The Central Point: Let Epaphras Be Your Example (1:7-8)
A third "just as" clause (omitted by the NIV) issues in the prayer's vertex, where Paul's pivotal point is made (see the discussion of chiasmus, above): the fruit proper to the hearing and understanding of the gospel is exemplified by the evangelist Epaphras (see "The Crisis at Colosse" in the introduction). In another sense, Paul's pastoral concern provides his readers with a personal illustration of his earlier triad: Epaphras is faith, love and hope in action. Thus, his faith in Christ Jesus (1:4) is embodied in his work as a faithful minister of Christ; his love for all the saints (1:4) is embodied in his support of Paul and ministry to the Colossians (Lohse 1976:23; compare Rom 5:5; 15:30; Gal 5:22); finally, his ministry, through which the Colossians learned the good news of God's grace, has grounded them in their hope that is stored up . . . in heaven (1:5). Epaphras, then, is the exemplary mediator of the message. He illustrates what Paul insists upon: that the good news about God's salvation in Christ must be proclaimed.
I am not at all convinced of the value of "church growth" strategies that encourage church planting without evangelism; nor am I convinced of the value of expository preaching that fails to call the congregation to conversion and spiritual renewal by the simple preaching of the gospel. Even mature believers must be reminded with some regularity of the truth that calls people to Christ. Central to Paul's definition of the church is its missionary activity: we must be a people of the gospel. Paul contends that the preaching of the gospel yields a healthy harvest in the congregation's spiritual life. The ministry of evangelism is prudent not only because it illumines the truth about Christ and leads people into Christ, but also because there, in Christ, lives and relationships are transformed. The example of Epaphras reminds believers that the ministry of evangelism can revitalize the whole church, making it stronger and even more productive for the Lord.
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