EPAPHRAS WHO IS ONE OF YOUR
NUMBER: Epaphrâs ho ex humôn:
(Col 1:7; Philemon 1:23)
One of your number (literally "out of you" or "from
you", no specific word for "number") is the same description Paul
attached to the returned runaway slave Onesimus. Truly Paul is
exemplifying for us that Christ is all and in all! No distinctions.
at Paul's adjectives to describe this Man of God
beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on
our behalf (see note Col
Hiebert writes the following on Epaphras, man of
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...Epaphras is apparently a shortened
form of the common name Epaphroditus, which means “handsome” or
“charming.”...From Colossians 1:7 it is clear that the gospel
was first brought to Colossae by Epaphras: “even as ye learned
of Epaphras.”... It is noteworthy that in all three places where
his name occurs it appears in direct connection with that of
Christ. In 1:7 he is commended as “a faithful minister of
Christ,” while in 4:12 he is termed “a servant of Christ
Jesus.” The designations are high tribute to Epaphras.
Paul several times uses the latter designation of himself. It is
once used of Timothy in conjunction with the apostle’s name
Philippians 1:1). Epaphras is the only other individual to whom the
title is applied. It points to Epaphras’ exceptional service in
the cause of Christ.
The word rendered “servant”
is the ordinary Greek term for a slave. But in such connections
the emphasis is not on the compulsory service of the slave, but
rather on the intimate relationship of the servant with his
W., & Kistemaker, S. J. NT Commentary Set. Baker Book
Logos) thus summarizes the rich implications of
this designation: "A servant of Jesus Christ is one who has
been bought with a price and is therefore owned by his Master,
on whom he is completely dependent, to whom he owes undivided
allegiance and to whom he ministers with gladness of heart, in
newness of spirit, and in the enjoyment of perfect freedom,
receiving from him a glorious reward." The term proclaims
the servant’s unconditional surrender of himself to do his
Lord’s bidding. Such a one has learned to say,
Oh, teach my
will, my selfish will,
To be completely Thine.
Oh, may I yield my all to Thee;
It is no longer mine.
Oh, may my will, my stubborn will,
Submissive be to Thine;
The inward man obey with joy
The law of love divine.
No one who has not yet come to the place
of full yieldedness of himself to his Lord will ever know the
joy of fruitful service and effective intercession such as
Epaphras knew. The yielded will lies at the basis of the
The very fact that
Epaphras was praying for his flock while absent from them was
indication of his spiritual character. His prayer concern for
them was an indication of the high level of his own inner
experience. “Certainly, as water never rises above its level,
so our service in its quality, reality, vitality and energy will
never be higher than the genuineness of our fellowship with God.”
(W. H. Griffith Thomas, Christ Pre-Eminent: Studies in the
Epistle to the Colossians. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage
Association, 1923, p. 118) Epaphras was quite unable to write
the letter to the Colossians refuting the heretical teaching
which was disturbing them but he could faithfully pray for their
preservation and spiritual maturity. Paul gratefully recorded
that Epaphras was engaged in such a prayer ministry for the
readers. The example of Epaphras is a challenge to Christians
today to engage in this important ministry. Griffith Thomas has
well expressed the significance of prayer There are many things
outside the power of ordinary Christian people, and great
position, wide influence, outstanding ability may be lacking to
almost all of us, but the humblest and least significant
Christian can pray, and as “prayer moves the Hand that
moves the world,” perhaps the greatest power we can exert is
that which comes through prayer..." (W. H. Griffith
Thomas, Christ Pre-Eminent: Studies in the Epistle to the
Colossians. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association,
1923, p. 119)
The apostle described the praying of Epaphras in the following
significant words: “always striving for you in his prayers.”
This brief statement is richly instructive.
Constant. Paul bore witness that Epaphras was “always
striving” for the Colossian Christians. It was not an
occasional, listless prayer on their behalf, but a constant
burden of intercession. Regularly and repeatedly he bore them up
before the throne of grace. His deep concern for them made him
obedient to the words of the Lord that “men ought always to pray
and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
Paul assured the Colossians that Epaphras was always praying
“for you.” Their spiritual welfare was his predominant concern
and he kept them prominent in his prayers. His was not that
indefinite kind of praying which would be hard pressed to tell
for whom the petition was intended. He was aware of the danger
that threatened them and he prayed accordingly. His specific
petitions revealed that Epaphras had the heart of a true
shepherd of God’s flock.
A story is told about
an old pastor who every Saturday afternoon could be seen leaving
his study and entering the church building by the back door, and
about sundown he would be seen going home. Someone’s curiosity
was aroused enough to follow one day and watch through a window.
It was in the days when the family pew was an institution of the
church. The old pastor was seen to kneel at each pew and pray
for every member of the family that was to occupy it on the
Lord’s day. He called each member by name as he poured out his
heart to God for his flock. His was a ministry of power and his
people reflected the grace of God on them. Blessed is that
church which has such a praying shepherd.
Intense. Significantly Paul described the praying of
Epaphras for his people as “striving” for them. The verb
indicates that it was a strenuous and costly activity. The term
comes from the athletic arena and pictures the intense effort
and energy of the athlete in contending for a prize, like a
wrestler grappling in all earnestness with his opponent. It is
the verbal form of the noun agony which Luke employed to
describe Christ’s praying in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). The
term clearly portrays the difficulty of effective intercessory
prayer. “True prayer,” says MacLaren, “is the
intensest energy of the spirit pleading for blessing with a
great striving of faithful desire.” (Alexander MacLaren,
“The Epistles of St. Paul to the Colossians and Philemon,” in An
Exposition of the Bible, ed. Marcus Dods et al., 6 vols.
(Hartford, CT: S. S. Scranton Co., 1903), 6:286)
An illustration of such intense, working prayer is seen in the
prophet Daniel, as recorded in the ninth chapter of his book.
For three weeks Daniel afflicted himself and wrestled in prayer
against the forces of spiritual wickedness until their powers
were broken and the answer came. The prayers of Daniel, as
undoubtedly also those of Epaphras, were a definite means of
advancing the cause of God.
Aim of His Praying. The words, “that ye may stand perfect
and fully assured in all the will of God,” indicate not the
contents of his prayers but rather his pastoral desire for the
Colossians. Epaphras knew the result he expected from his
prayers. He had grasped the reality of ministering to his people
through his prayers for them. Forbes Robinson, of Cambridge,
England, remarked that instead of calling on a man or inviting
an individual to call on him, he found it more profitable to
spend half an hour in concentrated prayer for him. He knew the
reality of working by prayer.
Desire for stability. In praying for the Colossian
Christians, Epaphras was well aware of the possible disastrous
results if they were lured away by the heretical teaching at
work in the Lycus Valley. But he was not merely concerned about
their preservation from error. His deeper concern was for the
positive, balanced development of their Christian character.
Spiritual maturity would enable them to stand firm. The aorist
passive form of the verb “may stand” suggests their need of
empowerment from without which would enable them to stand.
Stability, suggested in the words “be made to stand,” results
through the Holy Spirit. In the face of multiplying heresies,
whether subtle or blatant, it is imperative that believers
become firmly rooted and grounded in the truth. The need
today is for men like Epaphras whose persevering prayers are
focused on troubled believers that they may become firmly
established in faith and in God-pleasing conduct.
Manifestation of stability. Epaphras prayed that the
stability desired for his people might manifest itself in their
lives in Christian maturity and assurance: “that ye may stand
perfect and fully assured.” The word translated “perfect”
does not imply sinlessness but rather means spiritual
maturity. Epaphras desired that the Colossians become
full-grown as contrasted to spiritual babes. The believer
becomes “perfect” or complete as he attains to the divine goal
for his life. Such maturity of character comes only
through abiding union with Christ.
Epaphras further desired that the Colossian believers might
stand “fully assured in all the will of God.” The tense of the
verbal form (a perfect participle) indicates his desire that
this may be their abiding condition. The new teaching was
harassing their souls and confusing their minds. The concern of
Epaphras was that they might be freed from all doubts and
uncertainty. The soul that is torn by doubts and uncertainty as
to what God’s will requires cannot stand firm under testing and
trial. Maclaren well says, “To be free from misery of
intellectual doubts and practical uncertainties, to walk in the
sunshine—is the purest joy.” (ibid page 287) Epaphras
desired that their stability would manifest itself “in all the
will of God.” The exact connection of this phrase is not
certain. Some would connect it directly with the word “stand,”
while others hold that it should be connected with “perfect and
fully assured” or with “fully assured” alone. It seems best to
view it as modifying the entire purpose clause. It thus
indicates the governing consideration in the manifestation of
their stability. Lightfoot translated the phrase in this way: “in
everything willed by God.” The desire of Epaphras was that
under every circumstance they would make God’s will the object
of their attentive consideration and implicit obedience. “All”
or “everything” points to the varied circumstances into which
the believer is permitted to come and in which he desires to
adhere to the divine will. Amid all circumstances they are to
have an understanding of God’s will “which not only
penetrates the mind but also fills the heart with satisfying
conviction.” (Hendriksen, Exposition of Colossians and
Philemon, p. 191)...
Epaphras stands as a challenging example of the ministry of
intercession. May the Lord raise up many who follow in his
train! Someone has pointed out that he had never known of a
church dedicated to “Saint Epaphras.” Is not that fact a sad
commentary on the truth that only too few Christians have
adequately realized the tremendous importance of the ministry of
intercession and consequently have failed to appreciate and
follow his example? “Epaphras grasped, what many of us are
slow to realize, that the tactics of the Christian battle are
born of the strategy of prayer.” (from Harrington C. Lees,
St. Paul’s Friends (London: Religious Tract Society, 1918), p.
157) If churches in the present day are to be victorious, they
must find their power on their knees. In a vision a certain man
of prayer saw an army coming from a great center of light,
bringing light with it wherever it moved. It was arrayed against
dense darkness, but as the army advanced the darkness gave way
before it. Insignificant in size compared with the force against
which it turned, it conquered wherever it moved. “Invincible”
seemed written all over this little host. As the enraptured man
looked again, he saw that the army was advancing on its knees. (excerpts from
article by D. Edmond Hiebert Bibliotheca
Sacra, Volume 136, page 53, 1979
- Bolding added)
BONDSLAVE OF JESUS CHRIST
SENDS YOU HIS GREETINGS:
aspazetai (3SPMI) humas...doulos Christou (Iesou):
(John 12:26; Galatians 1:10; James 1:1; 2Peter 1:1)
(Click word study of
click here) is
one who surrendered wholly to another’s will and thus devoted to
another to the disregard of his own interest. A doulos was an
individual bound to another in servitude and conveys the idea of the
slave's close, binding ties with his master, belonging to him,
obligated to and desiring to do his will and in a permanent relation
of servitude. In sum, the will of the doulos is consumed in the
will of the master. Click
the convicting poem
He Had No Rights
written by Mabel Williamson a missionary to China.
In the Greek culture doulos
usually referred to the involuntary, permanent service of a slave, but
the use in the epistles of Paul and Peter elevates the meaning of
doulos to the Hebrew sense which describes a servant who willingly
commits himself to serve a master he loves and respects (cp
Ex 21:5, 6 Dt 15:12-16
discussed below). By Roman times, slavery was so extensive that in
the early Christian period one out of every two people was a slave!
From at least 3000BC captives in war were the primary source of
speaks of submission to one's master The doulos had no life of
his own, no will of his own, no purpose of his own and no plan of his
own. All was subject to his master. The bondservant's every thought,
breath, and effort was subject to the will of his master. In sum, the
picture of a bondservant is one who is absolutely surrendered
and totally devoted to his master. What a picture of Paul and
Timothy's relation to their Lord! What an example for all believers of
every age to emulate!
provides an incredible word picture of those who bound to their Lord
Jesus Christ, Who had bought them with a price to be His own
Gal 3:13, see note
1 Peter 1:18,
1 Peter 2:9).
Epaphras had chosen to remain a
slave, as shown by his complete and willing obedience to his Master,
having no life of his own, no rights of his own, no will of his own,
no purpose other than His Master's, having willingly submitted every
every thought, every breath, and every effort to Jesus Christ, even as
Jesus submitted wholly to His Father testifying
"Truly, truly, I
say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something
He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things
the Son also does in like manner." (John
Epaphras was a man who was not at his own disposal, but was His
master’s purchased property. Bought to serve His master’s needs, to be
at His beck and call every moment, the slave’s sole business is to do
as he is told. Christian service therefore means, first and foremost,
living out a slave relationship to one’s Savior (Gal 3:28 1Cor 6:19,20). What
work does Christ set his servants to do? The way that they serve him,
he tells them, is by becoming the slaves of their fellow-servants and
being willing to do literally anything, however costly, irksome, or
undignified, in order to help them. This is what love means, as he
himself showed at the Last supper when he played the slave’s part and
washed the disciples’ feet. When the New Testament speaks of
ministering to the saints, it means not primarily preaching to them
but devoting time, trouble, and substance to giving them all the
practical help possible. The essence of Christian service is loyalty
to the king expressing itself in care for his servants (Gal 3:28 Mt 25:31-46).
Only the Holy Spirit can create in us the kind of love toward our
Savior that will overflow in imaginative sympathy and practical
helpfulness towards his people. Unless the spirit is training us in
love, we are not fit persons to go to college or a training class to
learn the know-how or particular branches of Christian work. Gifted
leaders who are self-centered and loveless are a blight to the church
rather than a blessing.
((aspazomai from a
+ spao = draw out as a sword, pull, breathe) means to enfold in the arms, salute,
welcome, embrace. It is
spoken of those who meet or separate. Aspazomai is constantly
used in the papyri for conveying the greetings at the end of a letter.
LABORING EARNESTLY FOR (on behalf of you)
YOU IN HIS PRAYERS:
(PMPMSN) huper humon en tais proseuchais:
(Col 4:2; Lu 22:44; Gal 4:19; Heb 5:7; Jas 5:16) (Col 2:1-23)
See related topic -
Spurgeon's Gems on Prayer
(pantote from pás = all + tóte = then) means at
all times or always. Compare the frequency of Epaphras' praying to Paul's command to the saints in
Thessalonica to "pray without ceasing" (1Thessalonians
5:17). Epaphras is a
perfect example of one who has devoted himself to prayer (see
Colossians 4:2) and stood
ever ready to pray as the need arose.
Observe his pattern of prayer:
He prays constantly, fervently, personally, and specifically. A
good pattern to emulate!
Guzik observes that ...
Epaphras prayed well because he
cared well. If he lagged in zeal, he certainly would have lagged in
prayer. (Colossians 4
He is always wrestling in prayer
for you (NIV) - Paul does not mean that he was fighting with
God to get what he desired. It does mean that his (and our) praying is
not to be a casual experience that has no heart or earnestness. The
idea is that we should put as much effort into our praying as a
wrestler in his wrestling match. Prayer is hard work! Supplication is
not a matter of carnal energy but of spiritual intensity. Note he is
not implying that our prayers are more effective if we exert fleshly
energy. What this refers to is a spiritual striving in which God’s
power is at work in one's life. True prayer is directed to the Father
through the Son (in His name, John 14:13-14), in the power of the Holy
Spirit (Jude 1:20, notes
Warren Wiersbe comments on
Epaphras prayer life...
What a prayer warrior he was! He
did not simply “say prayers”; “he labored [agonized] in prayer.” It is
the same word that is used for the struggles of athletes in contests.
If Christians prayed as hard as they played, they would see more of
God’s blessings. (Wiersbe,
W. W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton,
Ill.: Victor Books)
Paul used a combination of
the same verb agonizomai in his request of the saints at
Now I urge you, brethren, by our
Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together (sunagonizomai
speaks of intimacy in contrast to the other Greek preposition for
"with" = meta which speaks of nearness without the idea of
intimacy. Sun conveys the idea that one is so mixed in with others
that he cannot get apart from them) with me in your prayers to God for
me that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea,
and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints
so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find
refreshing rest in your company. (See notes
agon = conflict or the place of assembly for the
athletic contests and then a reference to the contests which were held
for in depth study of
means to exert oneself, to fight, to labor fervently, to strive
(devote serious effort or energy = implies great exertion against
great difficulty and suggests persistent effort), to struggle, to
contend with an adversary - all of these actions picturing an intense
struggle for victory. When we read that the gloves of the Greek boxer
were fur lined on the inside, but made on the outside of ox-hide with
lead and iron sewed into it, and that the loser in a wrestling match
had his eyes gouged out, we come to some appreciation of what a Greek
athletic contest consisted of and of the effort such a contest would
motivate! Now transpose this picture to prayer and the effort require
in praying for others!
was a familiar term in writings of both military and athletic
endeavors and was used to emphasize the concentration, discipline,
conviction, and effort needed to win in both arenas. It pictures a
runner straining every nerve to the uttermost towards the goal and was
used in secular Greek meaning to contend for the prize on the
stage, both of the poet, etc., and of the actor. It was also used in
reference to literal fighting with weapons.
word group (agon)
is the source of our English word agonize
which means to experience pain so extreme as to cause writhing or
contortions of the body. To agonize also means to strain, to toil, to
suffer extreme pain of body or mind or to suffer violent anguish.
As we study this verb agonizomai, we
begin to get a picture of how Epaphras prayed! Clearly his praying
represented a tireless labor with struggles against all manner of
setbacks and opposition.
would Paul characterize your intercessory prayers on behalf of our
brethren in Christ?
Agonizomai is the verbal form of the
noun agony which Luke employed to describe Christ's praying in
Gethsemane (Lu 22:44). The term clearly portrays the difficulty of effective
Maclaren writes that...
"True prayer is the intensest energy of the spirit pleading
for blessing with a great striving of faithful desire."
Praying is an importunate
(persistent or demanding) struggle as demonstrated here in verse 12.
We may not fully understand the why of importunity, but it is clearly
a Biblical prayer principle. P. T. Forsyth appropriately comments
Lose the importunity of prayer,
reduce it to soliloquy (act of speaking alone or to oneself), or even
to colloquy (gathering for discussion of theological questions), with
God, lose the real conflict of will and will, lose the habit of
wrestling and the hope of prevailing with God, make it mere walking
with God in friendly talk; and, precious as it is, yet you tend to
lose the reality of prayer at last. In principle you make it mere
conversation instead of the soul’s great action. You lose the food of
character, the renewal of will. You may have beautiful prayers—but as
ineffectual as beauty so often is, and as fleeting.
An illustration of such intense, working prayer is seen in the prophet
Daniel, as recorded in the 10th chapter of his book. For 3 weeks
Daniel afflicted himself and wrestled in prayer against the forces of
spiritual wickedness until their powers were broken and the answer
came. The prayers of Daniel, as undoubtedly also those of Epaphras,
were a definite means of advancing the cause of God.
Prayer is clearly a battle...against unseen forces. And so it is
imperative that we do not walk (pray) according to the flesh but
utilize the divinely powerful weapons God has provided and with all prayer
and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, always on alert
with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. This quality
(and quantity) of prayer on one hand
involves intense fervent labor on our part and on the other clearly
depends on the Holy Spirit for guidance and empowerment.
For you (huper) means
of or as your substitute and clearly indicating this is intercessory prayer by Epaphras on
behalf of the saints at Colossae and the latter part of this verse
indicates the specific things he is interceding for them.
from pros = toward or
immediately before + euchomai = to pray or vow) is the more
general word for prayer and is used only of prayer to God (Click study of
The prefix "pros" would convey the sense of being immediately
before God and hence has an element of adoration, devotion, and
more general word for prayer and is used only of prayer to God. The
prefix "pros" would convey the sense of being
immediately before Him and hence the ideas of adoration, devotion, and
worship. The basic idea is to bring something, and in prayer
this pertains to bringing up prayer requests. In early Greek culture
an offering was brought with a prayer that it be accepted. Later the
idea was changed slightly, so that the thing brought to God was a
prayer. In later Greek, prayers appealed to God for His presence.
Richards writes that
(and the verb form
"In classical Greek was the
technical term for calling on a deity. The NT transforms the classical
stiffness into the warmth of genuine conversation. Such entreaty in
the NT is addressed to God or Jesus and typically is both personal and
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
F B Meyer
It has been pointed out that there
are three New Testament words for prayer to which we do well to take
Be sober unto prayer (1Pe
Do not be drunk with worldly vanity, business, or gaiety; but bring a
humble, penitent, clear, and sound mind.
Be at leisure when you pray
(1Co 7:5). The word means that prayer is not to be hurried; that
nothing should interfere with its leisurely enjoyment.
Labor at prayer (Col 4:12,
cp Col 1:29-note).
As a man labors at his daily work, or strives on the battlefield, or
agonizes to preserve a beloved friend from danger. It was thus that
Jesus labored in the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:44, 45, 46 Ed:
How like the disciples are so
many of us!). And it was thus that these
faithful souls must have prayed. (Our Daily Homily)
F B Meyer
adds this note from Our Daily Homily regarding Epaphras
Colossians 4:12, 13 is a very
beautiful epitaph on a good man's life. He had come from Colossae
with tidings for the apostle; but amid all the crowding interests of
his visit to Rome his heart was with his friends, and he sought to
help them, as we may all help dear ones far away.
He strove for them in prayer. It was no runaway knock that he
gave; no light breathing of desire; no formal mention of their names (Ed:
How convicted are you?
Are you as convicted as I am by the all too frequent superficiality
and formality of so many of your prayers? The thought that came to me
is "Do my prayers cost me anything?". By that I mean "Is there any
agonizing?" Oh my!): but
it seemed as though he were a wrestler, whose muscles stood out like
whipcord as he agonized for the prize.
He labored. We shall never
know, till we stand in the clear light of heaven, how much has been
wrought in the world by prayer (Ed:
Let us ponder what we just read
dearly beloved. May He give us strength to redeem the time,
continually maintaining a prayerful attitude. Amen).
Here, at least, there is mention of a man's labors. Probably the work
on the results of which we are wont to pride ourselves is due less to
us than we suppose, and more to unrecognized fellow laborers (Ed:
What a pregnant thought for us to ponder!).
There is a pretty legend which tells of the dream of a great preacher
who was marvelously used of God, and inclined to magnify himself and
his gifts; but who was instructed by an angel of God that his success
was entirely attributable to a poor widow, who sat regularly in the
free seats at the foot of his pulpit, and who never ceased to pray for
him. May the writer ask of any who receive benefit from these words to
labor and strive for him in prayer to God (Ed:
And the writer and collator of
this website echoes Meyer's plea for powerful prayer for the
production of a site that greatly edifies the saints and continually
brings glory to God...in the vein of Ps 115:1).
Let us be careful to mingle much intercession with all our prayers,
especially on the behalf of missionaries and lonely workers in foreign
lands, that they may realize that we are actually working and laboring
beside them, though many thousands of miles intervene.
J Oswald Sanders wrote that...
Both our Lord and Paul made it
clear that prayer is no mere pleasant, dreamy reverie.
“All vital praying makes a drain
on a man’s vitality,” wrote J. H. Jowett. “True intercession is a
sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice.” Jesus performed many mighty works
without outward sign of strain, but of His praying it is recorded that
“he…offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and
tears” (see note
“Epaphras is always wrestling for
you in his prayers,” wrote Paul to the Colossian Christians (Colossians
4:12). How pale a
reflection of Epaphras’ intercessions are our languid prayers. The
word “wrestling” is that from which our word “agony” is derived.
It is used of a man toiling at his work until utterly weary (see note
or competing in the arena for the coveted laurel wreath (I Cor.
9:25). It describes the soldier battling for his life (1 Ti 6:12),
or a man struggling to deliver his friend from danger (John 18:36).
It pictures the agony of earnestness of a man to save his own soul
(Luke 13:24). But its supreme significance appears in the tragedy of
Gethsemane. “Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke
22:44), an agony induced by His identification with and grief over
the sins of a lost world. Prayer is evidently a strenuous spiritual
exercise which demands the utmost mental discipline and concentration.
Was it because of this fact that our Lord sometimes linked prayer with
True intercession is costly. Jesus
first gave Himself and then made intercession for His murderers. He
could do no more for them. Are we asking of God something we ourselves
could supply? Can it be true intercession until we are empty-handed?
True intercession demands the sacrifice and dedication of all; it
cannot be costless and crossless. (J.
Oswald Sanders, Cultivation of Christian Character, Moody Press,
Ravenhill, a revival author and preacher made a statement that we
all do well to read slowly and introspectively specifically as we
examine the nature of our prayer life...
"The self-sufficient do not pray,
the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray. No
man is greater than his prayer life." (Are you convicted? I hope so! I
Bishop J C Ryle observes
It would be well for us all, if we
examined ourselves more frequently as to our habits about private
prayer. What time do we give to it in the twenty-four hours of the
day? What progress can we mark, one year with another, in the
fervency, fullness, and earnestness of our prayers? What do we know by
experience, of "laboring fervently in prayer?" (Col. 4:12.) These are
humbling inquiries, but they are useful for our souls. There are few
things, it may be feared, in which Christians come so far short of
Christ's example, as they do in the matter of prayer. Our Master's
strong crying and tears--His continuing all night in prayer to
God--His frequent withdrawal to private places, to hold close
communion with the Father, are things more talked of and admired than
imitated. We live in an age of hurry, bustle, and so-called activity.
Men are tempted continually to cut short their private devotions, and
abridge their prayers. When this is the case, we need not wonder
that the Church of Christ does little in proportion to its machinery.
The Church must learn to copy its Head more closely. Its members
must be more in their closets. "We have little," because little is
asked. (James 4:2.) (J. C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts in Mark)
Robert Murray McCheyne
(1813-43) saw God move in revival power at Dundee, Scotland. A great
part of this revival was prayer, about which McCheyne said:
What a man is on his knees before
God, that he is--and nothing more.
Puritan John Bunyan
(1628-88), said that...
Prayer is a shield to the soul, a
sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.
Hosea Ballou (1771-1852), an
American preacher, concluded that
Between the humble and the contrite
heart and the majesty of heaven there are no barriers; the only
password is prayer.
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Prayer by Harry Ironside - Prayer, is first of all,
communion with God. Our blessed Lord Himself, in the days of His
flesh, is seen again and again leaving the company of His
disciples and going out into some desert place on a mountain
side, or into a garden, that His spirit might be refreshed as He
bowed in prayer alone with the Father. From such seasons of
fellowship He returned to do His mightiest works and to bear
witness to the truth. And in this He is our great Exemplar. We
need to pray as much as we need to breathe. Our souls will
languish without it, and our testimony will be utterly fruitless
if we neglect it.
We are told to continue in prayer. This does not mean that we
are to be constantly teasing God in order that we may obtain
what we might think would add most to our happiness or be best
for us, but we are to abide in a sense of His presence and of
our dependence upon His bounty. We are to learn to talk to Him
and to quietly wait before Him, too, in order that we may hear
His voice as He speaks to us. We are bidden to bring everything
to Him in prayer, assured that if we ask anything according to
His will He heareth us. But because we are so ignorant and so
shortsighted we need ever to remember that we are to leave the
final disposal of things with Him who makes no mistakes. Without
anxiety as to anything, we may bring everything to Him in prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving, making known our requests in
childlike simplicity; then, leaving all in His hands, we go
forth in fullest confidence as our hearts say "Thy will be
done," knowing that He will do for us exceeding abundantly above
all that we ask or think.
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THAT YOU MAY STAND PERFECT: hina
stathête (2PAAS) teleioi:
(teleios from telos = an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal)
mature, fully developed, full grown, brought to its end, finished, wanting
nothing necessary to completeness, in good working order.
signifies consummate soundness, includes the idea of being whole.
Interestingly the Gnostics used teleios of the one fully
initiated into their mysteries and that may have been why Paul used
teleios in this epistle.
Teleios is used 19 times in the NT (Matthew
4x ;1 John)
and is translated in the NASB as: complete, 2; mature, 4; more
perfect, 1; perfect, 12. The KJV has one use translated "of full age".
Earlier Paul after declaring the
glorious truth to the Colossians that Christ was now in them and that
He Alone was their Hope (absolute assurance of future good) of glory
went on to emphasis that because of this great truth...
"we proclaim Him, admonishing every
man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every
man complete (teleios) in Christ. And for this purpose also I
labor (to the point of literal exhaustion!), striving (agonizomai
- same verb describing Epaphras' "laboring earnestly" in prayer
for the same goal = that the Colossian saints would be complete in
Christ) according to His power (which undoubtedly is how Epaphras also
was enabled to prayer with such passion and power - and it is the only
way we can pray this way - His power working in us and through us),
which mightily works within me." (see note
As discussed more fully below,
teleios does not connote moral or spiritual perfection, or
sinlessness, but rather refers to that which is fully developed.
has at least three shades of meaning:
(1) Teleios speaks of
totality, as opposed to partial or limited and when used of things
means in full measure, undivided, complete or entire (as in
Romans 12:2 [note] referring to "the
will of God" which is "good and acceptable and perfect"). When
referring to persons the idea is that of complete or perfect ("Therefore
you are to be perfect (teleios),
as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleios)."
Matthew 5:48 [note]- see more discussion below)
Teleios describes a victim which is fit for a sacrifice to God as
(2) Teleios also speaks of
that which is fully development as opposed to that which is immature.
And so it describes persons who are full grown or mature (especially
referring to spiritual maturity). In Greek teleios was applied to
physical growth and so a man who has reached his full-grown stature is
teleios in contradistinction to a half-grown lad. A student who
has reached a mature knowledge of his subject is teleios as opposed to
a learner who is just beginning, and who as yet has no grasp of
things. For example Pythagoras divided his students into the
learners, and the mature. (teleios). Philo divided his
students into three classes—those just beginning (archomenoi), those
making progress (prokoptontes), and those beginning to reach maturity
Teleios does not imply
complete knowledge but a certain spiritual maturity in the faith. That
is Epaphras' desire for the saints at Colossae.
(3) Teleios can refer to
that which is in a state of full preparation or readiness
In all the above
variations of meaning the underlying idea is that a purpose has been
achieved or that a thing or person has reached its intended goal or end. The basic
meaning of teleios in the New Testament is always that the thing or
person so described fully carries out the purpose for which designed.
And so when Greek speaks of "perfect" (teleios) it is in fact such if
it perfectly carries out the purpose for which it was designed.
explains teleios (and related words in this group such as
teleioo, teleiotes) writing that the emphasis is on...
"wholeness and completeness. In the
biological sense they mean "mature," or "full grown": the person,
animal, or plant achieved the potential inherent in its nature. The
perfect is the thing or person that is complete, in which nothing that
belongs to its essence has been left out. It is perfect because every
potential it possesses has been realized." (Ibid)
Wayne Detzler writes that
the root meaning of teleios is...
"fulfilled purpose," which is seen
in the English word "teleology" (the belief that any process is shaped
by purpose). The "teleological" argument of the existence of God says
that the purposeful arrangement of the universe demonstrates the
existence of God. Later on this word assumed another meaning, that of
perfection. When something fulfills its purpose, it is supposedly
perfect. Aristotle emphasized the aspect of ethical perfection, doing
that which is right. For him self-actualization was most important. A
person should realize that which is right for himself, and this is
perfection. In other words, perfection is not conforming to an
external standard, be it God's or man's. In this sense Aristotle stood
out in bold contrast with biblical ethics, which stress conformity to
God's standard. Later, under the influence of Plato, perfection meant
conformity to accepted virtues in Greek culture. When one exemplified
these virtues in every way, he was perfect.
In its various forms teleios
occurs about 100 times in the Greek New Testament. In each case it
means "perfection," "completion," or "wholeness." For instance, in
some cases it speaks of ethical perfection, behavior which is
complete or whole. An example of this ethical perfection is found in
James, when he asserted that endurance in the Christian life helps
make one perfect (James 1:4). Let it be added that this does not teach
sinless perfection. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that no one is
sinless, but every Christian should sin less every day. James
illustrated this teaching by reference to obeying God's Law (James 1:25).
Specifically, he saw the tongue as the main battleground in achieving
spiritual perfection or wholeness (James 3:2, 6-12). James knew that true
perfection is found in God alone (James 1:17).
In John's epistles there is likewise an emphasis on perfection. Here
the sole source of perfection is God. Only God can give perfect love,
which takes away fear (1 John 4:18). No perfection exists apart from
In Paul's writings there is also reference to this ethical
perfection. To Timothy Paul wrote that the young man should
perfect or fulfill his ministry as an evangelist (see note
2 Timothy 4:5). No one
is a perfect minister, but every Christian should fulfill his
ministry. Paul wrote to the Colossians, urging them to teach young
Christians and thus bring them to completion or maturity in the faith
Colossians 1:28). This perfection was seen in their conformity to the will
of God (4:12).
Christians gain insight into the way of God as they grow in grace.
This produces spiritual wisdom and maturity (1 Cor. 2:6). In fact,
Paul pressured the Corinthian Christians to grow into spiritual
maturity (1Cor 14:20).
To the Ephesians Paul wrote that they should mature in the knowledge
of God, and that this would bring them into the image of Christ (see
Ephesians 4:13). This goal of maturity motivated all Paul's missionary work.
(Ed note: and also the prayers of Epaphras for the Colossian saints)
Besides the perfection of ethics and the perfection of character, the
Scriptures also speak of perfection of doctrine. When a person
professes faith in Christ, he has a basic, elementary understanding of
Christian truth. He knows how to be saved, and that is about all. In
time that Christian should grow on to maturity and develop a hunger
for progressively deeper truth. This is what the writer of the Book of
Hebrews calls perfection or maturity (see notes
Perfection in the New Testament is not a flawless imitation of God.
Rather it its a growth into maturity which is discernible as one makes
progress in the faith. Absolute perfection and completeness is found
in God alone, and we shall experience it only when we are with Him."
(Detzler, Wayne: New Testament Words in Today's Language)
explaining Jesus' instruction in
(note) that we are to be
perfect (teleios) writes that...
the Greek idea of perfection
is functional. A thing is perfect if it fully realizes the
purpose for which it was planned, and designed, and made. In point of
fact, that meaning is involved in the derivation of the word.
Teleios is the adjective formed from the noun telos.
Telos means an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal. A thing is
teleios, if it realizes the purpose for which it was planned; a
man is perfect if he realizes the purpose for which he was
created and sent into the world. Let us take a very simple analogy.
Suppose in my house there is a screw loose, and I want to tighten and
adjust this screw. I go out to the iron-monger and I buy a
screw-driver. I find that the screw-driver exactly fits the grip of my
hand; it is neither too large nor too small, too rough nor too smooth.
I lay the screw-driver on the slot of the screw, and I find that it
exactly fits. I then turn the screw and the screw is fixed. In the
Greek sense, and especially in the New Testament sense, that
screw-driver is teleios, because it exactly fulfilled the
purpose for which I desired and bought it. So, then, a man will be
teleios if he fulfills the purpose for which he was created. For
what purpose was man created? The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to
that. In the old creation story we find God saying. “Let us make man
in our image after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Man was created to
be like God. The characteristic of God is this universal benevolence,
this unconquerable goodwill, this constant seeking of the highest good
of every man. The great characteristic of God is love to saint and to
sinner alike. No matter what men do to him, God seeks nothing but
their highest good.." (Barclay,
W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press or
John MacArthur commenting on "perfect" (teleios) in
"Teleios (perfect) basically
means to reach an intended end or a completion and is often translated
“mature” (1Cor 2:6; 14:20; Ephesians
4:13 [note]; etc.). But the
meaning here is obviously that of perfection, because the
heavenly Father is the standard. The “sons of [the] Father” (see
Matthew 5:45) are to be perfect, as [their] heavenly Father is perfect. That
perfection is absolute perfection." That perfection
is also utterly impossible in man’s own power. To those who wonder how
Jesus can demand the impossible, He later says, “With men this is
impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew
19:26). That which God
demands, He provides the power to accomplish. Man’s own righteousness
is possible, but is so imperfect that it is worthless; God’s
righteousness is impossible for the very reason that it is perfect.
But the impossible righteousness becomes possible for those who trust
in Jesus Christ, because He gives them His righteousness. That is
precisely our Lord’s point in all these illustrations and in the whole
sermon --- to lead His audience to an overpowering sense of spiritual
bankruptcy, to a “beatitude attitude” that shows them their need of
a Savior, an Enabler who Alone can empower them to meet God’s standard
of perfection." (MacArthur,
J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press
Richards in his discussion
of "maturity" writes that...
"The Greek words translated
"maturity" are teleios (used 19 times in the NT) or teleiotes
(used twice in the NT). The root expresses an important Greek concept:
that of end or goal. The thought is that a mature individual has
reached the goal of the process of growth as a person. The NT gives
us insight into the process by which a Christian becomes mature.
Maturity should come as a natural process of our being among a group
of believers who are functioning properly ("until we come to such
unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be
mature and full grown [teleios] in the Lord, measuring up to
the full stature of Christ." NLT, see note
Ephesians 4:13), as we face trials and
persevere ("And let endurance have its perfect [teleios]
result, that you may be perfect [teleios] and complete, lacking
in nothing." James 1:4. Ed note: James is referring to spiritual
maturity fulfilled in Christlikeness, which is the goal of endurance
and perseverance in trials!), and through the constant exercise of our
faculties by applying God's Word to guide our daily choices ("But
solid food is for the mature [teleios] , who because of
practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." Heb
Why is maturity important? Because those who are mature
Christians are able to grasp and apply spiritual truths ("Yet we do
speak wisdom among those who are mature [teleios]; a wisdom,
however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are
passing away" 1Cor 2:6), establish right priorities in life ("Let us
therefore, as many as are perfect [teleios], have this
attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will
reveal that also to you" see note
and stand confident and firm in the will of God (Col 4:12)." (Richards,
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
In summary, teleios when
used of a believer as in the present context describes one who has attained moral
maturity, wanting in nothing, having reached the goal, purpose or end
for which he was created and which he had before the fall. Epaphras is
agonizing for the Colossian believers that they might reach the goal
experientially, that they were in fact positionally (they were "complete
in Christ" needed not to get more of Him for Him to "get more of them"
so to speak!). God’s expectation of us is to be completely blameless!
Epaphras prayer that they stand perfect (teleios) touches on
one of the key issues at Colossae. As we have seen some saints were
being encouraged by aberrant teaching to seek maturity or perfection
through philosophy, ascetic practices, visionary experiences and
special revelations, rather than through Christ.
Regarding Christian perfection,
Tom Skinner, famous black evangelist, explained that...
"If you check out the life of Jesus
you will discover what made Him perfect. He did not attain a state of
perfection by carrying around in His pocket a list of rules and
regulations, or by seeking to conform to the cultural mores of His
time. He was perfect because He never made a move without His Father."
John H. Jowett said
“Praying that costs nothing
Warren Wiersbe writes
E. M. Bounds was a prayer-warrior of
the last generation. He would often rise early in the morning and pray
for many hours before he began the work of the day. His many books on
prayer testify to the fact that Bounds, like Epaphras, knew how to
agonize in prayer before God. (If you have never read Power in Prayer
[Baker] by E. M. Bounds, by all means do so.)" (Wiersbe,
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor
The famous Puritan writer,
Richard Baxter (1615-91) wrote a fine forecast of heaven entitle "The
Saints' Everlasting Rest" (1650) and in it he addressed the issue of
perfection writing that...
"This life was not intended to be
the place of our perfection, but the preparation for it."
AND FULLY ASSURED: kai
Fully assured (4135) (plerophoreo)
means to bear or bring to the full, to carry through to the end, to
make full, to persuade, fully convince. Lightfoot translates it as
“fully persuaded.” The NLT renders it "fully confident of the whole
will of God." Note the use of the
which conveys the idea of lasting assurance or permanence of the
concern was that the Colossians have a firm persuasion concerning the
truth in the face of the doctrinal and practical errors fostered by
those who promulgated "philosophy and empty deception, according to
the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the
world rather than according to Christ." (See note
IN ALL THE WILL OF GOD: en
panti thelemati tou Theou:
Wuest translates this last
"those who have been brought to the
place of full assurance in everything willed by God".
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
But what does this mean
practically? Why was this one of Epaphras' goals in prayer for the
Warren Wiersbe gives
an excellent answer writing that...
“Full assurance in the will of
God” is a tremendous blessing! It is not necessary for the believer to
drift in life. He can know God’s will and
enjoy it. As he learns God’s will and lives it, he matures in the
faith and experiences God’s fullness." (Wiersbe,
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor
If Satan can make you ignorant of
God’s will, he will rob you of all the glorious blessings God has
planned for your life. You will make bad decisions, get involved in
sinful activities, and build the wrong kind of life. And, sad to say,
you will influence others to go wrong! In my ministry of the Word in
many places, I have seen the tragic consequences of lives out of the
will of God. (Wiersbe,
W. W. The Strategy of Satan: How to Detect and Defeat Him.
Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers)
Here is Andrew Bonar's
Sermon entitled "Epaphras"...
'Always labouring fervently
for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the
will of God' Col. 4:12.
Epaphras was a citizen of
Colosse. Hence his deep interest in the Colossians. The Lord does not
ask His people to give up their patriotism when they turn to Him.
Epaphras had a particular desire that the Colossians should be
blessed, because he was one of them.
From the words in Col 1:7 (note) it
would appear that Epaphras was their minister, one for whom Paul had
great love. He calls him his 'dear fellow-servant.' From Philemon we
find that he was a prisoner at this time along with Paul in Rome. Paul
speaks of him as a 'servant of Christ.' If you know the meaning of the
words you know what an honour they imply, and at the same time great
Let us dwell on this
remarkable feature of Epaphras' character, his prayerfulness. He was a
prisoner in Rome. Many of God's saints have done their best work in
prison. Epaphras wrote nothing; it is not said that he had any visions
in that prison; but his work was prayer, 'labouring fervently.' And
notice it is in the plural, 'in prayers,' and 'always.'
1. Epaphras' labours in prayer. - Being a servant of Christ, he
was one who was very much with Christ.
He went to Him to get
commissions, and then returned to tell Him how he had executed them.
He was not like Paul who wrote letters never-to-be-forgotten, but he
had another talent, that of prayer, and he turned it to good account.
He was just as useful, perhaps, in his own place as Paul. He 'laboured
fervently' in prayers. The words are like those used about Christ in
Gethsemane : 'being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly.'
He agonised in prayer.
His were Gethsemane prayers. He made his prison-cell fragrant with the
sweet incense of prayer. Is he not a man to be envied? He is certainly
a man to be imitated. He did this 'always.' Every day he was to be
found praying for his beloved people at Colosse. He had great faith in
prayer. He knew the fulness of Christ's heart as well as the abundance
of the treasure laid up in Him, so he was not afraid to ask much. He
knew there was great danger of his people standing still, and not
growing in grace.
earnest prayer, is hard work.
There are so many
interruptions ; so many excuses for not persevering suggest themselves
to the mind. A believing man is more ready at work than at prayer.
Satan has a special ill-will at praying people. Some one has said that
Satan's orders are, 'fight not with small or great, but only with the
praying people.' If we are to persevere in prayer, it must be prayer
in the Spirit, with the atmosphere of the Spirit all around us.
Epaphras would never say his prison was a tiresome place. He would say
he had plenty of work to do there. Be like him, labouring for God in
prayer. If you can't work, if you can't speak, you can pray. But work
hard at it like Epaphras, and you will be an immense benefactor to
'Of all thy gifts we ask
Give us the constant power to pray.
Indulge us, Lord, in this request,
Thou canst not then deny the rest.'
Lengthen your brief prayers.
Take more time, and in this way bring down showers upon your own soul,
and upon all around you.
2. The main theme of Epaphras' request. - We would have thought
it would be for a revival, for the conversion of many souls at Colosse.
No, it was for believers he prayed with most intense earnestness, and
always, day after day. This was an indirect way of reaching the
unsaved, for if believers get more of God's grace, they will go forth
to others. It is more difficult to find Epaphrases than to find
workers. The coldness and inconsistencies of believers are an immense
hindrance to the conversion of souls. On the other hand, if believers
are full of the Spirit, full of love to souls, the world sees they
have got something that earth cannot give, and when they show by their
joy in Christ that they are satisfied, the world would like to get at
their secret. There are far more people made to think by seeing the
joy of believers, and their satisfaction in Christ, than by any word
they speak. Epaphras would ask all this for the Colossians, 'that they
might be perfect and complete in all the will of God,' - in all that
God wanted them to do, that the seal of the Spirit might be very
distinct and legible in them. There was once a great deal of murmuring
among the Gentile converts in Jerusalem. God showed them how to remedy
the evil, and the murmuring was stopped (Acts 6:1-7); and we read that
'the Word of God increased, the number of the disciples multiplied,
and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.' That
was one result of doing the will of God. After Paul's conversion there
was a lull in persecution, and 'walking in the fear of God, and in the
comfort of the Holy Ghost, the churches were multiplied.' Besides this
result to the unsaved, it is so glorifying to God when believers are
lively and vigorous.
Seek to labour fervently in
this work of prayer. I have met with many who have come to tell me
they were going to give up part of their work because they had not
time for it, but I never remember in the course of my ministry meeting
with any one who wanted to give up some part of his work because he
was going to take the time for prayer. If any one did do this, the
part of work he had left would soon be filled up.
If you are
not 'always labouring fervently in prayers' you will be dwarfed
Would you not, for your own sake, be 'perfect and complete in all the
will of God'?
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Beautiful Epitaph by
F. B. Meyer - This is a very beautiful epitaph
on a good man’s life. Amid all the crowding interests of Epaphras’
visit to Rome, his heart was with his friends. He strove for them in
prayer. It was no passing thought that he voiced; no light breathing
of desire; no formal mention of their names. It seemed as though he
were a wrestler, whose muscles strained as he agonized for the prize.
He labored. We shall never know, till we stand in the clear light of
haven, how much has been wrought in the world by prayer. Here, at
least, there is mention of a man’s labors. Probably the work on the
results of which we are inclined to pride ourselves is due less to us
than we suppose, and more to unrecognized fellow laborers. Let us be
careful to mingle much intercession with all our prayers, especially
on behalf of Christian workers, that they may realize we are actually
working and laboring beside them.
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Note that Epaphras is also described in the next verse.