Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: aspazetai (3SPMI) humas Epaphras o ex humon, doulos Christou [Iesou], pantote agonizomenos (PMPMSN) huper humon en tais proseuchais, hina stathete (2PAPS) teleioi kai peplerophoremenoi (RPPMPN) en panti thelemati tou theou
Amplified: Epaphras, who is one of yourselves, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. [He is] always striving for you earnestly in his prayers, [pleading] that you may [as persons of ripe character and clear conviction] stand firm and mature [in spiritual growth], convinced and fully assured in everything willed by God. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NIV: Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (NIV - IBS)
Phillips: Epaphras, another member of your Church, and a real servant of Christ, sends his greeting. He works hard for you even here, for he prays constantly and earnestly for you, that you may become mature Christians, and may fulfil God's will for you. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: There greets you Epaphras, the one who is one of your number, a bondslave of Christ Jesus, always contending on your behalf in his prayers, to the effect that you may stand fast, spiritually mature ones, and those who have been brought to the place of full assurance in everything willed by God (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: Salute you doth Epaphras, who is of you, a servant of Christ, always striving for you in the prayers, that ye may stand perfect and made full in all the will of God
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.
Look at Paul's adjectives to describe this Man of God
D. Edmond Hiebert has an excellent character study on Epaphras a man of prayer…
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(note) 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 Col 1:7 he is commended as “a faithful minister of Christ,” while in Col 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 (Php 1:1-note). 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” (doulos) 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 master. Hendriksen (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. NT Commentary Set. Baker Book) 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,
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 God-used life…
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).
Definite. 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) (See painting of Christ's agonia at Gethsemane and modern day Gethsemane). 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)
A 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)
Bondservant (1401) (doulos) (Click word study of doulos, or 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 slaves.
Doulos 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!
This word 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 possession (cf 1Cor 6:20, Acts 20:28, Gal 3:13, see note Hebrews 9:12, see note 1 Peter 1:18, Rev 5:9, see note Titus 2:14, see note 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
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.
Greetings (782) (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.
ALWAYS LABORING EARNESTLY FOR (on behalf of you) YOU IN HIS PRAYERS: pantote agonizomenos (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
Always (3842) (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" (1Thess 5:17-note). Epaphras is a perfect example of one who has devoted himself to prayer (Col 4:2-note) and stood ever ready to pray as the need arose. And remember that praying in one of our "weapons" in spiritual warfare (our "wartime walkie-talkie) - "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." (Eph 6:18-note)
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 (Mt 6:9-note), through the Son (in His name, John 14:13-14), in the power of the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:20-note, Ro 8:26-27-note).
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 Rome…
Laboring (75) (agonizomai from agon = conflict or the place of assembly for the athletic contests and then a reference to the contests which were held there) 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!
Agonizomai 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.
This 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.
How 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 (Lk 22:44 = "And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.). The term clearly portrays the difficulty of effective intercessory prayer.
Alexander Maclaren - "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 (Da 10:2-3-note). 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. (See Topic - Prayer)
S Lewis Johnson comments on the agonizing aspect of Epaphras' prayer noting first that
Second, Epaphras is a man after Paul’s own make-up, for it is the apostle who uses the same word and noun to describe his own ministry for the Gentiles and for the Colossians (cf. Col 1:29-note, “striving”; Col 2:1-note, “conflict”). Here is genuine “apostolic succession!”
Third, Epaphras and Paul, too, are simply following in the footsteps of the Lord (cp 1Cor 11:1, 1John 2:6-note, 1Pe 2:21-note). Luke, in describing the Gethsemane experience of the Lord, pictures Him as “being in an agony” (cf. Lk 22:44). The word is the noun agōnia (Ed: Root = agon). The root is used only by Paul and Luke in the New Testament, and the two men are together here (Ed: Correction - John 18:36 uses agonizomai for "fighting" and agon by the writer of Hebrews 12:1-note for "race"). Is it possible that they saw a resemblance between the agony of Gethsemane’s great Figure and the wrestling of His servant? (See painting of Christ's agonia at Gethsemane and modern day Gethsemane) At any rate, one can hardly doubt that this struggle in prayer is one of the great needs of the Christian church today.
Amid all its organizing there ought to be more agonizing!
I will never forget the fervent exhortation given New College students in Edinburgh by Professor James S. Stewart a few years ago:
One may have read all of Bultmann, but apart from a disciplined devotional life, that is worth absolutely nothing. In fact, that cannot be emphasized too strongly. All the Ph.D.’s will not help a bit. If we do not see in New College that this is more important than good marks and a good degree, we have learned nothing.
The purpose of the evangelist’s prayer which watered the seed he had sown himself is that the Colossians may stand “perfect and complete in all the will of God.” The meaning of the perfect participle peplērophorēmenoi (AV, “complete”) is disputed. The word may mean to fulfill (cf. Luke 1:1; 2Ti 4:5-note), to persuade fully, convince (cf. Ro 4:21-note; Ro 14:5-note), and to fill (cf. Ro 15:13-note). The use of convinced makes excellent sense. Epaphras’ concern was that the Colossians have a firm persuasion concerning the truth in the face of the doctrinal and practical errors fostered by the gnostic Judaizers as described in the earlier part of the letter.
For you (huper) means on behalf of or as your substitute (cp "standing in the gap!" cp Ezek 22:30) 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.
Prayers (4335) (proseuche 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. The prefix "pros" would convey the sense of being immediately before God and hence has an element of adoration, devotion, and worship.
Proseuche is the 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.
Lawrence Richards writes that proseuche (and the verb form Proseuchomai) - "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 specific." (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
F B Meyer writes that…
J Oswald Sanders wrote that…
Leonard 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…
Bishop J C Ryle - 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.) (Mark 6 Commentary - J. C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels) (Bolding added)
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."
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.
THAT YOU MAY STAND PERFECT: hina stathête (2PAAS) teleioi: (Ro 15:14)
That (hina) - Always take a moment to pause and ponder (learn to query or interrogate the text, e.g., what is the purpose?, etc) this strategic term of purpose or result - (other terms of purpose include - so that, in order that, as a result) as you will often gain insights into the meaning of the passage you are studying.
Perfect (5046) (teleios from telos = an end, a purpose, an aim, a goal) means complete, mature, fully developed, full grown, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, in good working order.
Notice the uses below in the Septuagint (Lxx) where teleios is used several times to describe a heart that is wholly devoted (Heb = shalem). This begs the question beloved "Is my heart teleios? Would God describe me as wholly devoted to Him? Or have become like Solomon, who began "wholly devoted" but ended his race not "wholly devoted?" In 1 Chronicles 25:8 teleios describes a teacher.
Teleios 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.
Friberg summary - complete, perfect; (1) with its chief component as totality, as opposed to partial or limited; (a) of things in full measure, undivided, complete, entire (Ro 12.2); substantivally to. teleion = the finish, completeness (1Co 13.10); comparative teleioteros, tera on = more complete or perfect (Heb 9.11); (b) of persons complete, perfect (Mt 5.48; 19.21); (2) with its chief component being full development as opposed to immaturity; (a) of persons full grown, mature (1Co 14.20); substantivally oi` teleioi = adults, mature persons; used of spiritually mature persons (1Co 2.6); (b) of things fully developed, complete (Jas 1.4; 1Jn 4.18); (3) with its chief component being full preparation or readiness = complete, perfect (Col 1.28; Jas 3.2). In all its meanings teleios carries the component of a purpose that has been achieved. (So think of that in the context of Epaphras' prayer - he is praying with the end desire that each believer grow into and attain the purpose for which he was created and then redeemed! My how we need to pray more fervently for one another, specifically praying for spiritual maturity to be attained, the very purpose for which Paul labored, striving according to God's power [Spirit] Who mightily worked within him! Col 1:29 where Col 1:28 uses teleios to describe Paul's goal for those he was discipling - spiritual maturity!)
Teleios is used 19x in 17v. NAS = complete, 2; mature, 4; more perfect, 1; perfect, 12. The KJV has one use translated "of full age".
Teleios - 15v in the Septuagint (Lxx) -
Earlier Paul after declaring the glorious truth to the Colossians that Christ was now in them (Col 1:27) and that He Alone was their Hope (absolute assurance of future good) of glory went on to emphasize that because of this great truth (for it to become the disciples experiential realization so to speak)…
As discussed more fully below, teleios does not connote moral or spiritual perfection or sinlessness, but rather refers to that which is fully developed, spiritually mature.
Teleios has at least three shades of meaning:
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.
Richards 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…
Barclay explaining Jesus' instruction in Mt 5:48 (note) that we are to be perfect (teleios) writes that…
Richards in his discussion of "maturity" writes that…
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…
John H. Jowett said “Praying that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”
Warren Wiersbe - 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 peplerophoremenoi (RPPMPN)
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 perfect tense which conveys the idea of lasting assurance or permanence of the assurance.
Epaphras’ 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 Col 2:8)
IN ALL THE WILL OF GOD: en panti thelemati tou Theou:
Wuest translates this last section = "those who have been brought to the place of full assurance in everything willed by God". (Wuest, 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 Colossian saints?
Warren Wiersbe gives an excellent answer writing that…
Here is Andrew Bonar's Sermon entitled "Epaphras"…
Note that Epaphras is also described in the next verse. Click Colossians 4:13.