Colossians 1:7
As you also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Ye also learned of Epaphras.—Of Epaphras we know nothing, except what we gather from this passage, and from Colossians 4:12; Philemon 1:23. The name is a shortened form of Epaphroditus, but it is most unlikely that he is the same as the Epaphroditus of Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18. Being, it seems, a native of Colossæ itself, he was apparently its first evangelist, and is afterwards described as feeling some responsibility for it and its neighbouring cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). His work could not have been transient, for under him the Colossians are said not only to have “heard,” but also to have “known” (come to know perfectly) “the grace of God.” St. Paul here gives emphatic testimony to his faithfulness, and to his preaching to them “in truth.” That he was, then or afterwards. Bishop of Colossæ is probably a mere guess of tradition. But he may have had some such charge as that which was afterwards more formally committed to Timothy at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete. At this time, however, he remained with St. Paul (Colossians 4:12-13), and apparently shared his captivity, for he is called (in Philemon 1:23) his “fellow-prisoner.”

Who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.—(1) “For you” is, properly, on your behalf. This has been supposed to mean that Epaphras, like his Philippian namesake, had been a representative of the Colossian Church, in ministry to the Apostle; but this is hardly compatible with the entire absence of any personal reference in the sentence. Contrast Philemon 1:13, “that on thy behalf he might minister to me.” If this reading, therefore, is to stand, “on your behalf” must be taken to signify generally “for your benefit,” which is doubtless the meaning of our version. (2) But there is considerable, perhaps preponderating, MS. authority for the reading “on our behalf,” that is, in our stead. This makes Epaphras a representative, perhaps an actual messenger, of St. Paul, for the conversion of the church at Colossæ; sent probably at the time when the Apostle had his head-quarters at Ephesus, and when “all that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:10). This interpretation not only gives greater force to this passage, but explains also the attitude of authority here assumed by St. Paul toward a church which he had not seen, differing so markedly from the tone of his Epistle to the Romans in a like case.

1:1-8 All true Christians are brethren one to another. Faithfulness runs through every character and relation of the Christian life. Faith, hope, and love, are the three principal graces in the Christian life, and proper matter for prayer and thanksgiving. The more we fix our hopes on the reward in the other world, the more free shall we be in doing good with our earthly treasure. It was treasured up for them, no enemy could deprive them of it. The gospel is the word of truth, and we may safely venture our souls upon it. And all who hear the word of the gospel, ought to bring forth the fruit of the gospel, obey it, and have their principles and lives formed according to it. Worldly love arises, either from views of interest or from likeness in manners; carnal love, from the appetite for pleasure. To these, something corrupt, selfish, and base always cleaves. But Christian love arises from the Holy Spirit, and is full of holiness.As ye also learned of Epaphras - Epaphras was then with Paul. Plm 1:23. He had probably been sent to him by the church at Colossae to consult him in reference to some matters pertaining to the church there. It is evident from this, that Epaphras was a minister of the church at Colossae, though there is no evidence, as has been often supposed, that he was the founder of the church. The apostle here says, that they had learned from Epaphras the true nature of the gospel, and he designs undoubtedly to confirm what he had taught them in opposition to the teachings of errorists; see the Introduction, Section 4. He had doubtless conferred with Epaphras respecting the doctrines which he had taught there.

Our dear fellow-servant - This shows that Paul had contracted a strong friendship for Epaphras. There is no reason to believe that he had known him before, but his acquaintance with him now had served to attach him strongly to him. It is possible, as has been conjectured (see the Introduction), that there was a party in the church at Colossae opposed to Epaphras and to the doctrines which he preached, and if this were so, Paul's strong expression of attachment for him would do much to silence the opposition.

Who is for you a faithful minister of Christ - "For you," when he is with you, and in managing your interests here.

7. As ye also learned—"Also" is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The insertion implied that those inserting it thought that Paul had preached the Gospel to the Colossians as well as Epaphras, Whereas the omission in the oldest manuscripts implies that Epaphras alone was the founder of the Church at Colosse.

of—"from Epaphras."

dear—Greek, "beloved."

fellow servant—namely, of Christ. In Phm 23 he calls him "my fellow prisoner." It is possible that Epaphras may have been apprehended for his zealous labors in Asia Minor; but more probable that Paul gave him the title; as his faithful companion in his imprisonment (compare Note, see on [2399]Col 4:10, as to Meyer's conjecture).

who is for you, &c.—Translate, "who is faithful in your behalf as a minister of Christ"; hinting that he is one not to be set aside for the new and erroneous teachers (Col 2:1-23). Most of the oldest manuscripts read, "for (or 'in behalf of') US." Vulgate, however, with one of the oldest manuscripts, supports English Version.

As ye also learned of Epaphras: to maintain the truth, it did much concern them to have a good opinion of him, who was an eminent instrument in communicating it to them, and therefore Paul doth here very opportunely commend Epaphras, in opposition to those false teachers, who likely might insinuate somewhat to his disparagement.

Our dear fellow servant; the respect they bare, and relation he stood in to them, being dearly beloved of him for his sincerity in promulgating the gospel; and being engaged with them in the service of the same Master, Colossians 4:7 Revelation 6:11.

Who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; his office, which he discharged with fidelity and affection unto them. He did with all honesty and integrity, as became one intrusted by his Master Christ, discharge what was incumbent on him for their good, Colossians 4:13 John 12:26 1 Corinthians 4:1,2 Eph 4:12 1 Timothy 4:6 Hebrews 13:17. As ye also learned of Epaphras,.... To know the grace of God, believe the truth of the Gospel, and to own and profess it sincerely,

Our dear fellow servant; a "servant" of Christ he was, and a "fellow" servant of the apostles, jointly engaged with them in preaching the Gospel; which character, as it greatly commends Epaphras, and shows him to be a very considerable preacher of the word, so it expresses the great humility and condescension of the apostle, in putting him upon a level with himself, though he was not in that high office of the apostleship he was. And "dear" this precious servant of Christ was to him, and his fellow ministers, on account of the grace and gifts bestowed on him, because of his usefulness in the ministry, and his faithfulness and integrity in the discharge of it; and whose company and conversation in the prison greatly endeared him to them, for he was a fellow prisoner, as well as a fellow servant, Plm 1:23. It follows,

who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; one whom Christ had made a "minister" and not man, who was qualified, and sent forth, and made successful by him in his service; and who preached none but Christ, and him crucified, in the business of salvation: and he was a "faithful" one; one that sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him; nor to please men, but his master; who concealed no part of his message, but freely and fully declared the whole; he was faithful to Christ, who put him into the ministry, and to the souls of men, to whom he ministered: and therefore it is said, he was such an one "for you"; for them, not for himself; for their spiritual good and advantage; he sought not theirs, but them; he had a great zeal for them, dearly loved them, and spent his time and strength, and made use of his gifts and talents while among them, for their use and benefit.

As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 1:7 f. Καθώς] not quandoquidem (Flatt, comp. Bähr), but the as of the manner in which. So, namely, as it had just been affirmed by ἐν ἀληθείᾳ that they had known the divine grace, had they learned it (comp. Php 4:9) from Epaphras. Notwithstanding this appropriate connection, Holtzmann finds in this third καθώς a trace of the interpolator.

Nothing further is known from any other passage as to Epaphras the Colossian (Colossians 4:12); according to Philemon 1:23, he was συναιχμάλωτος of the apostle. That the latter circumstance is not mentioned in our Epistle is not to be attributed to any special design (Estius: that Paul was unwilling to make his readers anxious). See, on the contrary, on Colossians 4:10. Against the identity of Epaphras with Epaphroditus, see on Php 2:25. The names even are not alike (contrary to the view of Grotius and Ewald, who look upon Epaphras as an abbreviation); Ἐπαφρᾶς and the corresponding feminine name Ἐπαφρώ are found on Greek inscriptions.

συνδούλου] namely, of Christ (comp. Php 1:1). The word, of common occurrence, is used elsewhere by Paul in Colossians 4:7 only.

ὅς ἐστιν κ.τ.λ.] This faithfulness towards the readers, and also, in the sequel, the praise of their love, which Epaphras expressed to the apostle, are intended to stir them up “ne a doctrina, quam ab eo didicerant, per novos magistros abduci se patiantur,” Estius. The emphasis is on πιστός.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν] for, as their teacher, he is the servant of Christ for them, for their benefit. The interpretation, instead of you (“in prison he serves me in the gospel,” Michaelis, Böhmer), would only be possible in the event of the service being designated as rendered to the apostle (διάκονός μου ἐν Χριστῷ, or something similar). Comp. Philemon 1:13. Even with Lachmann’s reading, ὑπ. ἡμῶν (Steiger, Olshausen, Ewald), it would not be necessary to take ὑπέρ as instead; it might equally well be taken as for in the sense of interest, as opposite of the anti-Pauline working (comp. Luke 9:50). The present ἐστί (Paul does not put ἦν) has its just warrant in the fact, that the merit, which the founder of the church has acquired by its true instruction, is living and continuous, reaching in its efficacy down to the present time. This is an ethical relation, which is quite independent of the circumstance that Epaphras was himself a Colossian (in opposition to Hofmann), but also makes it unnecessary to find in ἐστι an indirect continuance of Epaphras’ work for the Colossians (in opposition to Bleek).

ὁ καὶ δηλώσας κ.τ.λ] who also (in accordance with the interest of this faithful service) has made us to know; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:11. The ἀγάπη is here understood either of the love of the Colossians to Paul (and Timothy), as, following Chrysostom, most, including Huther, Bleek, and Hofmann,[15] explain it, or of the brotherly love already commended in Colossians 1:4 (de Wette, Olshausen, Ellicott, and others). But both these modes of taking it are at variance with the emphatic position of ὑμῶν (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 8:13, et al.), which betokens the love of the readers to Epaphras as meant. There had just been expressed, to wit, by ὑ̔πὲρ ὑμῶν, the faithful, loving position of this servant of Christ towards the Colossians, and correlative to this is now the love which he met with from them, consequently the counter-love shown to him, of which he has informed the apostle. A delicate addition out of courtesy to the readers.

ἐν πνεύματι] attaches itself closely to ἈΓΆΠΗΝ, so as to form one idea, denoting the love as truly holy—not conditioned by anything outward, but divinely upheld—which is in the Holy Spirit as the element which prompts and animates it; for it is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Romans 15:30), οὐ σαρκικὴ, ἀλλὰ πνευματική (Oecumenius). Comp. ΧΑΡᾺ ἘΝ ΠΝ., Romans 14:17.

[15] Who, at the same time, makes the ἐν πνεύματι suggest the reference, that the ἁγάπη took place in a manner personally unknown—which must have been conveyed in the context.

REMARK.

Since ἀφʼ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσατε κ.τ.λ., Colossians 1:6, refers the readers back to the first commencement of their Christianity, and καθὼς ἐμάθετε ἀπὸ Ἐπαφρᾶ κ.τ.λ., Colossians 1:7, cannot, except by pure arbitrariness, be separated from it as regards time and regarded as something later, it results from our passage that Epaphras is to be considered as the first preacher of the gospel at Colossae, and consequently as founder of the church. This exegetical result remains even if the Recepta καθὼς καί is retained. This καί would not, as Wiggers thinks (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 185), place the preaching of Epaphras in contradistinction to an earlier one, and make it appear as a continuation of the latter (in this case καθὼς καὶ ἀπὸ Ἐπαφρ. ἐμάθετε or καθὼς ἐμάθετε καὶ ἀπὸ Ἐπαφρ. would have been employed); but it is to be taken as also, not otherwise, placing the ἐμάθετε on a parity with the ἐπέγνωτε. This applies also in opposition to Vaihinger, in Herzog’s Encykl. iv. p. 79 f.Colossians 1:7. καθὼς, i.e., in the manner in which. Paul thus sets the seal of his approval on the form of the Gospel which they had learnt from their teacher, and also on the teacher himself.—Ἐπαφρᾶ. Epaphras was apparently the founder of the Colossian Church, ἐμάθετε referring to the same time as ἠκούσατε. He had remained in connexion with it (Colossians 4:12), and seems to have come to Paul to inform him of the teaching that was threatening its welfare. He is not to be identified with Epaphroditus (Php 2:25 sq., Php 4:18), who was connected with Philippi. The name was common.—ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. This is probably the correct reading; Epaphras is a minister to the Colossians on Paul’s behalf, since he has accomplished a task which belonged to Paul’s sphere as the Apostle of the Gentiles. The reading ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν may be taken in two ways, either (preferably) that he was a minister of Christ for the sake of the Colossians, in which case we should probably have had ὑμῖν or ἐν ὑμῖν or simply ὑμῶν; or that he ministered to Paul as the representative of the Colossians, for which we should have expected “my minister” instead of “minister of Christ”.7. as ye also learned] In the word “as” he refers to the “truth” just spoken of (Lightfoot). So, and not otherwise, had Epaphras phrased his message.

The word rendered “also” should certainly be omitted, on documentary evidence. As it stands, it simply emphasizes the fact; “as you actually learned from Epaphras.” But its omission leaves the English reader less likely to misunderstand the sentence, as if it implied some other informant of the Colossians, besides Epaphras.

Epaphras] Named also below, Colossians 4:12, and Philemon 1:23. The name is an abbreviation of Epaphroditus, and it has been guessed that the Epaphroditus of Php 2:25; Php 4:18, and this Epaphras, are the same person. But both name-forms were very common at the time; and nothing but the name tends to an identification in this case, unless indeed the warm and devoted Christian character indicated in both Philippians 2 and Colossians 4 does so. And this happily was not so rare in the Church as to make an argument.

From the notices in this Epistle and in Philemon we gather that he was a Colossian by birth, or at least by abode; that he had been the first, or at least chief, evangelist of Colossæ (see further, Introd., p. 21), and that he was now at Rome, arrived from Asia, and was St Paul’s “fellow-prisoner of war;” i.e. either actually imprisoned with him on some charge connected with the Gospel, or so incessantly with him in his captivity as practically to share it. The latter is more probable.—For his character, see further, on Colossians 4:12.—Tradition makes Epaphras first bishop of Colossæ, and a martyr there.

fellowservant] Strictly, fellow-bondservant, fellow-slave. He uses the word again, of Tychicus, Colossians 4:7, and not elsewhere. It occurs Revelation 6:11; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9; and, of non-spiritual servitude, Matthew 18:28-33; Matthew 24:49.—To the Christian, in a life of humble surrender to his Lord, the fact of his own holy bondservice is inexpressibly dear; and so the thought of his association in it with others is an endearing and uniting thought.

for you] Another reading is for us, on our behalf (so R.V.). For this there is weighty documentary evidence, though it cannot be called overwhelming. It is however supported internally by the evidence in the context that Epaphras was, so to speak, vice-evangelist “for” St Paul at Colossæ.

minister] Greek, diâconos; so Ephesians 6:21, and below, Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25, Colossians 4:7. The word essentially implies activity and subordination. In Php 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-12; the word denotes holders of a subordinate and active office in the organized Christian ministry (and cp. Romans 16:1). See our notes on Php 1:1, and Appendix C. to that Epistle. But such a reference here is unlikely, if only because of the wording, “diaconos of Christ.” Epaphras, whatever his church-office, was the loving worker under Christ for Paul and Colossæ. For such a use of the word cp. John 12:26; 1 Corinthians 3:5 (a close parallel); 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:2.—The Latin Versions render, minister.Colossians 1:7. Καθὼς, even as) Paul thus confirms and approves the doctrine of Epaphras, which perhaps some had despised. It was Paul’s duty to write rather than Epaphras.—ἡμῶν, our) Paul and Timothy.—ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν) for you, on your account.—ἀγάπην ἑν Πνεύματι, love in the Spirit) Love, the fruit of the Spirit; spiritual love; comp. Colossians 1:9, at the end.Verse 7. - As ye learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant; literally, bondman (Ephesians 4:20; 2 Timothy 3:14). Only in Colossians 4:7 does the epithet "fellow-bondman" appear again in St. Paul (the Revisers in these two places omit their marginal "bondservant"). The dominant thought of Christ Jesus "the Lord" (Colossians 2:6; Colossians 3:22-4:1) possibly dictates this expression. That the Colossians had received the gospel in this way from Epaphras, a disciple of St. Paul, was a striking proof of its fruitfulness, and a further cause for thanksgiving on his own part. Who is a faithful minister of Christ on our (or, your) behalf (Colossians 4:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 8:22; Philippians 2:22). He puts his seal upon the ministry of Epaphras, and vindicates it against all questioning at home. Textual evidence for "on our" or "your behalf" is pretty evenly balanced: most older Greek copies read the first person, while the ancient versions generally adopted the second; and the critical editors are similarly divided. The Revisers, with Tregelles, Alford, Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort, prefer "our," which gives a finer and more fitting sense. It was as St. Paul's representative that Epaphras had ministered in Colossae, and to him he now reported his success; and this justified the apostle in claiming the Colossians as his own charge, and in writing to them in the terms of this letter (Colossians 2:1, 2, 5-7: comp. Romans 15:20; 2 Corinthians 10:13-16). "Minister" (διάκονος, deacon, in its official sense found in St. Paul first in Philippians 1:1, then in 1 Timothy) is to be distinguished from the "servant" (δοῦλος, slave) of the last clause, and from "assistant" (ὑπηρέτης: 1 Corinthians 4:1; Acts 13:5; Acts 26:16), and "attendant" (θεράπων: Hebrews 3:5); see Trench's 'Synonyms of the New Testament.' It is a favourite word of St. Paul's, and points to the service rendered, while other terms indicate the status of the servant. Fellow-servant

Used by Paul only here and Colossians 4:7.

Minister (διάκονος)

See on Matthew 20:26; see on Mark 9:35.

For you (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν)

Read ἡμῶν, us as Rev., on our behalf: as Paul's representative.

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