Digging Deeper Bible Commentary – Colossians 1:3-14 – Epaphras Part 2 (July 31, 2017)
Much time is spent highlighting Epaphras as a hard-working prayer warrior in my comments on ODB’s July 23, 2017 Devotional passage – Colossians 4:7-18. Today’s comments on Colossians 1:3-14 should be read in conjunction with those, as we are talking about the same person. And finally, a third reference to Epaphras is made by Paul in Philemon 1:23. Colossians 1:7 says, “You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”
In addition to being a Prayer Warrior, Epaphras was a Teaching Minister of the Gospel who not only preached, but also practiced what he preached. His complete ministry consisted in praying, teaching, living and caring. Paul was able to observe Epaphras up front and close, and in referring to him, uses terms of endearment such as “our dear fellow servant” and “a faithful minister of Christ”.
As a teacher, I am flattered when my students learn. In fact, the standard that I set for myself is that I have not taught, until my students learn. In any Church, group or forum, there will always be students at different levels of receptivity. The teacher must ensure that every single student learns. With this as s standard, very seldom does the teacher score 100%, and sometimes the effort that has to be consistently expended over long periods of time would cause the teacher to be thankful if even 1 student learns.
Epaphras, arguably could have been a teacher who scored 100%. Paul does not single out a handful of persons who were personally mentored by Epaphras. He uses the collective “you”, and implied that everybody in the Church at Colossae had learnt what Epaphras had continued to teach over a long period of time. We all have been given different gifts by God to be exercised in the Body of Christ for the edification, building up and benefit of the entire Body. In Romans 12:5-8, Paul selects seven of these gifts. In referencing four of them, he reinforces the fact that we must exercise the gifts that God has given us to the best of the ability that God has given us. I guess he just omitted the qualifier for the other three, and we are within permissible limits to apply the appropriate superlative. Take an expanded read of Romans 12:5-8 –
“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve [as best you can]; if it is teaching, then teach [as best you can]; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement [as best you can]; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
If Paul is used as the model, perhaps the greatest testimony to the effectiveness of the Ministry of Epaphras was that Paul referred to him as “my fellow prisoner in Christ.” (Philemon 1:23) Although we do not have the details of his imprisonment, the probability that Paul was here referring to imprisonment similar to his own is very palpable. And even if it is only a figure of speech, it is a very honorable one. Faithfulness in service to God may land us on the wrong side of the law.
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