Colossians 1:7-8

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You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

Early in his letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle Paul lets us in on his main secret for success in spreading the “true message of the gospel”: send dear, servant-hearted, faithful people.

In the 21st century church, we have witnessed the widespread increasing use of digital media to spread the “true message of the gospel” through computers, videography, livestreaming, virtual church, digital platforms, and even cyber-celebrity pastors.

Paul would raise his eyebrow and wonder when we wandered from the way of Jesus. God so loved the world that he didn’t send a computer program to proclaim the true message of the gospel, he sent his son.

Paul sent Ephaphras. Who was this man? He is mentioned only three times in the Bible, twice in Colossians (1:7 and 4:12) and once in Philemon (1:23). He likely was from Colossae as Paul describes him as “one of you.” He was the one who brought the true message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Colossae. He may have been the first pastor of this congregation.

Paul describes Epaphras as “our dear fellow servant.” Dear in Greek, AGAPETOS, meaning someone connected to God’s self-giving AGAPE love. Dear or “beloved,” a term of endearment related to the highest form of love. Fellow servant in Greek, SUNDOULOS, combining two words, SUN (with) DOULOS (slave), or someone shares our total service to our Master and Lord Jesus. Doulos was one of Paul’s common ways of describing his life, as a slave or bond-servant of Jesus Christ, who claimed total authority as Lord. Paul loved working alongside other fellow servants, always seeing ministry as life together.

Paul also describes Epaphras as a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf: Epaphras did not go to Colossae solo, doing his own thing, without accountability. He went to Colossae, his own hometown, under (on our behalf) the authority: the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and under Paul’s authority as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Col 1:1). Only by the authority of Jesus and Paul did Epaphras minister in Colossae. Greek for minister DIAKONOS is where we get our word for “Deacon,” literally to act as a waiter in a restaurant, to serve at table. Figuratively, a minister or diaconos, is someone who seeks to serve another, to make someone else the most important person in the room.

Epaphras was accountable to Paul, and has taken the time and energy to report to Paul about the progress in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ among the fellow believers in the church in Colossae. He has also told us of your love in the Spirit. What a joy to report back that the people you are serving are filled with love in God’s Spirit!

How has your life been filled with love in the Spirit? Paul tells the church in Ephesus to be filled continually with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). To be filled is like having a cup that is nearly empty being poured into by a large pitcher until it is overflowing with the liquid that has been poured into it.

May your life overflow with the love in God’s Spirit today as you “wrestle in prayer for others” (Col 4:12) and faithfully serve Christ.