Thursday, February 16, 2017
EPAPHRAS, A FAITHFUL MINISTER OF THE CHURCH AT COLOSSAE
Morning meditation 2/16/17
Verse 12-13 says, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”
Paul has nothing but good to say about Epaphras. It is believed that he (Epaphras) was the founder of the church at Colossae. This is based on Colossians 2:1 where Paul says, “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” I believe it is good for us to realize that local churches were begun by men, called of God and commissioned by other local churches (Acts 13) to start local churches, other than the Apostles. The Apostles were gifted men given by the Lord to the churches of that day for special purposes, but they were not the only ones God was raising up and gifting for the spread of the gospel, and beginning new churches (Eph. 4:11). As we look at Epaphras in this meditation, let’s look first of all at,
HIS INTEREST IN PAUL
Why did Epaphras go to Paul? He had run into problems that he could not solve. Paul had such respect among the churches that what he said settled most issues. So he was a logical person for Epaphras to go to for help. The church at Colossae had been invaded by the gnostic heresy. These gnostics believed that God, the Creator, could not have created the world as it is in its present condition. So they believed in angelic emanations, i.e., that angels emanate from God. The first one is the most powerful and the most like God. Then another emanates from that one and another from that one through a series of one coming out of another. They believed that one of the angels who was in this process of emanations came into being, and was close enough to God to retain creative powers, and yet far enough so that God would not be corrupted by creating a universe that is less than perfect, created the present world order. This was one of the ways this particular group of gnostics explained a holy God and a less than perfect universe. They believed that Jesus was not the virgin born Son of the eternal God but only an emanation from God.
The faithful pastor and founder of the Church at Colossae had brought this information to Paul. He needed help. He was guarding the Church at Colossae from heresy. This time he ran up against a problem that he could not solve and it caused him to seek Paul’s help. Now as you read Paul’s strong Holy Spirit inspired statements about Jesus in this epistle you will understand why. Paul is saying that Jesus is not one of many emanations, He is Creator, the visible image of the invisible God, and creator of all things, and the One who holds it all together now (Col. 1:15-16).. Next we see,
HIS COMMITMENT TO THE MINISTRY
Paul says of Epaphras, “who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.” The verb “is” is a present indicative verb which means that he was at the time of the writing, Colossae’s faithful minister. He continued to be their founder-pastor. The word “faithful” translates “pistos”and is an adjective and is used, “of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties.” The word “minister” translates “diakonos” and means, “one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister.” Whose commands is Epaphras carrying out? Whose minister is he? The words “of Christ” identify the source of his ministry. A pastor never needs to forget whose minister he is. He is simply an under shepherd of the great Shepherd. He is called and commissioned by the Lord. He is the Lord’s Mind to that local church. This is the reason he needs to be careful to have the Lord’s Mind before he opens his mouth. This is what Epaphras was doing. He was finding through Paul the mind of Christ to refute the gnostic heresy. He was committed to the ministry. Then next we see,
HIS PRAISE OF THE COLOSSIANS
We see this in 1:8 where Paul says, “Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit..” There were gnostic heretics who were sowing their discord in the church. There were no doubt people in the church who were listening to them or there would have been no need for this trip for their pastor. Yet there is no condemnation of those who have bought in to this false doctrine. This pastor loved his people and sought to help them by getting authoritative WORDS from an Apostle rather than making a personal attack on those in the church who had fallen for this line of reasoning. Epaphras dealt with heresy by the authoritative teaching of the Word of God.
I made a mistake early in my ministry that was provoked by an idea that was floating around in that day. It went like this. “Now I know that some of you are going to disagree with what I am about to say. So get ready for it. I don’t care whether you agree with it or not. I am the preacher and God told me to tell you this.” And then you came out with what you thought God was telling you to tell them.” Of course, this approach treats those to whom you are speaking as adversaries. Epaphras loved the people in Colossae and assumed that if they heard the truth their “love in the Spirit” would compel them to reject heresy and embrace the truth.
I praise the Lord for the day the Lord showed me that the people I pastored were my dearest friends and they were as anxious to hear the truth as I was to preach it. When I assumed that position, I began to be surprised if I found anyone who disagreed with the truth. Listen, if this sounds far fetched, just remember this. Jesus called Peter a stone when he wasn’t a stone because He knew he would become a stone. Amen. Then next notice,
THE SUCCESS OF HIS MISSION
Epaphras obtained what he was looking for by coming to Paul. He took the epistle to the Colossians back with him on his return. He had in his hands the Word of God, i.e., the epistle to the Colossians. This is one of the deepest most profound epistles written by Paul to any church on who Jesus is and the mystery of His indwelling. And it is the Lord’s Word to all New Testament Churches. Little did he know in taking this need to Paul what he would obtain for all of us. Faithfulness to the Lord’s leadership always brings results far beyond the immediate. The Lord can take a little boy with five loaves and two small fish and feed five thousand. Then He can record that in Word of God and challenge and bless millions of Christians through the whole church age. What Jesus did in that situation with that little boy has inspired such thoughts as “Little is much, when God is in it.” Amen. It was not the little boy’s task to feed the five thousand, it was his responsibility to give the five loaves and the two small fish, and then watch Jesus work the miracle. The epistle to the Colossians is the result of a faithful pastor who loved his people so much that he could not stand by and see them drawn into heresy. So he was not too proud to admit he didn’t have the answer and went to one who had the reputation of having the answer.. God so impressed Paul with this faithful pastor and his need that he responded with this little miracle (the epistle to the Colossians) and we have been feeding off this Manna for the past two thousand years. Amen. Then finally, let’s notice,
HIS PRAYER FOR THE COLOSSIAN CHURCH
Paul says of Epaphras that he is, “always laboring fervently for you in prayers . . .” There are two things he says about his prayers. They are “always.” This word translates “pantote” and means, “at all times, ever.” Paul says, “Every time is see this man, he is on his knees for you. When prayer request time comes, he always requests that all pray for you. When Paul thinks of Epaphras, he thinks of a man “always praying.” You can tell by this epistle that Paul was definitely impressed with this man’s prayer life.
Then Paul uses the words “laboring fervently” to describe his prayer life. These words translate “agonizomai” and mean, “to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games, to contend with adversaries, to fight.” You know and I know that Paul was not given to exaggeration. He is actually describing his observation of this man in prayer. Paul was a man of prayer. The early disciples took prayer seriously. I do not know many pastors that I think of as “praying always,” and praying like they were in gymnastic games while doing it.” To be honest, I believe, and I don’t think I am wrong in saying this, that most church members would question the mental stability of their pastor if he spent long hours in prayer and came out of a prayer meeting soaked with perspiration from the fervency with which he agonized in prayer. Yet in Acts 6:4 the Apostles gave as the reason for the deacons ordination, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” It has changed since then. It is difficult for the pastors to pray with concentration because of the concern they have over the opposition they are getting from the deacons! This is not true of all deacons, ok? But it happens often enough that it is a joke in a Baptist Church.
Epaphras was a faithful minister of the church in Colossae. May the Lord help preachers of our day to emulate this example.
May God bless these words to our hearts.