"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis." (Colossians 4:12–13 ESV)
Some biblical characters — Moses, Paul, David — are well known. Others, like our man Epaphras, enter the scene for mere second and are gone. Similar to a movie extra, there is little you know about them. But there is a story in them, and Epaphras was a man with a story.
He ended up in the Bible because he had visited and befriended Paul, who was imprisoned in Rome. From Colossi, Epaphras was Paul’s fellow minister; he might have been the founder of the church in Colossi (Colossians 1:7). Eventually, he became Paul’s fellow prisoner (Philemon 23).
Epaphras was a man of priority.
Epaphras was a man who had his priorities dialed. He was a “servant of Christ Jesus,” so Christ came first in his life. He considered Himself Jesus’ slave. He had given himself up to the will of another. In looking for a master, he could have found no one finer than Jesus. For Paul to label Epaphras as a servant is a high compliment, for it is a title which describes the most devoted of believers. Only Timothy and Epaphras were ever called “servants of Christ” by Paul.
So Epaphras was a man who served Jesus. He had one priority in life: please Christ. He did not have to say, “God first, family second, church third,” for Epaphras merely said, “Christ in all.” If his Master told him to visit Paul, he would visit Paul. If his Master told him to love his wife better, he would love his wife better. His heart was in tune with the eye of his master. He did not put Jesus in a compartment (i.e., “twenty-three Sunday mornings a year for Jesus!”), but let Jesus Christ consume his life.
God is looking for people who will let Him be their priority. He is looking for those who allow His preeminence to become their mission. He is looking for those like Epaphras.
Epaphras was a man of passion.
Epaphras was a man of passion and zeal. He had worked hard for the Colossians, Laodiceans, and Hieroplisians. He had a fervor about him, especially for that particular region (Colossi, Laodicea, and Hierapolis were located a dozen miles from one another). Years later, Jesus would rebuke the lukewarmness in Laodicea, but it didn’t start with Epaphras. He was strong. The man was a fire.
So Epaphras was a passionate man, but not in a merely emotional way. He had a zeal for God’s people. He wanted to see them excel. Christ’s vision had become Epaphras’ vision. If he was a pastor, he studied diligently. If he was a small group leader, he lovingly pursued everyone in the group. If he was a kid’s church teacher, he arrived early and served each family well. He was all in, for there was nothing half-hearted about him.
God is looking for people who will bring passion and energy into their work for Him. He is looking for those who will diligently serve Him with their lives. He is looking for those like Epaphras.
Epaphras was a man of prayer.
Epaphras was a man of prayer. For all his other attributes, this is his most notable quality. Paul said his work ethic and passion had invaded his prayer life, for was “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers.” The Colossians were ever-present in his prayer life. He toiled over them before God, wrestling in a spirit of prayer for the Colossian church. He wanted them to excel, so he cried out to God for their spiritual success. Miles away from them, he prayed with Paul for them, and Paul took note. “This guy prays hard,” Paul thought to himself.
So Epaphras was a man of prayer. Paul uses the word “struggle” to describe his prayer life, which indicates a bit of agony in prayer. Creation groans, the Spirit groans, and Epaphras groaned (Romans 8:22-23). He contended, prayerfully, for the Colossians. His request was for them to stand mature in Christ. He would kneel so they could stand.
God is looking for people who will adopt a people and struggle for them in prayer. He is looking for those who are willing to bring the burdens of others before Him. He is looking for those like Epaphras.