just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,Colossians 1:7(NASB)
It was by God's will that Paul was chosen to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus. We read of various co-workers in the gospel and fellow bond-servants of Christ, who worked alongside him.
Some accompanied him on his various missionary journeys, while others carried messages, or delivered epistles to different congregations of believers, during his various imprisonments.
Some were commissioned to be a pastor of a church or to appoint elders from the Body of Christ, so that the Church of God would be spiritually equipped, enabled to grow in their faith, and become mature men and women of God. And from his many letters and communications, we discover that Paul found great encouragement and spiritual support, from these co-labourers in the gospel.
One name that occurs quite often in Scripture is Epaphras, who was the fellow-worker who founded the church at Colossae. Paul valued the dedication of this servant of Christ, who always laboured fervently in prayer, for the Christians in the Colossian congregation, "that they may stand perfect and complete, in the will of God."
What a joy to have a spirit-filled brother in Christ, lifting-up his fellow believers with such fervent intercessions. And in this verse, we have another reminder of Epaphras' devotion to the Lord, and his dedication in sharing the good news of the gospel of Christ, for Paul refers to him as, "our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ - on our behalf."
Paul was no stranger to those that were hostile to his ministry and his message. False teachers even infiltrated certain churches, challenging Paul's apostleship.. and many of his epistles were written to confront and correct false teaching or to defend his God-given responsibility, as Christ's apostle to the Gentiles. He also had opposition from true believers, who were teaching the truth of the gospel of grace, while resenting Paul personally, because they were jealous of his apostolic calling.
However, Epaphras was beloved of Paul, and for a time he had been his fellow prisoner-of-the-gospel, in the city of Rome. And here, we discover that this beloved disciple was a faithful servant who ministered, "on behalf of Paul." It seems, that in some way, Epaphras represented Paul to the church at Colossae.
Paul was grateful to God for the eternal hope the Christians at Colossae had in Christ Jesus - a hope that was laid up for them in heaven. Paul was thankful that these dear men and women had trusted Christ for their Salvation, and he was thrilled that Epaphras, his fellow-labourer in the gospel and beloved bond-servant of Christ, continued to faithfully preach Christ crucified to these believers - unlike so many false teachers that were infiltrating the early Church of Paul's day.
There seems to be no rivalry between Paul and Epaphras, because their united focus was the Lord Jesus, their singular ministry was to preach Christ crucified, and their common goal was to spread the gospel of God to the unsaved, while also bringing the body of Christ into spiritual maturity.
Their close, brotherly relationship, their singular passion for the gospel of grace, their fervent intercessions for their brothers and sisters in Christ, and their deep love of the brotherhood of the saints, appear to be areas that united Paul and Epaphras in their individual ministries, and bonded them together in a spirit of love - in the unity of the faith and in the bond of peace.
Preaching the gospel of Christ, praying in spirit and truth, the breaking of bread, ministering to the needs of others, and uniting in godly fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, appear to be the priorities of Epaphras, Paul, and their fellow-workers in the gospel.
May we seek to develop similar priorities in our own Christian life, so that we may grow in grace, fulfil the work that God has prepared for us to do, and live our lives in a way that honours our God and Saviour - Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Epaphras, whose service, prayer, dedication, and faithfulness, demonstrated a life that placed Jesus in His rightful position, and whose desire was the salvation of the lost and the progressive sanctification of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that I may seek to share the good news of the gospel with the unsaved, encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, pray fervently for the spiritual well-being of others, and develop an attitude of humility of heart toward my co-labourers in the gospel. Give me a teachable spirit, keep me from being offended, and enable me to live in the unity of the faith... in the bond of peace with my fellow-labourers in the gospel. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.