Yesterday we thought briefly about some of Paul’s companions that he mentions in this section of Colossians. Each of them did something significant for the Lord. Can we say the same about the remaining names in his list? Let us see who they are.
Epaphras is described as a slave of Christ (v. 12). In the accompanying letter to Philemon, Paul says that Epaphras is a fellow-prisoner. Yet although his body was confined by the civil authority, his heart was lovingly enslaved to Jesus Christ. Because this was the case, even his own troubles could not diminish the loyalty he had to the interests of Jesus concerning the Colossians. He wanted them to make progress in the faith, and therefore he wrestled with God about it. His prayer life was persistent, his vision extended to three communities (Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis), and his aim was that his friends would be unwavering, developing Christians. Prayer warriors cannot forget that Christian growth depends on God and will therefore pray earnestly about it.
The next individual Paul mentions is Luke (v. 14), whom he calls the beloved physician. This description is a reminder that Paul had a range of illnesses that needed ongoing care. It is a marvellous insight into the heart of Luke that he was willing to sacrifice his own career in order to help Paul. Luke put the progress of the kingdom first. It is likely that at this time he was completing the two books he contributed to the New Testament – the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. It is an interesting thought that there in the place of confinement in Rome one could meet the authors of three-quarters of the New Testament (Mark, Luke and Paul).
Luke is worth a study in himself. He hints in the Book of Acts that he waited behind at Philippi after Paul and Silas left, and probably pastored the church there (note the pronouns in the account of what happened in Philippi). Thereafter he re-joined Paul and went with him to Jerusalem, and accompanied him to Rome after he was arrested. When Paul writes his final letter (2 Timothy), as he awaits implementation of the death sentence, he reveals that ‘only Luke is with me’ (2 Tim. 4:11). Luke was obviously loyal to his brother, Paul.
The other person that Paul mentions is Demas. He is described by Paul as a fellow-worker in his letter to Philemon, but in his final letter (2 Timothy), Paul says of Demas that ‘because he loved this world, [he] has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica’ (2 Tim. 4:10). Demas is a warning that we have to persevere. Why did he abandon Paul? After all, he had been willing to help the apostle during his first imprisonment, so it cannot be Paul’s circumstances that were the reason. The actual cause was a change in the object of Demas’ affections. Instead of loving Christ, he began to love what could be enjoyed in this present world. Perhaps Thessalonica was his home town and he literally went back to the world he had known before his profession. Whatever the reasons for him going there, he did not go there as a follower of Jesus.