A Teacher of the Truth
1. As ye also learned of Epaphras.
a. Epaphras was the one who brought the gospel message to the city of Colosse…
b. Evidently, Paul had not been to that city (2:1).
c. But Epaphras taught the people in that city about the gospel.
• Taught – μανθάνω – manthan-oh = to teach; the verb form of disciple…
• Epaphras enrolled many people in his discipleship class and he began to teach them the word of the truth of the gospel.
• Just as when the Lord took in disciples, some received it superficially and later departed; in others, it took root in good soil and they were saved! They became disciples indeed!
• They produced fruit… and much fruit!
• This was part of the Lord’s commission to spread the good news of the resurrected Savior… make disciples of all nations… and all cities – including Colosse.
d. God used this man, Epaphras, to bring the gospel there, and it is likely he who was used of the Lord to start the church in Colosse… and perhaps also in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
e. Some time after the church was established in Colosse, Epaphras visited Paul in prison in Rome. When Paul heard news of conditions in the church, (namely the false teachers), he was moved to write the Epistle to the Colossians… and wanted the church of Laodicea to read it too…
2. Col. 4:12a – Epaphras was a Colossian… one of them… and he brought the good news of Christ to his home town…
a. Hence, we learn something about this man. He had a heart to see people SAVED!
b. He was from Colosse. He grew up there. He had family there.
c. He was the perfect man for the job. He knew the language; the culture; the people; the problems; the manner of life; he WAS a Colossian!
d. He knew many people in that city… and now that he was saved, he realized that all of his old friends were still UNSAVED!
e. That’s one of the first things a new believer realizes… he perceives that those around him are still in darkness… just as he once was.
f. Someone brought the gospel to Epaphras and he was saved.
g. Now he had a desire to bring the gospel to others… especially to his hometown – Colosse!
h. John 1:40-42 – This was just what we saw in the lives of the other apostles… Andrew was introduced to Christ, and the first thing he thought of was bringing the good news to his brother, Peter!
3. Col. 4:13 – Evidently, he not only had a heart for the Colossians, but he also had a heart for other nearby cities – Laodicea and Hierapolis.
a. These 3 three cities were only about 10 miles apart – a tri-city region.
b. Hence, it is likely that Epaphras knew people in each of these other cities too… perhaps relatives.
c. He would have had many contacts… many opportunities to speak to people about Christ…
d. And the language and culture would have been the same…
e. The Lord chose Epaphras for this ministry… the perfect man for the job. Unbeknown to him, God ordained before the foundation of the earth for him to be reared in that region… for such a time as this – to be used as God’s instrument to bring the gospel there!
f. And note that vs. 13 states that he had ZEAL for these people.
• Zeal – excitement of mind, ardor, fervour of spirit
• He was eager… excited… full of enthusiasm to bring the gospel to these cities. He had a genuine zeal for those people!
• And not only zeal – but GREAT zeal… much zeal…
• He “hath” great zeal – continual action… this was his character… not just a passing spurt of excitement… continual zeal…
a. One of the first things that God puts in the heart of a new believer is a concern to see others saved.
b. Do YOU have that desire? Is it a ZEAL? Great zeal?
c. Perhaps you used to… but you have allowed that zeal to die down… the coals became cold… STIR UP those coals!
d. One of the best ways to stir up an interest in evangelism is to DO it… take advantage of the opportunities God does give – and you will soon see how exciting it is to share the good news… and to point men to Christ.
e. And who better to begin with than those closest to you? Relatives… coworkers… neighbors…
f. Mission boards spend lots of money and take years to train a person to go overseas, learn the language, learn the culture, make friends, try to “fit in,” so that they can then have opportunities to evangelize.
g. That wasn’t necessary for Epaphras. He was “one of them already!” So too with you… you are a New Englander! One of them! You know the language… you have contacts here already…
h. Take advantage of this great privilege – and share the gospel of Christ with those around you!
A Dear Fellowservant
1. Fellowservant: sundoulos – a servant with; an associate of a slave; one who serves the same master with another
a. Col. 4:12 – a servant of Christ – doulos of Christ… a servant.
• Here he is called a “sun-doulos”… this implies that he is a servant “along with others.”
• He served Christ… but not alone. He did so WITH many others, including the apostle Paul.
• Epaphras was a servant along WITH many other servants of the Lord.
2. Paul saw this man as his co-worker… a fellow worker… a fellow slave of Jesus Christ… and a fellowservant WITH Paul and Timotheos.
a. Paul saw Epaphras as doing the same work that he was… a fellow slave.
b. In most of Paul’s epistles, he begins by referring to himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ.” (Romans; Titus; Phil.; II Cor.; Gal.)
c. He sees Epaphras as doing the same work… for the same Lord… and accomplishing the same thing: the planting of local churches around the world… a fellowslave of Christ…
d. Paul, perhaps more than anyone, could appreciate the work that was involved in planting a church in a pagan land.
• Paul came into many cities, preached the gospel, and suffered greatly for it!
• He knew of the risks… of the dangers…
• He knew of the opposition that would be faced… local idol makers have their crafts and livelihoods put in jeopardy…
• Paul was stoned and left for dead in Lystra… beaten in Philippi… nearly torn in pieces in Jerusalem…and in Ephesus…
• Paul knew all about the danger and trouble that would face a man planting a church in such hostile territory…
• In fact, he was writing this letter from prison – for doing the very same work that Epaphras was doing in Colosse!
e. Thus, Paul referred to Epaphras as a fellowslave… one who was sold out to serving the Lord by preaching the gospel to the lost and supporting the planting of local churches for the glory of God.
3. This term OUGHT to characterize EVERY believer!
a. Unfortunately, it does not. Not every believer is a servant of Christ… a slave… even though we ought to be.
b. Too many believers serve OTHER things… other masters.
c. Rom. 6:16 – some yield themselves to sin and are servants of sin.
d. Titus 3:3 – Some serve pleasures and lusts…
e. Some serve their job… their family… their friends… but not Jesus Christ.
f. Some serve the world.
g. Rom. 1:25 – some serve the creation rather than the Creator
h. Matt. 6:24 – Some serve mammon.
i. Some are SELF-serving…
j. This was not the case with Epaphras. He served Christ… he was a slave of Christ… he had no will of his own… his meat was to do the will of the one who sent him! (John 4:34) A servant is to be selfless… attending to the needs of others… Epaphras was such a man… serving Christ…
4. As a “fellowslave,” this man saw himself as “one of many servants.”
a. He was not a maverick… not a lone cannon…
b. Rather, he worked with others in this great endeavor for the Lord… he was a slave… and there were many others.
c. Paul saw him as one of his personal colleagues… a fellowlaborer… with PAUL… doing the same work for the Lord, but in a different location.
• This may well have been said by Paul to help give more credibility to Epaphras in the church at Colosse.
• Once the false teachers invaded, they all claimed to have divine authority. Any fool can make such a claim.
• However, Paul sent Epaphras back to Colosse with this letter – a divinely inspired letter – from the hand of the most beloved apostle Paul… an indisputable authority figure known to ALL the churches.
• And in this letter, Paul puts Epaphras on the same level as himself – a FELLOWservant… he stands shoulder to shoulder with the great apostle on this account…
• This would prove to be quite valuable, as they would soon face an onslaught of false teachers…
• Perhaps some questioned his authority since he was not an apostle.
• This was Paul’s letter of recommendation to the congregation concerning Epaphras.
• If the believers in Colosse were to set aside the teachings they originally heard from Epaphras, now they were put on notice, that they were not only rejecting his authority, but also that of Paul and Timothy!
• Rejecting the authority of one was rejecting the authority of them all – for they were agreed!
• Not only would these words give credibility to Epaphras in the church, but it would serve another purpose too. It would serve to abolish the concept of a hierarchy in the local church. Paul – the ultimate authority – saw himself on the same level as Epaphras. He was no pope… but a fellowslave… standing shoulder to shoulder with this lesser known servant, Epaphras.
d. There are fellowservants of Christ all over the globe! We know some of them… Victor Ho in China; Luis Alfredo Lopez in Montevideo; Christian Sears in Germany; Mike Brunk in So. Africa; Dave McKee in West Africa; John Peront in Manchester NH; Bob DePue in Argentina;
e. There are fellowservants doing the same work all over the globe… preaching the gospel… the whole counsel of God… and establishing Bible believing and Bible teaching churches wherever the message takes root…
5. And note that Epaphras was called a DEAR fellowservant.
a. Dear = beloved (agapatos) – (as in My Beloved Son!)
b. Epaphras not only had authority in his position – authority that was recognized and commended by Paul… but in addition to having authority over the people, he was beloved BY the people!
c. He was a DEAR fellowservant… beloved.
d. Why wouldn’t the people of Colosse love him? He gave his all to bring the gospel message to them… and he poured his life into establishing a church there… and now he visits Paul and brings them a letter from the apostle – written for their edification.
e. They loved him and no doubt, he loved them.
f. I think it’s fair to say that many of the fellowservants we know as missionaries around the world are also DEAR to us… beloved… as we have grown to know them over the years… pray for them… pray with them… hear them share their ministry during missions conference…
A Faithful Minister of Christ
1. These two terms speak of the relationship Epaphras had with the apostles AND with the Colossians.
a. To Paul and Timothy, Epaphras was “our” dear fellowservant. He worked WITH Paul.
b. But FOR you (the Colossians), he was their faithful minister.
2. Epaphras was a servant (doulos – sun-doulos). He is here called a “minister” – diakonos…
a. Diakonos: one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master, a servant, attendant, minister.
b. This is a term that is used of those who perform a service… a ministry… it is the word normally translated “deacon.” Epaphras was a deacon of Christ…
c. Both doulos and diakonos speak of a servant, but doulos is a bondservant… without a will in the matter. Diakonos speaks of willing service…
d. This speaks of the willingness of Epaphras to put himself into subjection to the will of God in serving Christ… and ministering to God’s people.
3. Paul emphasizes that Epaphras was a FAITHFUL servant.
a. He was faithful to the task to which God appointed him.
b. He was faithful in bringing the gospel to that city.
c. The fact that a church existed in Colosse was a testimony to his faithfulness.
d. In fact, it may be that Paul was also commending him for establishing churches in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Col. 4:13)
e. We know the trouble that later arose in Laodicea… and we know the trouble that had already arisen at the time of the writing of this epistle in Colosse…
f. As its leader, Epaphras could have quit when the going got tough… many leaders do.
• When the invasion of false teachers stirred up trouble…
• It seemed that there must have been several waves of false teachers – for there is quite a variety of doctrinal issues he raises in this book…
• One gets tired of fighting one battle after another in the local church…
• He could have given up and let the wolves take over… but he didn’t.
g. He stuck it out in good times and in bad times… and Paul praises him here for it.
h. He was a teacher and a servant – but what really made him valuable in the ministry was his faithfulness. (A faithful ambassador is health – spiritual health to the believers in that place!)
i. God would have each one of us to be faithful ministers in the local church – whatever our ministry might be… be faithful… reliable… trustworthy… dependable… consistent… be not weary in well doing…
4. Once again, Paul was putting the full weight of his own apostolic authority behind Epaphras.
a. Paul begins this epistle by letting the whole congregation know that Epaphras was a faithful deacon of Christ.
b. Thus, he is setting him apart from the false teachers… who did NOT serve Christ but their own bellies.
c. Paul identifies him as a “faithful minister.”
d. Paul did NOT identify all “ministers” as “faithful.” (Cf. II Cor. 11:13-15)
e. Some were unfaithful… some were actually false apostles who only posed as faithful ministers of Christ. They were in reality ministers of Satan.
f. Paul was not afraid to identify false apostles and ministers of Satan.
g. And when there was a faithful minister of Christ, Paul stood up for him… endorsed him… stood with him… and commended him before the people. That is just what Paul did for Epaphras.
h. I’ve been in the ministry long enough to know that not all ministers are faithful ministers…
5. Col. 4:12 – Epaphras was a faithful minister to the Colossians in part because of his faithfulness in prayer.
a. He labored for them fervently in prayer…
b. And notice what he prayed FOR:
• That they would stand perfect and complete in the will of God. (4:12)
• Paul’s prayers for the people were that they would be FILLED with the knowledge of His will… (1:9)
• Imagine if all of us here were FILLED with the knowledge of God’s will… and walked accordingly?
• This kind of praying puts God and His will at the center of everything.
• Epaphras taught and led this church – but not according to his own will… not according what he THOUGHT or FELT would be best… but rather, fervently sought the will of the Lord… “if the Lord will, we shall do this or that…”
c. In reality, it’s impossible to BE a faithful servant of God’s people without laboring in prayer… faithfully.
d. If prayer isn’t paramount, then God is not at the center of a ministry… and if that is not the case, then the ministry is operating in the power of the flesh.
e. That occurs far too often…
f. Our prayer meeting is the backbone of this church… my goal is to continue to teach on the importance of prayer until we see 100% of the body coming out to pray together… seeking God’s will… God’s mind… guidance… and just to praise Him!
g. It is also how the hearts of the people here are knit together…
A Reporter of the Church’s Progress (vs.8)
1. While Epaphras was with Paul in Rome, he reported to Paul about the condition of the church at Colosse… and in particular, about the love of God that was demonstrated there.
a. It’s one thing to be doctrinally sound… orthodox.
b. But that orthodoxy ought to be accompanied by the love of God for the brethren…
c. Without this kind of love in the Spirit the church may have all their paper work in order… sound, orthodox, fundamental… but cold! Let’s not be that kind of church.
d. God is truth… but He is also love…
e. The Colossians had the love in the Spirit…
2. Vs. 4 – Paul heard of the love that they had toward all the saints… brotherly love… (agape love directed at believers)
3. Now Paul states how Epaphras reported to him that their love was “in the Spirit.”
a. Where the truth is received… there ought to be a life filled with the love of God manifested – in real deeds… action…
b. It is good for a church to contend for the faith. That is what this epistle is all about… but it is also important for a church to demonstrate the life and love of God towards each other in every day living.
c. The Colossians demonstrated evidence of life…Spiritual fruit… produced by the Holy Spirit who indwelt them: love, joy, peace…
d. This was part of the progress report that Epaphras made to Paul as he shared what God was doing in Colosse… how the saints there had been demonstrating genuine love in the Spirit…
e. This was not a phony, showy kind of love – done to be seen of men. This was supernatural… the love produced in the life of a yielded believer… the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This was the real thing.
4. No doubt Epaphras had told Paul MANY other things about the church…
a. As you read this epistle it is clear that he also reported about those who were teaching Jewish tradition; Greek philosophy; pagan asceticism; and the like…
b. Paul addressed all those issues later.
c. But for now, he seems impressed with this one fact: that the Colossians had been manifesting agape love in the spirit…
d. Evidently Epaphras had talked much about this to Paul… and Paul was impressed with what he heard…
e. Thus, the apostle praises these folks for their love. Imagine getting a letter from Paul praising you for your love in the Spirit? That must have been a great encouragement to these folks!
5. Consider also the fact that with all the problems attacking the church at the time of the writing, Epaphras’ report highlights their love in the spirit in the midst of it all!
a. That is a remarkable quality for a church to have in such a time of attack…
b. Often when a church is attacked, and there are problems in the assembly, one might expect to see backbiting, division, gossip, and infighting.
c. That was NOT the case in Colosse. In the midst of their attack, what impressed Paul was their love in the Spirit…
d. And this says a lot about Epaphras too. Other men might have faced all the problems and attacks in the assembly and would have become discouraged… and reported to Paul about the problems exclusively… not Epaphras.
e. Isn’t that human nature to see only the problems? To see only the stains? Some men (and women!) have a nature such that they see only the problems… and not the good… only the bad in people and not the Christlike qualities…
f. There were PLENTY of issues in the church at Colosse… and they would all be dealt with in good time. But Epaphras was the kind of man who (in the midst of trying times and spiritual attacks) was still able to see the love of God being manifested in the saints.
g. BE that kind of person!
6. In spite of the problems that arose in that church, Paul was thanking God for its existence… (vs. 3)
a. He knew of their problems… he knew of the controversy brewing there…
b. But he also knew of their faith in Christ and the love which they had to all the saints…
c. He knew that the gospel Epaphras preached was producing fruit in that place…
d. And he knew that Epaphras was a faithful servant of Christ… and that if the saints rallied behind his leadership, refocused on Christ as Paul exhorts them… that the problems could be resolved…
e. Thus, Paul was thanking God for them, praying always for them. (vs. 3)
f. Paul wanted God’s best for these folks. He had never met them, but from prison he was doing what he could to encourage them in the truth… to support the man God sent there and the truth he was teaching… and to expose and reject all those who sought to undermine the work of God.
g. Can’t you see in this man Paul a LOVE for the local church? Can’t you see in this man Epaphras a love for the work of the Lord? They were servants… slaves of Jesus Christ… servants of God’s people… and God was glorified through it all.
h. May that be the case in this local church!
HOW do we show love to God? He’s invisible… He’s in heaven.
God doesn’t NEED anything from us.
We can’t improve His quality of life.
He isn’t sick; lonely; short of money; in the midst of a project where He needs a helping hand; He doesn’t have a fence that needs painting;
We can show love to God THROUGH the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
Christ is the Mediator between our invisible God and men upon the earth.
Our access to God is THROUGH Christ… the God-Man… He is the link.
The way we show love to God is THROUGH Christ and through His Body in particular.
Helping Christ’s Body is the way we show love to Christ… to God.
Ministering to the saints… edifying the Body… is the only way we can minister to God Himself…
A. Why persecutest thou Me?
B. Ministering to one of His “brethren” is ministering to Him.
But ministering to the Body of Christ has eternal value.
C. Aiding the Body of Christ is aiding those who love the Lord
D. Loving the brethren is an expression of the love for God
E. Loving the brethren is the WAY we show love to God
F. This makes the local church the most important institution on earth
G. The local church is where the saints gather… where we are ABLE to minister to one another on an ongoing basis… it is where the rubber meets the road… where real life applications are in play… where Scripture is practiced… the life and love of Christ is demonstrated…
H. How we treat the Body is an expression of our heart’s attitude towards God Himself.
I. If you don’t love the brethren whom ye see, how can you love God whom you can’t see?
J. “To dwell above with saints above, that will indeed be glory; to dwell below with saints we know, well, that’s another story!”
Love which you are HAVING… ongoing love… it’s never “done.”
Relationship between the faith and love.
K. Gal. 5:6 – faith is proven to be real by works of love.
L. If our faith is real… it WILL be expressed towards the brethren in DEEDS of love.
M. Faith is never alone. It always results in deeds of love…
N. If faith is genuine, it will produce fruit – the fruit of the Spirit – namely, LOVE for the brethren.