Summary: Epaphras was little known to many, but precious and valuable to Paul. Our churches are filled with those who receive little recognition, but contribute much. We need their continued devotion and service.
Series: Serving in the Shadows # 3
An Encourager like Epaphras
Colossians 1:7-8; 4:12-13
Today we have read of another servant of the Lord who served in the shadow of the apostle Paul. Other than the verses we have read, Epaphras is only mentioned one other time in Scripture. Philemon 1:23 – There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus. Although we don’t have a wealth of information on him, Epaphras stands as an example to be admired in service for the Lord.
Most agree that Epaphras was likely the pastor of the church in Colossae, possibly even planting the church there. This would have been a difficult place to minister since Colossae was a Roman province, heavily influenced by the Roman culture. Colossae was situated 90 miles east of Ephesus and within the same fertile valley as Laodicea and Hierapolis. Colossae was only 12 miles from Laodicea, situated on the banks of the Lycus River. Colossae was the smallest of the three cities within the valley, but the main road from Ephesus to the Euphrates ran through Colossae. It would have hosted many travelers on their journey to and from Ephesus.
As we continue to consider those who served faithfully in the shadows, the contributions Epaphras made to the church cannot be ignored or minimized. He was not as well-known as Paul, but played an integral role in the advancement of the churches in Colossae and Laodicea. We need those like Epaphras among us today. Let’s examine the contributions he made as we consider: An Encourager like Epaphras.
I. The Dedication of Epaphras (1:7-8) – As Paul opens his letter to the Colossian church, he mentions their pastor, Epaphras. The name Epaphras means “lovely.” Paul appreciated the fellowship and support he received from Epaphras. We find Paul mentions:
A. His Cooperation (7a) – As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant. They both shared a common trait, they were fellow servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a title that literally meant “a fellow bond slave.” Paul recognized that Epaphras possessed the qualities of a true servant, a willing slave to his Lord and Master.
We need those who possess those qualities. You don’t have to be a pastor to be a servant of the Lord. Few are willing to truly be a servant, one who is sold out and submissive to the Lord and the Master of their lives.
B. His Conviction (7b) – who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; Epaphras was a man of compassion and submission, but he was also a man of conviction. He was a man who preached the gospel without compromise. The idea conveyed here for a faithful minister is “one who executes the commands of the Master.” Epaphras didn’t waver in his allegiance to the Lord, even in adversity.
It is my heart’s desire to be a faithful minister. I want to carry out the Lord’s command at all cost. I want to be one who will preach the truth without compromise and stand firmly on the Word. You ought to desire that in your life as well. You may not be called to preach, but you can faithfully carry out that which the Lord desires of you. The modern church desperately needs those of conviction, those who will faithfully execute the commands of the Master without compromise!
C. His Commitment (8) – Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. It is clear Epaphras had a heart for the church at Colossae. He had talked with Paul about them, seeking godly counsel in order to be of benefit in their spiritual lives. Epaphras was a man who loved the flock that God had called him to pastor.
There can be little doubt we need more men like Epaphras in our day. We need men of God who are more concerned about the sheep than they are the salary. We need pastors with more desire for the people than the prestige. We need preachers who are more concerned about needs than numbers. I pray that God will allow me to grow in my compassion and desire for you.
We need those within the church who are committed to the well-being of the entire church as well, those who possess a deep love and commitment for the Lord and His church. We must be like the church in Colossae, serving the Lord and one another with love in the Spirit. Far too many today are consumers instead of servers. They attend church solely for what they can receive. We should not attend just to see what the church can do for us, but come seeking to serve the church!
II. The Desire of Epaphras (4:12-13) – As Paul concludes his thoughts in the Colossian letter, he again mentions Epaphras. Here he reminds the church of the great desire Epaphras has for the church and the ministry as a whole. Consider: