We learn a bit more about Epaphras, at the end of the letter, in 4:12-13 Paul writes:
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
So Epaphras was actually from Colossae. He was earnest in his prayers for them - praying that they would mature as Christians. And Paul stresses how hard Epaphras has worked for them. Epaphras then is regarded by Paul as a hard working minister of the gospel.
And we know one more thing about Epaphras – he, like Paul and Timothy was later imprisoned – and actually imprisoned with Paul (Philemon 1:23).
So, three men: Paul, Timothy and Epaphras. And what united them was that they were praying for the Christians in Colossae – and their prayers related to how these Christians were responding to the gospel (the good news about Jesus).
And we’ll think more about the gospel, and their response to it, next week. For now though, let’s simply note the fact that this letter is wrapped up in prayer and personal concern for the Christians in Colossae.
But why were Paul, Timothy and Epaphras so concerned for them?
4. False teachers
The answer to that is that, the Christians living in Colossae were in danger of being led astray into believing things about Jesus and the Christian life that weren’t true.
This untrue teaching was coming from people the Bible calls ‘false teachers.’ That’s the fourth person, well really ‘people,’ for us to know about - the ‘false teachers’ who were in danger of leading the Christians in Colossae astray.
And it was his concern about these ‘false teachers’ that caused Paul to write this letter – he doesn’t want these Christians in Colossae to get things wrong.
And, just as this letter was to be a protecting, guiding help for them, so too should it be for us today. As we work our way through this letter, it will help us make sure that our Christian thinking is on ‘the right track.’
Now, we’ve nearly finished for today. That’s 4 of 6: Paul, Timothy, Epaphras, and the false teachers.
Let’s turn, more briefly, to the fifth group of people… the Colossian Christians themselves.
5. Them – needing assurance
They were new converts to Christianity, and there are indications in the letter that they were mainly from a Gentile (non-Jewish) background although there were likely to be some Jewish converts to Christianity there too.
As we’ve seen they heard the message about Jesus from Epaphras, who had, in turn heard it from Paul (probably when Paul was doing his missionary work in nearby Ephesus).
But, as new Christians with the threat of ‘false teachers’ on the horizon, they needed reassurance of the truth, protection from wrong thinking and guidance for the future.
Now, we may feel that we at Christ Church aren’t much like them – not least, we live in a country that has been influenced by Christianity for not far off 2,000 years.
But being reassured of what Christian truth is, being encouraged to stand firm in it, and not being led astray by ‘false teaching’ is something that every Church, everywhere in the world, and throughout history, needs.
We then, need to listen to this letter, and take it to heart – just like those Colossian Christians.
And so we come to the final person in the 6…
6. The Lord Jesus Christ
He is at the centre of this letter, and the letter’s message.
Paul, we’re told (in 1:1) is Christ’s messenger – His apostle. The Christians in Colossae are linked to Christ – He is the foundation of their identity – who they are – they are (1:2) ‘in Christ.’ This has happened because they have put their faith in Christ when they heard the message about Him (1:4). And Christ is the person central to the message that Epaphras had brought to them (1:7).
So, here’s our final point for today: As we work our way through Colossians, we, by the grace of God, are going to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and grow in our love for Him.
We are going to be blessed by Him as we spend time learning about Him from this letter.
So, let’s agree to listen carefully to the Apostle Paul over the next few weeks.
Dear Heavenly Father, as we think together over the next few weeks about this letter, please help us to listen to you, to hear, understand and to take to heart your truth about your Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. And as we think about Him would we grow in our knowledge of Him, and our live for Him. Amen
Hymn: ‘We have a gospel to proclaim’ by Edward J Burns