Saturday, 28 July 2018
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, Philemon 1:23
Paul now begins his final words to Philemon. He starts with greetings from five individuals. The first is found in this verse, Epaphras. This individual is mentioned in Colossians 1:7 & 4:12. In Colossians, he is called by Paul, “our dear fellow servant.” He is also noted there as a being from Colossae and “a bondservant of Christ.” Some tie him in with Epaphroditus who was seen in the letter to the Philippians. Epaphras is merely a shortened form of the same name, and so it is possible. However, as he is from Colossae, this is unlikely because Epaphroditus was elsewhere said to be from Philippi.
Here, Paul calls him, “my fellow prisoner.” This would be the reason for naming him first. As both were in prison, it would show a special bond existed. However, it is debated as to whether his bondage was literal or spiritual. It could be that he voluntarily shared in Paul’s confinement in order to assist him. Or, it could be that he was temporarily confined because his relations with Paul brought him under suspicion of the empire.
Whatever is specifically meant by the term, he is a fellow prisoner “in Christ Jesus.” The meaning of this is obvious. Regardless of his status as a prisoner, it is because of his faith in Christ that he is in this state. There with Paul, he also sends his greetings on to Philemon.
Life application: Paul was in prison, others with Paul were made prisoners, and countless other souls in Christian history have been imprisoned (and worse) for their faith. If such treatment comes upon us in the future, we need to understand that there is no shame in this. It is better to be in chains as a Christian than it is to deny Christ and walk about in earthly freedom.
Lord God, it’s difficult to think of how many people have been willing to give up their freedom, and even give up their lives, for the exalted name of Jesus. And yet these countless souls did just that. They realized that the glory ahead far outweighs any temporary gain in this fallen world. Should such a time come in our own lives, help us to be willing to follow in that same mindset. Give us strength in this, O God. Amen.