Col_4:12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
LOVE is the essence of the Christian religion. The heathens themselves noticed the fervour of the love which subsisted among the first Christians. Ministers in particular feel a distinguished regard for those to whom they have been signally useful [Note: 1Th_2:7-8.]. Epaphras is set forth as a most eminent pattern of affection and zeal.
The office he sustained—
Epaphras was perhaps the same with Epaphroditus. He was of Colosse, and perhaps the founder of the Church established there; he sustained the most honourable of all offices, being “a servant of Christ.” This office every Christian may be said to bear, but ministers bear it in a higher and more exalted sense: They are,
[A steward has the care and management of the family committed to him: so Christ’s ministers have the mysteries of the Gospel committed to them [Note: 2Co_4:7.]. They are to dispense these mysteries to men [Note: Luk_12:42.]: hence we are taught to consider them expressly in this view [Note: 1Co_4:1.].]
[They are ambassadors from the court of heaven [Note: 2Co_5:19-20.]: they deliver to men his messages of grace and mercy: they negociate, as it were, a peace between God and man.]
[They stand in his stead [Note: 2Co_5:20.]; the word they speak is not theirs, but his [Note: 1Th_2:13.]. The reception or rejection of them will be deemed a reception or rejection of Christ himself [Note: 1Th_4:8.].]
[They are the instruments whereby he is known and glorified: hence they are expressly called “the glory of Christ [Note: 2Co_8:23.].”]
In this office he acted worthy of the trust reposed in him.
The love he manifested—
Love will invariably manifest itself in acts of kindness towards those who are the objects of it. A minister’s love will shew itself most towards the souls of men; but none can do good to souls unless God himself vouchsafe his blessing [Note: 1Co_3:7.]: hence Epaphras made application to God in prayer.
He did this fervently—
[It is said of Jacob that he “wrestled” with God all night in prayer [Note: Compare Gen_32:24; Gen_32:28. with Hos_12:4.]. Thus did Epaphras on behalf of the Christians at Colosse [Note: This is implied in the term
.]. How desirable is it that every minister should be so occupied!]
He did it constantly—
[He was not satisfied with preaching to them, or praying with them: he remembered them “always” in his secret prayers before God [Note: 1Th_3:10. with Isa_62:7.]; nor did his absence from them diminish his concern for their welfare. This was the most unequivocal testimony of his affection that he could possibly give them [Note: It is easier to preach to men ten hours, than to pray for them one.].]
Nor could he rest satisfied, while his people had a sin to be forgiven, or a want to be supplied.
The end he aimed at—
He desired that his Christian friends might be Israelites indeed; no doubt he had exerted himself much and often to make them so. He sought the same blessed end in all his prayers for them:
That they might have no secret reserves in their obedience—
[He well knew that one sin indulged would destroy the soul [Note: Jer_48:10.]: he was aware that nothing but the most unreserved dedication of ourselves to God’s service would be of any avail [Note: Psa_119:6.]: he therefore prayed that they might do “all” the will of God.]
That they might attain the highest degrees of holiness—
[There is no absolute perfection or completeness in the creature; but there are high degrees of holiness to which the upright may attain
imply, that he wished them not to continue babes, but to arrive at a state of manhood; and not to be satisfied with a scanty measure of grace and knowledge, but to be “filled with all the fulness of God.”]. He longed that they might be as eminent as possible [Note: 1Th_5:23.].]
That they might be steadfast to the end—
[Many “endure only for a season, and in a time of temptation fall away;” but the apostatizing of persons who have been hopeful, is death, as it were, to a faithful minister of Christ [Note: 1Th_3:8.]. He knew that there were many seeking to turn them from the faith [Note: Col_2:8.]: he therefore sought to have them so established that they might “stand.”]
We may observe from hence,
What should be the standard of a minister’s preaching—
[Faithful ministers are often thought too strict and severe; but if they should desire such perfection for their people, they should labour also to promote it by their preaching. If they should lower the standard of men’s duty, they would betray and murder the souls committed to them. Let not any then condemn the strictness or severity of what they hear, unless it exceed the Scripture standard.]
What should be the measure of the people’s practice—
[There is no attainment with which we should be satisfied, while there remains any thing to be attained. What ministers should desire for us, we ought to desire and aim at for ourselves. Whatever then we may have attained, let us forget what is behind, and press forward toward that which is before.]