Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 176 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Colossians 4 today and our focus is on The Greatest Unsung Hero of the Bible + Wrestling in Prayer. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Rizal, Philippines, Parts unknown, South Korea, Parts unknown, Russia, Nova Scotia, Canada, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Midland, Texas, Duluth, Minnesota and Rockford, Illinois. Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Today we are talking about the person that all Bible scholars unanimously agree is the single greatest unsung hero in the Bible. Okay, you got me – that is a totally fabricated stat – I’ve never polled all Bible scholars on this subject, or any other subject, but I will tell you that I believe Epaphras is the single greatest unsung hero in the Bible. In fact, he is so unsung that even though I’m a great admirer, I’ve already misspelled his name in the show notes twice today, and also called him Epaphroditus, which is a different guy that Paul mentions in Philippians.
Who was Epaphras? Well, we hardly know anything about him. He is mentioned only three times in Scripture, which is still three times more than any of us are mentioned – and those three times don’t give us much info. In Colossians 1:7, we learn that it was Epaphras who first brought the gospel to the people of Colossae: “You learned this from Epaphras, our dearly loved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,”
In Philemon, we learn that Epaphras was imprisoned along with Paul, likely for preaching the gospel. “23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings, and so do ”
And in today’s passage, we learn the most about Epaphras:
12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills. 13 For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis. Colossians 4:12-13
We learn here that Epaphras is apparently from Colossae, or the surrounding area, and that he also has a ministry in the city of Laodicea and Hierapolis. All three of those cities were in the Kingdom of Phrygia, home of King Midas and King Gordias of Gordian knot fame, which at the time was part of Anatolia, and is now part of Turkey. See how I snuck some geography in there right under your nose? Of greater import than ancient geography is the ministry of Epaphras. Not only did he spread the gospel and plant churches, but he WRESTLED in prayer for those he ministered to. What effect did that have? A huge one, as we can see here – God used the prayers of Epaphras to cause the people from these cities to stand mature and in full assurance of God’s will. That is MASSIVE. How does maturity come to new believers? Apparently and surprisingly, prayer is a huge part of that. Here is pastor and author Sam Storms on ten reasons that Epaphras was so special and fruitful:
First, he was an evangelist. The Colossians “heard” the gospel from him (v. 6b). Try to envision the sort of courage and boldness required for a man to return to his home town preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ for the very first time. The threat of ridicule and rejection carried no weight with Epaphras. Such was his love for Jesus and his fellow Colossians.
Second, he was a teacher. They not only “heard” the gospel from Epaphras but “learned” (v. 7a) it from him. This suggests that he labored among them not simply by preaching but by expounding the truths of God’s work in Christ and building them up in their faith.
Third, he was Paul’s “beloved fellow-servant” (v. 7a). Paul loved him. So, too, no doubt, did the Colossians. He was joined in mission and ministry and heart affection with the apostle. He was more than a servant. He was a “fellow” servant.
Fourth, he was a “faithful minister of Christ” (v. 7c). He was trustworthy. His word was his life. His devotion to Christ was unqualified, unconditional, and constant.
Fifth, he was devoted to the Colossians and their spiritual welfare and growth, for Paul says his ministry was “on your behalf” (v. 7d). Some Greek manuscripts have “on our behalf,” which would suggest that Epaphras was Paul’s representative to the church there. But if the former is correct, as I believe it is, Paul’s point is that Epaphras labored with the Colossians in mind, expending himself for their sakes, not his own.
Sixth, he was more than a minister, he was a “bond-slave” of Christ Jesus (4:12a). Whereas being a “slave” in the first century was, in most cases, grounds for reproach, Epaphras considered it an honor and blessing, for he was owned by Christ Jesus, a purchased possession, bought with his precious blood.
Seventh, he was a committed intercessor on their behalf (4:12b). He “always” prayed for them. I can envision Paul listening each day as Epaphras brought the Colossians, by name no doubt, to the throne of grace. His commitment to intercede on their behalf deeply impressed the apostle. What love!
Eighth, his prayers for them were characterized by a determination to fight through all resistance and a refusal to give up when it became demanding, painful, and inconvenient, for Paul says, he was “always struggling” (4:12c) on their behalf in prayer. No perfunctory, casual requests here. He worked hard at prayer. He persevered through temptations to quit. He was tolerant of no distractions.
Ninth, he didn’t pray for frivolous things or worldly fame or material prosperity. His focus was their spiritual maturity and discernment and satisfaction in Jesus. Paul describes it this way: he was always praying “that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (v. 12c).
Tenth, he has “worked hard” (v. 13a) for the Colossians, counting no cost too high to pay so that his fellow-Christians might flourish spiritually (the word here carries the thought of pain and distress). He didn’t use his imprisonment as an excuse for self-pity or to justify turning his attention to his own welfare or concerns. He seized this time of imprisonment as a great opportunity to intercede incessantly for others!
Sam Storms, Biblical Studies: Colossians (Edmond, OK: Sam Storms, 2016), Col 1:7–4:13.
Bible Memory verses for the month of June: Daniel 6:23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. When Daniel was brought up from the den, he was found to be unharmed, for he trusted in his God.
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