Epaphras and Luke

Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house” (Col. 4:14–15).

- Colossians 4:12-15

Some of the most important information that we possess about the early church comes from the closing greetings of the Pauline epistles, and Paul’s letter to the Colossians is no exception in this regard. It is Colossians 4:14, for example, that tells us specifically that Luke, the author of the third gospel, was a physician. Knowing Luke’s vocation is one of the facts that helps scholars come to the conclusion that Luke did in fact author the gospel that bears his name, for many commentators have pointed out the prevalence of medical vocabulary in Luke and the book of Acts, indicating that the person who wrote this portion of Scripture was likely a practicing doctor. Luke was also a Gentile and therefore probably the sole biblical author who was not from a Jewish background. Since Luke and Acts represent about one fourth of the total length of the New Testament, Luke’s contribution to sacred Scripture is by no means insignificant. More information on Luke’s activity on Paul’s missionary journeys can be found in the so-called “‘we’ sections” of the book of Acts, places where Luke indicates his presence with Paul through his use of the first-person plural pronoun in the narrative (Acts 16:8–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–28:16).

Epaphras, the evangelist-pastor who first brought the gospel to Colossae, is mentioned also in today’s passage as one who sent his greetings to the Colossian church when Paul wrote his epistle to the believers in that city (Col. 4:12–13; see 1:3–8). Colossians 4:13 mentions his hard work in Laodicea and Hierapolis, two cities that were located near Colossae. This tells us that Epaphras was something of a regional evangelist in that part of Asia Minor. Even though Epaphras was not present with the church at Colossae when Paul wrote, he continued to struggle or strive on behalf of the Colossian believers in his prayers. This would have been encouraging to the Colossians, reminding them of how much they prospered on account of the prayers of other believers, especially their shepherds. John Calvin notes how Paul admonished “the Colossians not to look upon the prayers of their pastor as useless, but, on the contrary, to reckon that they would afford them no small assistance.” Today, the prayers of our pastors and elders should be among the things that we treasure the most, for their labors on their knees do more good for us than we can imagine.

Coram Deo

We should never despise the work of our pastors and elders in prayer, for it is this task to which they are called (Acts 6:1–7), and it is necessary for the building up of our churches. Ordained elders in the church should be focused on prayer, praying both at home for their sheep and attending any special prayer meetings that are called. Those who are not ordained elders should take time to thank their leaders for praying on their behalf.

Passages for Further Study

Ezra 10:1
Numbers 21:4–9
Luke 22:31–32
2 Timothy 1:3

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