For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Colossians 4:13
Paul, still speaking of Epaphras, says, “For I bear him witness.” He is testifying to the character of Epaphras, having personally come to know him and to learn of that which motivated him and consumed his thoughts. Paul’s witness was “that he has a great zeal for you.”
This is the only time that he uses this word in his letters. It gives the sense of labor, but it is a labor of pain, as if struggling to makes end’s meet in the fields, but ending up each day in poverty. The word is used by John three times in Revelation where it clearly signifies physical pain. Epaphras was willing to expend himself in concern for his beloved church in Colossae, “and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Heirapolis.”
Colossae and both of these other cities were in Phrygia. It is known that Laodicea had a church (Colossians 4:15, 16 & Revelation 1:11 & 3:14), but nothing more is said of Heirapolis in Scripture. Whether there was a church there, or just a group of believers who traveled to another church is not known. Vincent’s word studies gives a brief description of these locations –
“The cities are named in geographical order. Laodicaea and Hierapolis faced each other on the north and south sides of the Lycus valley, about six miles apart. Colossae was ten or twelve miles farther up the stream. Hierapolis owed its celebrity to its warm mineral springs, its baths, and its trade in dyed wools. It was a center of the worship of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, whose rites were administered by mutilated priests known as Galli, and of other rites representing different oriental cults. Hence the name Hierapolis or sacred city.”
Life application: Many people are willing to expend themselves in great labor for something. What is it that you would be willing to give your greatest exertions for? There are things which are temporary and futile, and there are things which have true meaning and which will earn eternal rewards. How shallow we can be when exerting our energies for that which has no true and lasting value. Let us redirect, and let us be willing to expend ourselves in a great way for others, and especially for the building of of the church.
Almighty and most wonderful Lord God! How good it is to be in your presence and to know that You are always with us in our times of need. Help us, in return, to be willing to expend ourselves for the things that are pleasing to You. May we bear in our hearts a desire to share Christ, help the church in its mission, and tirelessly work to bring Your glory to the hearts of others. May we not fritter away our few hours each day on that which is temporary and vain. Be with us in this, O Lord, Amen.