“This Good News is present with you now. It is producing results and spreading all over the world as it did among you from the first day you heard it. At that time you came to know what God’s kindness truly means. You learned about this Good News from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant. He is taking your place here as a trustworthy deacon for Christ and has told us about the love that the Spirit has given you” (Colossians 1:6-8 GW).
In Acts chapter seven we find the account of a man named Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Following Stephen’s death, Acts 8:1 goes on to tell us, “…That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria” (GNT).
As the members of the Christian community departed for the surrounding regions, the message of the gospel began to spread beyond the boundaries of first-century Jerusalem to the neighboring towns and villages. When coupled with the missionary efforts of the Apostle Paul and others, the Good News of salvation through faith in Christ eventually began to reach the far-flung borders of the Roman Empire and beyond.
Once person who was undoubtedly influenced by these evangelistic efforts was a man named Epaphras. As mentioned earlier, it seems that Epaphras came to Christ under Paul’s ministry (perhaps during one of Paul’s earlier visits to the nearby town of Ephesus). It was his effort to spread the gospel among the citizens of Colossae that apparently led to the beginning of the church in that area based on the passage quoted above.
Some time later it appears that Epaphras traveled to Rome to meet with Paul and discuss the status of the Colossian church. Judging from the content of the book of Colossians, we can say that one topic of discussion involved several inaccurate teachings that involved the person and work of Christ. However, Paul did receive an excellent report in one respect: “…(Epaphras) is the one who has told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you” (TLB).
This distinguishing characteristic of the Colossian church serves to remind us of the qualities that identify genuine love…
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT).