Have you ever been reading the Bible and come upon a verse that brings you to an immediate stop? I was halted this morning by this verse.
“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Colossians 4:12 (NIV)
Never before I had stopped to make note of a man named Epaphras. I may have glazed over his name in the Bible many times before. This morning, God blessed me with eyes to see his name and to pause to reflect upon the life of Epaphras.
When I get stalled upon a verse. My first response is to do a bit of research and to try to gain a greater understanding. For me, NIV is my most used Bible translation, but I find it helpful to look at several different translations.
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12 (NKJV)
“Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.” Colossians 4:12 (NLT)
“Epaphras, who is one of you, says hello. What a trooper he has been! He’s been tireless in his prayers for you, praying that you’ll stand firm, mature and confident in everything God wants you to do.” Colossians 4:12 (Message)
At this point I have so many questions. Who is Epaphras? How many times is he found in the Bible? How did Paul meet him? What was his life like? Why was he included in the Bible?
Let’s begin with who is Epaphras? His name is not one of the common ones in my library of faith knowledge. Do you know him? Or is today the day that you, like me, are really meeting him for the first time?
Here are some additional verses that I found to describe Epaphras.
Colossians 4:13, “I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Loadicea and Hierapolis.”
Colossians 1:7-8 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.”
Philemon 1:23, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.”
From my Life Application Study Bible I glean this information about Epaphras. Epaphras founded the church at Colosse while Paul was living in Ephesus. It says Epaphras may have been converted in Ephesus (not necessarily by Paul but by believers there) and then returned home to Colosse to begin the church.
At some point in time, Epaphras goes to visit Paul in Rome. While there, he sought Paul’s council regarding problems in the Colossian church about believers attempting to combine secular philosophies with Christian doctrine. Paul’s response was to write his letter, which we know as the book of Colossians.
It is also believed that the Colossian church met in at the house of Philemon. Epaphras is mentioned in Philemon’s letter because of that association. At the time Philemon’s letter was written, Epaphras may have been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, just as Paul had been.
There are so few words to describe the life of this man. Yet, look at the power of those few words. Servant of Christ. Fervent pray-er. Hard working. Faithful minister. Fellow prisoner. This is the legacy of Epaphras. Oh to have a legacy of such grandeur!
It may be easy to overlook the verses in the Bible that describe Epaphras. There are over 31,000 verses in the whole Bible. Epaphras is mentioned or described in five of them.
I wonder if during his lifetime if Epaphras wondering if he was making a difference? I ponder nights of an exhausted man heading to bed wondering if it was all worth it? As he witnessed people veering from the teachings of Christ or blending them with world views, did he feel as if no one was listening to him.
In my humanness, I sure wonder. I wonder how quickly I am forgotten about. I ponder if I were to die, what would my legacy be. Would I have made a difference, an impact upon this world? There are truly days where I doubt it. There are times where I feel totally forgotten about though I am still here.
But then through it all I come before Christ. I am so deeply encouraged by His love for me. I am reassured that God has got a plan to it all. I am reminded that I am here because God had a purpose in putting me here. Whether big, small or absolutely tiny I am still important and will make a difference in the master story He has written.
Then I think of how amazing it would be to have my life summed up in the short words that Epaphras did. Wow! Those sentences are a mighty testament to his life. Epaphras is a man whose commitment to Christ made such an impression upon Paul that he felt he should be in his letters which became a part of the Bible.
Epaphras made the hard choices. He faced extreme challenges. Yet he did not give up. He endured. He persevered. He pressed on to run the race. His prize was greater than he could probably even imagine. His legacy lives on today in my life as I adopt him into my heart as a brother in Christ that I did not know before today.
If you are reading this and having thoughts of doubt about your own legacy, I understand. It may feel like your part does not matter or that you are still waiting in the wings to come on stage. Look at the love Christ has for you. You are so important to Him. You are a vital part of His grand story.
You are precious. You are a gift. You are a treasure. You never know when you will make a difference in the life of another because a few short sentences of your story impacts their hearts in a life changing way.
Thank you so much for introducing me today to Epaphras. Lord, thank You for answering so many of His prayers. May he be with You in Heaven, smiling down upon us as we realize that the prayers of Epaphras for believers to be mature in Christ are being answered in our own lives today as we get to know You better.
Lord, please bless all of us with confidence in the legacy that You have designed for each one of us. Your Bible tells us that each of our days are written in Your book of life. May we find assurance that You are in control and that we can be at rest in You, not anxious or worrisome.
Praise to You, oh God, for loving us, for creating us, for having a purpose for us and for being perfectly there for us. In Jesus’ name, amen.