Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Epaphras
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Colossians 1:4

This verse appears in the middle of a longish introductory sentence by which the apostle Paul lays the groundwork for his appeal to the members of the church at Colossae, an appeal that he does not voice until chapter 2. The problem facing this young church in Phrygia was that they were in danger of being "cheat[ed] . . . through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8). In other words, conditions were such that they were showing signs of believing ungodly ideas promoted by outsiders. As a careful study of the phrase "the basic principles of the world" reveals, these ideas or philosophies had their origins in demons.

As he begins his letter, the apostle wishes to assure the Colossians that word had reached his ears that, despite their vulnerabilities to deception, they were faithful to their calling in Christ and that it was demonstrated in acts of love that they performed to benefit their fellow church members. Thus he lets them know in verse 3 that he always prays for them and thanks God for them. This should have the effect of building their confidence that their election by God was genuine and that they could rely on divine help and strength to face the spiritual battles that they would soon have to wage against these counterfeit doctrines.

Paul had heard of their situation from a reliable source. Verse 7 informs us that one of his proteges, Epaphras, who originally hailed from Colossae (Colossians 4:12), had been working with them and had given him a report of their progress. Evidently, he told the apostle that elements of the local religious milieu were beginning to become apparent in the ideas he was hearing among members of the congregation.

It is not easy to pin down what the exact problem was. Both Jewish and Greek philosophies can be seen in the language Paul uses to describe the problem. There may be some kind of Jewish mysticism, perhaps even radical apocalypticism, present (Colossians 2:18), and certainly, a form of asceticism is mentioned in Colossians 2:21-23. In areas far from the Temple, Jewish philosophers (like Philo in Alexandria) were mixing Judaism with Greek philosophy, creating a strange hybrid of revealed truth and humanistic "wisdom," syncretism of the worst kind since it contains enough truth to attract a believer and enough error to turn his feet off the path to God's Kingdom. These quasi-spiritual ideas later coalesced into formal Gnosticism in the next century, but at this time, the rudiments of such thought were just beginning to take root in various places—one of which was Colossae.

In any case, Paul opens his letter with positivity and encouragement, letting its recipients know that they already have what it takes to stand firm in the faith. If they keep their eyes on the hope set before them, they will endure even this severe trial.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh

Related Topics: Epaphras | Gnosticism | Tradition of Men


Colossians 1:7

Epaphras was either the man who raised up the Colossian church or he was the its pastor. The feeling of the commentators is that he was probably the man who was used to start the church, and that the pastor at the time the epistle was written was Tychicus. Epaphras may have also still been in the area, in the background.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty)

Colossians 1:8

Epaphras seems to have been the man who brought Paul the message about what was happening in Colosse, and asked for Paul's help in countering it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty)

Colossians 2:5

The Colossians were following Christ, but the pressure was on, as Paul had heard from someone else. It may have been Epaphras or Tychicus—or even someone not even mentioned in the book. The word had come to Paul that the Christians in Colosse were undergoing a great deal of pressure, and the pressure was so great that he was afraid they would crack under it—that their faith would give away under the onslaught of the attack. He feared that they would weaken in the faith.

The problem was a deceptive and persuasive philosophy that appeared to have many things in agreement with Christianity. The pressure was not necessarily coming from their pagan neighbors, urging them to stop keeping the Sabbath or the holy days. There may have been some of that happening, but the main problem was a philosophy that had been brought into the church by members from the outside, which they held to be valuable in making Christianity better than what they had received from the evangelists.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty)

Colossians 2:7

"As you have been taught" refers to what Epaphras and Tychicus had taught the Colossians. Paul wanted them "abounding in it"—growing, producing fruit, and not deviating from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty)

Find more Bible verses about Epaphras:
Epaphras {Nave's}

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