Sunday, December 12, 2010

Epaphras: An Effective and Earnest Envoy

Acts 28:16 says, “…when we came to Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier that guarded him.” Acts 28:30 says, “He (Paul) lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Last week (see: From Jerusalem to Rome) I took the time to show you how Paul ended up in Rome. During his trial in Caesarea by Festus Paul appealed his case to the Emperor Nero in Rome. After a long and arduous voyage which included a devastating shipwreck on the Island of Malta Paul arrived at Rome and was placed under house-arrest in a home he rented. He was allowed to minister and entertain those who came and went.

I left you last week with the name of one of those individuals who was able to come to Paul and who was welcomed by him. This man was named Epaphras. Epaphras is not a well-known figure in history. We discover by reading the things recorded for us in the Scriptures particularly by the Apostle Paul  that Epaphras was a pastor who was faithful to his Lord.

Epaphras was the pastor of the church at Colosse, or as I would like to think it was called the Colosse Bible Church. It is quite possible that Epaphras was responsible for one or more of the several churches in what we know as the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor.

First, we need to state that we have absolutely no information on who founded the churches in the Lycus Valley. We do not know who started or began the church in Colosse, Laodicea, Heirapolis, Patmos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Pergamum, or Smyrna.

We know that Paul did not found the church at Colosse. Paul identifies Epaphras as a Colossian (4:12) and that Epaphras was an "envoy" commissioned by the other churches in the valley (4:13) to see Paul. Paul stated that the Colossian church heard the word of God from Epaphras (1:7.)

Epaphras probably met Paul in Ephesus when Paul was preaching and teaching. He became a student of Paul and then an able minister. Epaphras probably left Ephesus and went back to the Lycus Valley and preached the gospel resulting in the founding of at least the Colossian church. Epaphras probably began this church some seven to ten years prior to Paul writing this letter, around AD 53-55.

When we read the letter to Philemon we discover that Epaphras was a fellow-prisoner of Paul, verse 23. We do not have any details of his arrest. Apparently for some reason unknown to us Epaphras was placed under house arrest with the Apostle Paul. 

What do we know of this Epaphras? He is mentioned four times in the New Testament. What we do know of him comes to us from Philemon 23; Colossians 1:7, 4:12, 13.

First, Epaphras was a preacher and teacher of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:5,6) The gospel had come to Colosse. Epaphras taught the gospel in Colosse.

Second, Epaphras was a co-laborer with Paull. (1:7) Paul and Epaphras were harvesters in the same harvest. They served Christ together - yes in different fields, but they both preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, Epaphras was considered a faithful servant or worker for Jesus Christ. (1:7, 4:12) Faithfulness is a wonderful attribute and a magnificent way to be thought of or summarized by.

Fourth, Epaphras loved his people and missed them greatly. (4:12) Even in Paul's letter he had to say something to them, he had to greet them. He wanted to encourage his people and let them know he was OK.

Fifth, Epaphras was careful for his people.  (4:12) He prayed for his people and was concerned about the spiritual warfare he knew they were facing back home. He was gone from them and couldn't be there to watch, help, minister, and to protect his beloved people. Epaphras prayed diligently for his people as he prayed for their spiritual well being.

Sixth, Epaphras was a man of zeal for his people. (4:13) Epaphras was very zealous for the people at Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Epaphras was quiet spunky. As a matter of fact the word used in our text is αγωνιζομαι (ag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) It means to fight or to strive fervently. It was used for contestants who contended or fought in gymnastic games. He loved his people and was very mindful of the spiritual warfare that his people were engaged in and he contended for his people.

Seventh, Epaphras was a man who knew when he was out of his league. At some point in his ministry false teachers invaded his church and the churches in the Lycus Valley and brought into the church damnable doctrines of demons. The teachers and teaching were beyond his abilities to deal with them. Epaphras having somehow heard that Paul was in prison in Rome traveled from Colosse to Rome to share with Paul the dangerous teaching that was molesting his people.

Paul had already had an encounter with a runaway slave from Colosse by the name of Onesimus.  How and why this slave named Onesimus and Paul were brought together is unknown to us. However, we do know that at least one reason God sovereignly arranged this meeting with Onesimus and the Apostle Paul. Onesimus had become a believer.Imagine that, you and I will spend eternity in heaven with a runaway slave who stole from his master and yet was graciously redeemed by our heavenly Father!

Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him and more than likely train and disciple him. But he knew that Onesimus was the rightful property of Philemon. Paul wrote Philemon a letter asking him to receive this slave, not merely as a runaway slave, but to receive him as a brother in Christ. Paul was sending Onesimus and Tychicus to Collose with this letter to Philemon.

Paul decided to write a letter to the church of Colosse addressing the issues that Epaphras had shared with him. Paul wants these believers to ignore these false teachers and teachings and to press on to maturity in Christ by continuing in their battle against sin, pursing holiness, and learning to live distinctively as Christians. Paul intended for Tychicus to take this letter and deliver it to the Colossians. By the way, since Onesimus and Tychicus had to travel through Ephesus to get to Colosse, Paul decided to write to the church at Ephesus and to the other churches in the Lycus Valley.

Epaphras, a great pastor who loved his people dearly came to Paul for help. He needed help to defeat dangerously deceptive and destructive false teachings that plagued his dear people. Paul, under house arrest and able to receive all those who came to him, received Epaphras and ministered to him. For some unknown reason Epaphras was arrested and placed under house arrest with Paul. Paul decides to send Tychicus, his companion to Colosse with a letter dealing with these demonic doctrines.

To be continued...



Most informative Gregg, also great to read.

Enjoy your Sunday.


Larri said...

Thanks for another great lesson! I've marked the verses, so I can go read about Epaphras myself. :o) Happy Sunday!

Solid Rock or Sinking Sand said...

Thank you Gregg for another great study. I always enjoy reading the posts on your blog. I never go away without learning something new revealed through the Word of God. Blessings my brother. Lloyd

LibbyLibbyLibbyLibbyLibby said...

OHhhh I love focusing in on little known people of the Bible, thank you!!!!

Anonymous said...

Brother Gregg

Thanks for being faithful to post such in-depth and yet easy to understand Bible commentaries.


Cathy M. said...

Thanks again, Brother Gregg, for another great lesson.