Have you heard of Epaphras?

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A man named Epaphras is mentioned a few times in the Bible. His name does not mean much to many Bible readers. He is, however, a notable hero of faith, a man of God, whose life experiences are intriguing and instructive.

Epaphras lived in the small city of Collossae. None of the Apostles had visited there on their journeys, but God had guided Epaphras so that he had the opportunity to hear Paul, likely at Ephesus. Upon returning to his native city, Epaphras began doing mission work. He preached the Gospel to all people. Through his sermons the Holy Spirit did His work and a congregation was born at Collossae. It was made up of all kinds of people: Slaves and free, Jews, Greeks, barbarians, Scythians, men and women, parents and children, employers and employees, the respected and the despised. A wealthy man by the name of Philemon also belonged to the congregation and had love for "all the saints". Epaphras proclaimed the Gospel faithfully as he had learned to know it.

When the congregation had been in existence for just a few years, it was threatened by the danger of false doctrine. Living in the proximity of the congregation were those who were not satisfied with the doctrine of Epraphas. They demanded the observance of the Sabbath and other Jewish days, they prayed to angels, boasted of their visions and put on a show of humility to win followers.

Epaphras was the pastor of the congregation and saw to it that everything happened in decency and order. However, he felt it necessary to get an apostolic confirmation for his doctrine. Therefore he set out to visit Paul, who at that time was a prisoner in Rome. The long journey was a difficult one. Epaphras became ill and was imprisoned in Rome, but he nevertheless accomplished his mission.

Paul wrote a letter to the congregation at Collossae in which he says: "You heard (of it) and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf" (Col. 1:6,7) The Christians at Collossae had in holy Baptism received the Lord Jesus, in whom "all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). Their own works and worship services could not add anything to this. In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Salvation is a free gift. The Apostle himself told the Collossians that their faith was the right faith and that they should remain steadfast in it.

The example of Epaphras teaches us how important the purity of the Gospel is. Working diligently to preserve it is a worthy cause. A faithful missionary and shepherd of souls will make sure that he proclaims the "grace of God in truth".