. Whether in church or assembly, believe in it, and serve it with your utmost loyalty. Yes, and shield the faulty ones in the flock, exposing no-one’s dirty linen to the gaze of the public. If you do not altogether agree with a preacher, be silent about him before the godless. Do not tear him or any of your fellow Church members to pieces before children. To be guilty of dragging the failure of a church, preacher or Christian before the world is to act as a traitor in the camp. This is a sin of which we are all more or less guilty.”
4. EPAPHRAS WAS A MAN OF PRAYER
Colossians 4:12 tells us this. We should all be men and women of prayer, though some may be specially called to a ministry of prayer, as Epaphras evidently was. Notice the three characteristics of Epaphras’ praying:-
- It was PERSISTENT prayer – “always” Is not this where we so frequently fail? We give up, instead of holding on – look up Genesis 32:26, and compare Luke 18:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
- It was AGONISING prayer – “wrestling” or, quite literally, “striving in an agony…” Here is the idea of intensity in prayer – look up Acts 20:31.
- It was INTELLIGENT prayer – “that you may stand firm, in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” What need there is for such Spirit-taught praying – look up Romans 8:26.
5. EPAPHRAS WAS A TRUE MISSIONARY
This is clear from Colossians 4:13. This man had a deep concern, not only for the Christians at Colosse, but also for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Have we any concern for the millions who have never heard the gospel? Do we pray for their salvation? Do we give of our own substance for missionary work? Could we go to the foreign field? May God give us all a true missionary vision!