Epaphras is mentioned only three times in the Bible. In three sentences across two books of the Bible, we catch a tiny glimpse of one man with a significant legacy of faith. It makes me wonder what three sentences might convey about my life after I am gone.
In the book of Philemon, Paul refers to him as a fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, and sends greetings to Philemon on his behalf. Epaphras was probably with Paul under his house arrest in Rome, making him a fellow prisoner in his companionship with Paul. This brief mention tells us little--only that Epaphras shares Paul’s spiritual conviction and is present working with him in Rome. It also shows us that he shares a personal relationship with Philemon of Colossae, a fellow believer. So far not a significant story, but we still have two more sentences to explore.
Colossians 4 gives us a deeper picture of Epaphras. In Colossians 4:12, Paul says “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings.” Epaphras is not a stranger to the congregation at Colossae; he is one of them. He is a servant who is obedient to Christ Jesus. He has followed God's leading and is at work with Paul as a missionary of God's kingdom. Epaphras is known by the congregation in Colossae and he is a member of their fellowship. He is invested in them and they are his spiritual family.
Verse 12 goes on to say that, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” He is not just diligent in his work, but he is faithful on his knees. He is wrestling in prayer for those brothers and sisters in Christ, whom he loves. He prays they are staying strong in their faith, are maturing in their faith day by day, and have confidence that they are claimed by God. Epaphras is wrestling, fighting a spiritual battle on behalf of his beloved friends.
In verse 13, Paul elaborates and vouches for the hard work that Epaphras does on behalf of the churches of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. His faith is seen through his efforts, as he works persistently as their representative. Paul wants to be sure they know how faithfully their missionary is working to spread the gospel. His efforts on their behalf are significant!
The last reference concerning Epaphras is earlier in the book of Colossians. Paul speaks about how the Colossian church has been growing in faith and in their love for one another. He goes on to talk about how the gospel has been bearing fruit around the world in the same way that it began with them. And it began with them they heard the gospel from Epaphras and understood God’s grace for the first time. Epaphras is the one who brought the gospel to the Colossian church! He is their spiritual father and shepherd. Paul describes him as a “dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ.” These are words of compassion and admiration! Epaphras is a beloved friend and evangelist, who shares Paul’s passion for spreading the gospel and guiding people to grow in faith.
We don’t know what seminary training Epaphras had or anything else about his upbringing. In three small mentions we get only a glimpse of who Epaphras was and what compelled him. We know that he understood the gospel of grace and passionately shared it with others. We know that he worked diligently as an ambassador for Christ. We know that he took that passion on the road with Paul to share the gospel with those who still had not heard the message of grace; even to the point of joining Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. Even when miles separated him from those he loved he remained passionate in praying for their spiritual growth.
Could we leave such an impression in three sentences? What would people say about us? May our legacy be that we understand the grace of God and work passionately for others to understand it too. May we be people on our knees wrestling in prayer for the faith life of our brothers and sisters.