Monday, February 13, 2012

Standing Firm

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. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. (Colossians 4:12-14)
We met Epaphras at the beginning of this letter, where Paul called him “our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf” (Colossians 1:7). Here, we find Epaphras “laboring fervently” for them. This is from the same Greek word Paul uses of himself in Colossians 1:29, about “striving” according to the energizing power of God at work in him. The word is agonizomai. Although we get our English word “agony” from it, Paul is not speaking of intense pain but intense effort.

Epaphras has great fire, great passion for the Jesus believers at Colosse. He was the one who first brought them the proclamation about King Jesus the Messiah. He is not now present with them but with Paul in Rome, many miles away. What is his fervent labor for them, then? Prayer. He pours himself out for them in intercession, pressing his desires and requests for them before God. His purpose is the same as Paul’s: That they may “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Or as Paul put it earlier, to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28).

Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9 is that they would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Epaphras prays that they may stand in that, to be firm and confident, to come to maturity and fulfill the divine purpose destiny God has for them. His intense desire is not only for the believers at Colosse but also at Laodicea and Hierapolis. He holds all three cities in his heart with great zeal and gladly gives himself for them.

Luke was a Gentile who came to King Jesus, apparently through the ministry of Paul at Troas. He is the author of the Gospel According to Luke, and its companion piece, The Acts of the Apostles. It is not until Acts 16:10-11 that Luke begins speaking of himself as part of Paul’s missions (not by name, but by use of “us” and “we”). From then on, he was a fixture of Paul’s ministry and was with him near the end of Paul’s life. “Only Luke is with me,” Paul says in his farewell letter (2 Timothy 4:11).

All we know of Demas are Paul’s brief mentions in Colossians and Philemon, which are merely words of greeting, and this bit in 2 Timothy 4:10 that is quite telling: “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” Apparently the growing persecution near the end of Paul’s life turned out to be more than Demas was willing to bear.

Focus Questions
  1. Epaphras “labored fervently” in prayer for the believers at Colosse. What do you imagine that was like? How did that intense desire come about in his life?
  2. Who is there for whom you have great zeal and what is your desire for them?
  3. What do you suppose might account for the difference between Epaphras and Demas, or Luke and Demas?

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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