He’s one of those guys we don’t really know much about. His name found only a couple of times in the “credits” of Paul’s letters. The credits–you know, that list of names that scrolls by your eyes as you get to the end of Paul’s letters where he wraps it up by mentioning a bunch of people. That part we so often just skim over. The people we don’t know a lot about, and, most often, don’t really care about. But yet, the people the Spirit prompts Paul to mention. And, if all Scripture is inspired by God (and it is), then the credits are God-breathed too . . . and are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2Tim. 3:16).
So, back to the guy. Like I said, we don’t know much about him. But he shows up in the credits of Colossians–which I’m wrapping up this morning. And what we do know is that he was a member of the Colossian church and a servant of Christ. That he “worked hard,” not only for his fellowship, but also for two other churches in the area–“for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis” (Col.4:12-13). We also know that he was with Paul when Paul wrote his letters from a prison in Rome. In fact, he’s described by the apostle as a “fellow prisoner in Christ” (Phm. 1:23).
Finally, we can look up what his name means. Epaphras, apparently, means “lovely” (not a name that ever made it on our list of names if we had had a boy).
But what grabbed me this morning, as I encountered the credits at the end of Colossians, and by God’s goodness spent some time hovering over them, is that Epaphras prayed for his fellow believers. And the Spirit, through Paul, records what he, and I’m thinking God, aspired for those believers. And so, this morning, I’m chewing on a “lovely prayer.”
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
(Colossians 4:12 ESV)
Epaphras struggled as he prayed for God’s people. He labored fervently (NKJV) . . . he wrestled (NIV) . . . he agonized (literal). That’s how Epaphras prayed. But it’s what he prayed for that’s got me thinking.
. . . that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
That they would stand perfect. That they would be filled to fullness knowing the will of God. Two different terms having the same idea, that of being complete.
That they would have grown up, attaining increasingly to the full measure of Christ in them. Not perfect, as in without flaw, but perfect as in functioning with the mind of Christ, for the cause of Christ, relying solely on the finished work of Christ. No longer babes in Christ, but grownups in Jesus. No longer children, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 2:14), but functioning as adults in the ways of the kingdom. Standing mature. That’s a lovely prayer.
What’s more, that they would abound in confidence as to the will of God. Nothing lacking. Because, by God’s grace they had determined to stay in the Word, the Word was liberally supplying them. The mind of Christ, more and more their default position. Thus knowing their own hearts increasingly better, as their thoughts and intents were splayed by the living sword of the Spirit. So they would see the world more and more accurately through divinely enlightened eyes. And hear the world’s “truth” more and more clearly through heaven tuned ears. Confident in the will of God and ways of God, not because of their own intellect, knowledge, or wisdom, but instead, because they had learned to abide in the One who promised to abide in them (Jn. 15:4). And so, being fully assured. That too, a lovely prayer.
Oh that I might struggle more in prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ, as did Epaphras.
And that I might know increasingly the reality of Epaphras’ lovely prayer answered in my own life. Standing mature. Fully assured in all the will of God.
By His grace. For His glory.