Epaphras, Man of Prayer -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 136:541 (Jan 1979)
Article: Epaphras, Man of Prayer
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert

Epaphras, Man of Prayer

D. Edmond Hiebert

[D. Edmond Hiebert, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California.]

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness, that he hath much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis (Col 4:12–13, ASV).

As an intimate friend of the Apostle Paul, Epaphras had grasped the tremendous possibilities of working by prayer. So aggressively had he taken up this ministry while with Paul at Rome, that even Paul, the apostle of prayer, was impressed. Epaphras holds the unique distinction among all the friends and coworkers of Paul of being the only one whom Paul explicitly commended for his intensive prayer ministry. The passage quoted above may well be called his diploma of success in this ministry.

All that is known about this man Epaphras must be gleaned from the few references to him contained in the apostle’s twin letters, Colossians and Philemon, sent to the city of Colossae by the hand of Tychicus. Epaphras’s name occurs only three times in these two letters (Col 1:7; 4:12; Phile 23), and only five verses in all have reference to him. Yet these brief glimpses of Epaphras give an attractive picture of this prayer warrior whose highest distinction lies in the record of his intense prayer labors. His Christian character and his deep pastoral concerns eminently qualified him for this ministry.

The name Epaphras is apparently a shortened form of the

common name Epaphroditus, which means “handsome” or “charming.” In the letter to the Philippians, Epaphroditus appears as the representative of the Philippian church who brought an offering to Paul in Rome (Phil 4:18). But the two men are not to be confused.

The Characterization of Epaphras (4:12a )

In Colossians 1:7 Paul already named Epaphras as the one through whom the Colossians first heard the gospel. But in closing his letter Paul once more added a significant characterization of this man.

Connection with Colossae

Paul began by identifying Epaphras as “one of you.” The reference would at once stir the interest of the Colossian Christians. The expression, also used of Onesimus in

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