“and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12-13).
Although we know quite a bit regarding the person named Mark who was mentioned in the preceding verse, nothing much is known about “Jesus who is called Justus.” What little we do know can be ascertained from his name, for “Jesus” is a distinctly Jewish identifier while “Justus” is the name by which he would have been known among the Gentile populace.
Perhaps this man preferred to be known as Justus in respect and recognition of Christ. In any event, his Jewish heritage served as a source of comfort to Paul the Apostle for as one commentary notes, “Not many of Paul’s Jewish friends were sympathetic to his mission to the Gentiles.” (1)
Another source offers an excellent biographical sketch of Epaphras, the next person mentioned in this passage…
“Epaphras is the only person mentioned in Paul’s final comments who is also named elsewhere in this letter. Both in 1:7 and 4:12, Paul identifies him as a Christian servant/minister. It seems clear that Epaphras has ministered at Colosse (see vv. 9, 12, which describe him and Onesimus as one of you). The context also suggests that he is not one of the Jews among [his] fellow workers (v. 11); therefore, he may have been a Gentile.
More important is the description of Epaphras’s ministry on behalf of the Colossians and those at Laodicea and Hierapolis (v. 13). Though absent from them, he still is concerned for them. He is working hard (v. 13) in praying for them. The Greek word translated wrestling (agonizomenos) is the same verb Paul uses to describe his own ministry (1:29; 2:1).
Epaphras’s ministry to these congregations was twofold. While present with them, he offered ‘God’s grace in all its truth’ (1:6-7). Now absent from them, he wrestles in prayer on their behalf” (2)
The cities of Laodicea and Heiropolis were located near Colossae and together, they served a large portion of that region. Paul clearly shared Epaphras’ concern for these fellowships, and judging from what we will go on to read in the book of Revelation, their drive to struggle in prayer for these congregations was well-founded.
(1) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2467). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
(2) McCown, Wayne. “C. Personal Examples of Servanthood (4:2-15)” In Asbury Bible Commentary. 1092. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1992.