EPAPHRAS – FAITHFUL PRAYER WARRIOR
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is always working for hard for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col. 4: 12-13).
Epaphras – this is the second time his name was mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Who was this man?
Paul described him as a ‘dear fellow servant’ and a ‘faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.’ Paul took his responsibility to fulfil his commission so seriously that he regarded Epaphras’s ministry in Colossae as being carried out on his behalf. Paul was only one man. It was impossible for him to take the message of Christ to every city, town and village in the Roman Empire. Therefore, every person who shared the gospel of Jesus with others did it for him – being an extension of his ministry wherever they went.
Epaphras was Paul’s mouthpiece in Colossae and, through his faithful witness, a church was born there. But Paul still regarded it his responsibility to teach the people and warn them not to fall for the heresy of the Gnostics that threatened to lure them away from their pure faith in Christ.
As a faithful minister to them, Epaphras went to Paul in Rome when the alarm bells began to ring. He needed Paul’s understanding of the gospel and his ability to explain it clearly to the church to help him deal with this threat among his beloved church family members.
Epaphras took his role as leader so seriously that he also worked hard in his prayer closet for them. He was neither prepared to allow error to steal them away from Christ, nor would he allow them to fall away through the fear of persecution. These two threats were very real in the infant church. They were a small band of vulnerable people who were at the mercy of ruthless opponents of Jesus and His message from two quarters – the unbelieving Jews and the Roman government.
Both Paul and Epaphras had no means of protecting these people except through prayer and to prayer they turned to enlist the aid of the greatest power on earth. Night and day Paul prayed for the churches all over the empire, and night and day Epaphras prayed for the Colossians. Paul described his prayer as ‘wrestling’. With whom was he wrestling? Surely not with God because God was on his side.
Epaphras understood that the enemy of their souls was a liar. The devil would use every trick in the book to deceive believers and to lure them away from faith in Jesus when their circumstances seemed as though He had abandoned them. Fear was the great enemy of faith and Epaphras knew how easily they could be overcome by fear.
He was also aware of another equally dangerous enemy – the enemy within. The old sinful nature was always lurking in the shadows, waiting to trip them up in unguarded moments. Through guilt and shame, they might shrink from the Father who loved them and, instead of running to Him for pardon and reconciliation when they fell into temptation, they might pull away and become reabsorbed into the world system which pandered to their evil desires.
And so, the faithful prayer warrior wrestled in prayer, building a wall of protection around and within his people through his intercession for them. It was not that he could add anything to what Jesus has done on the cross. Jesus has unmasked and defeated the devil and rendered him powerless to deceive them but he was still around, trying to obscure the truth with his lies.
What did Epaphras pray? Did he ask God to keep them safe from their persecutors? No! Was he concerned about their earthly circumstances? No! Did he ask God to keep them from sickness and trouble? No! What was his greatest desire for them? Paul spelt it out so that his readers, and that includes us, would know what was most important for them and for us. To the Colossians he wrote, ‘that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.’
Above all the earthly comforts and conveniences they craved, one thing mattered more than everything else, that they would be so secure in God, who He is and who they were in Him that nothing would be able to lure them away from dependence upon and obedience to Him. As for them, so with us also.
Imagine how different the church of the Lord Jesus Christ would be if, firstly, its leaders, instead of seeking fame and fortune for themselves, would wrestle in prayer for its members. Secondly, if their prayers were answered, the church would be a body of people standing firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. What then?
We need many an ‘Epaphras’ to wrestle in prayer before the church ever becomes an instrument of transformation in a messed-up world.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.