As our journey through Colossians comes to a close, It reminds me of how important we are to one another and the ministry of the gospel. As the apostle Paul begins to close his brief letter, he begins to list several individuals involved in some fashion with the work in Colosse. First, there is Tychicus, “a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord” (4:7), and “Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you” (4:9). Paul plans to send them to the church for two reasons: to “tell them all the news about me” (Paul), and “that he may know your circumstances and comfort (nu 3870, encourage, console) your hearts” (4:8). Then there is Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus who send greetings to the church in Colosse, who are ”fellow workers for the kingdom of God” with Paul. Paul says, “[T]hey have proved to be a comfort to me” (4:11) because, at the time of writing this letter, Paul was in prison. He would mention “Luke the beloved physician” and Demas, who also sent their greetings. Again it reminds me of the close weave of far and near relationships that play an essential role in the growth and strengthening of the church.
It is not surprising that this letter closes by mentioning Epaphras, “who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf” (1:7). And it is here that we find ourselves considering the act of prayer that was so important to the work then. How important? Remember, the apostle Paul mentioned how he was “praying always for you” (1:3) and how he did “not cease to pray for” them (1:9). He prayed for the church in Philippi (Philippians 1:3, 9), for the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:16), for the church in Rome (Romans 1:9) and others as well. Whether it was through the influence of Paul or not, Epaphras also was a man of prayer when it came to his ministry and those he served.
“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.”
In a young adult class that is taking place at my house, Angel is walking us through a discussion and study about zeal. I mention this because Paul says of Epaphras that “he has a great zeal for you, and for those who are in Laodicea and those in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:13). Instead of zeal, your translation may say “working hard,” “deep concern” or “much labor .” The New Living Translation reads, “he prays hard for you.” Maybe in part, this was because he was “one of you,” but I suspect it was because he believed in the power of our prayer and how his work desperately needed to include his God in things. So, Paul talks of how Epaphras was “always laboring fervently for you in prayers.” The ETRV reads, “He constantly struggles for you in prayer.” Another translation uses the word “wrestling.” In Luke 13:24, the same word translates as “strive,” and in John 18:36, “fight.” It carries the idea of struggling, like being engaged in an intense athletic contest or warfare. As one commentator writes, “The KJV here seems to capture more of the weight of the word in rendering ‘laboring fervently.'” Still, another writes of the “greatest fervency of desire and affection in prayer” that Epaphras had for them. His passion for them is revealed partly through his prayer life for them.
His prayers were specific, for he yearned that they would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Perfect? Remember what Paul previously wrote about concerning their proclamation of Christ. He said “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (1:28). This idea of being perfect involved attaining “to all the riches of the full assurance of understanding” (2:2). It appears that both of these words, “perfect and complete,” play off one another. The Greek word for “perfect” seems to carry the idea of maturity. The Greek word for complete means being totally assured of something. It translates as “being fully assured” in Romans 4:21. As one commentator writes, “The desire was, that they might maintain their Christian principles unadulterated by the mixture of philosophy and error, and completely perform the will of God in every respect.” Epaphras, being from that area, knew the challenges before them and the pull of those Jewish philosophers. Paul wanted to assure them of who Christ is and, in so doing, continue in their journey of seeking out His will in all areas of life.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I spoke of the need to keep me in your prayers (Colossians 4:2). It is my turn now, as I am reminded of the importance of praying for the Lord’s church here in Biddeford. It reminds me of something Paul said to the church in Corinth, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1st Corinthians 3:7). I think Epaphras had a good handle on this idea. As much as he worked for the kingdom, he remembered that only One is truly in control of things, and that is God. Thus, Epaphras found himself going to his God, our God, and fervently praying for the church in Colosse. He prayed for their conviction concerning Christ and that it would lead to greater levels of maturity. This maturity, of course, would result in lives that seek His will. Heavenly Father, may You continue to help Your church here at Biddeford to be convinced of the good news of Jesus Christ and to seek Your will in all areas of life. For You alone are worthy of all glory and honor. In Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen. May we all unite in faithful prayer for the Lord’s work here in Biddeford. Thank You, Lord for this church family.