Lesson 29


Paul's Letter to the Colossians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always striving for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 4:13 For I testify about him, that he has great zeal for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis. 4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. 4:15 Greet the brothers who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the assembly that is in his house.


Today's Lesson 

Today's Scripture continues the final greetings and Paul's listings of those who assist him in his work. These greetings were important to the early church to legitimize the people who worked with the apostles. Many people went to remote churches saying that they had come from Jerusalem or from Paul. There are even some existing early works that describe how a church might tell if these ministers are legitimate. The persons that are listed in these final verses should have been known throughout the Western church.

 

The first person that Paul mentions in this section is Epaphras. Epaphras was well known to the Colossian church. Paul mentions him in the very first verses as being the person who had first brought the news of the gospel to Colossae and Laodicea. Paul tells them that Epaphras sends his greetings to them and that he still continues in prayer for them. We are not told why Epaphras was not the one bringing the letter to them. Apparently he was needed elsewhere. Perhaps Paul felt that the time was right to bring a new face to Colossae in the form of Tychicus.

 

We are told here that Epaphras had great zeal for the believers in Colossae. God had obviously placed a burden on Epaphras' heart for the people there. It is in this passage that we learn that Epaphras was from Colossae. Perhaps his origin explains his concern for these people. It is possible that when Epaphras came to understand the gospel from Paul at Ephesus that he rushed home to share it with the people that he knew there. While we are not told any of the details, it seems a likely piece of the puzzle that we are given.

 

Mentioned here are also Luke the physician and Demas, another helper for Paul. Luke is the Greek physician who it is believed wrote the gospel account that we have by his name as well as the historical book of the Acts of the Apostles. Paul also sends his greetings to someone named Nymphas who had a church meeting in his house at Colossae.

 

These short mentions of peoples and events give us a small picture of the early church. The church began in each community as small clusters of believers who met in homes. Visiting ministers and missionaries would come to each community spreading news about what the church was doing in other cities and foreign places. Occasionally, a church might receive a letter from an important person such as an apostle. That letter might be treasured and read over and over.

 

One of the important lessons that we can learn from reading the scriptures and the ancient text is the realization that the ancient world was much more mobile than we would expect. The Roman civilization had brought a system of great roads and commerce all over the Mediterranean world. People were on the move, going from place to place for what seem to be a wide variety of reasons. And God used this new transportation system for the rapid development of the early church.

 

Paul used the occasion of this letter to provide Epaphras with another opportunity to communicate with the church that he helped found. Do you keep in touch with the people who helped to bring you to Christ? If you had to write them a letter today, what would you say to them to encourage them?

 

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