Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Epaphras: An Example of a Faithful Slave (Colossians 1:7-8) ~ A Daily Devotion for August 14, 2014

“just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”

~ Colossians 1:7-8

Explanation of the Text: The text that we have today is actually a continuation from yesterday in that verse 7 begins in the middle of a sentence that begins in verse 6 (at least according to the ESV). The Holman Christian Standard Bible actually makes them two separate sentences while still capturing the same intent of the original language translating it as follows:

”You learned this from Epaphras, our dearly loved fellow slave. He is a faithful servant of the Messiah on your behalf, and he has told us about your love in the Spirit.”

Epaphras is only referred to three times in Scripture; twice in Colossians and once in Philemon. While only mentioned these three times, we do know that Epaphras was prominent in the church at Colossae as both the founder and teacher.

Working backwards in the text, we see that Epaphras brought news about the church to Paul. It was he that noted their obedience of faith through their love for the people. This love was characterized by the Spirit, noting that it was not a love that they were able to pour out on their own. It was the love of God that could only come from God through the Holy Spirit.

We also are able to note the character of Epaphras. We firs note that Paul calls Epaphras a fellow servant. In the original Greek, the word often translated into English is δουλος, which actually refers more to a slave then just a servant. However, of interesting note here is that the word used is συνδούλος. The ESV translates this word as fellow servant, which is an accurate translation. The problem with translating this word into English is that we lose the impact that it actually has. We think of this as a co-worker, which again is accurate in conveying the meaning, but still loses the impact. This Greek word is connected to Paul, indicating that they are fellow slaves of Christ.[1] In other words, Epaphras is a joint slave with Paul. They enduring difficult circumstances together (although separated by miles) for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel. This is a title for Epaphras as he is a servant of God. This title was considered a title of honor in the Old Testament, and as a servant of God, one was not there to declare their own message; instead the servant was there to serve God by declaring His message was it was entrusted to the servant.[2] As one who was called by God for His very own purposes, it was not up to the servant to determine what is to be proclaimed, but instead the person is an entrusted steward of God’s message. Therefore, his task is simply to share the information with everyone else.

Bearing the title of servant means that Epaphras must maintain the integrity of the gospel, as a steward. We know that Epaphras does this because first, we see the testimony of it bearing fruit in the previous verses. Secondly, Paul calls him a faithful servant. The very word faithful indicates that Epaphras is fulfilling the very task in which he was called to do. This is important for several reasons. First off, because faithfulness is a qualification for Christian service according to 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, and thus Epaphras did not serve merely as another servant, but he stood out because he was faithful.[3] The second aspect of this is remembering the reason for which Paul writes. Overall, Paul is writing to counteract the false teaching that is occurring in Colossae. Because Epaphras was the founder of the church and taught (discipled) the people, it makes sense that this false teaching was then calling into question his integrity. In order to counteract that, Paul writes that Epaphras is indeed a faithful servant. Therefore, he can be trusted and there is no reason to doubt.

Examination & Application of the Text: In the book of James, one can read in 1:1 that James identifies himself as a servant (slave) of Jesus Christ. He is not considered about his own position or authority, instead he points to the fact that his identity is in Jesus Christ. We see the same thing here. The identity of Epaphras is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. We too, should be like Epaphras (and Paul for that matter, since they are joint slaves) in which our identity is not based on who we are as mere men or women, but instead our identity is based on who we are in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, as part of who we are, each of us should be known as faithful. Faithful to the gospel of Christ, faithful to the mission of Christ, faithful to the work of Christ, and faithful to Christ himself. The work of our obedience to Christ, which is only accomplished by Christ, should testify to our faith in Christ, maintain a reputation as slaves for Him.  

[1] Murray J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon, B&H Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2013), 19

[2] Eduard Lohse, Colossians & Philemon, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 22.

[3] Robert G. Gromacki, Stand Perfect in Wisdom, An Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 41.

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