Paul’s “Fellows” (Col.1 and 4)

Fellow Servant, Fellow Prisoner, Fellow Worker

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he mentions three positions: servant, prisoner, and worker.

He attaches fellow to the beginning of each of these three positions to show that he and those whom he fellows with are under the same master.

Please notice that these fellow terms are used in the King James Version as compound words. You will also see that usage in the following.

Fellowservant

The fellowservants Paul mentions in particular are Epaphras and Tychicus.

These men were used as messengers of the Lord declaring the news that was relayed between Paul and the Colossian brethren. They were both described by Paul as faithful ministers to those whom they served. (Col. 1:7, 4:7)

The term fellowservant is also used in Revelation 19:10 and in Revelation 22:9 indicating messengers who were also serving Christ.

Fellowprisoner

The fellowprisoner Paul mentions in particular is a man named Aristarchus. This would signify that even though Aristarchus and Paul were both prisoners of Christ, they were also prisoners of Rome and held within the same structure. (Col. 4:10)

Epaphras, who is not mentioned in this particular letter as a fellowprisoner, was noted by Paul to be a fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus in Paul’s letter to Philemon.

Although not mentioned in his letter to the Colossians, Paul does mention two other men as fellowprisoners in his letter to the Romans (16:7).

These men’s names are Andronicus and Junia. They were Jewish men who were saved before Paul and were noted as being greatly loved by the apostles.

Fellowworker

The fellowworkers that are mentioned in particular are Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Marcus, and Jesus (called Justus). Marcus is elseward called John Mark. These men were commended for having been a comfort to Paul. (Col. 4:7-11)

Luke the physician and Demas are mentioned in verse 14. Although not included in the above verses, these men are mentioned as fellowlaborers in Paul’s letter to Philemon (vs. 24). The terms fellowworker and fellowlaborer are both derived from the same Greek word meaning co-laborers.

These men were possibly the only men that were engaged with Paul in the labor of the gospel at the time of his writing the last chapter of this letter.


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The Character of Epaphras: “The Servant of Christ”

In The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians we read of a man named Epaphras. This man had traveled by unknown means to the city of Rome from the city of Colosse.

By stating unknown we are recognizing the fact that people in those days either walked or traveled by caravan long distances. However, we do not specifically know why Epaphras came to Rome. He could have come on business, been brought by Roman request, or have come particularly to seek out the apostle Paul for wisdom and direction.

Whatever his reason for coming to the capital of the empire, he did wind up face to face with the apostle during the time of Paul’s confinement.

We learn several things about Epaphras during this particular period as stated in the epistle.

A Saved Man

In Colossians 1:7 and 4:12-13 we learn that Epaphras was a saved man who served Christ.

His position in Colosse and the surrounding cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis was as a minister. Whether that was as the pastor of a church body or as a traveling evangelist or circuit preacher is of little consequence. He was definitely ministering and evangelizing the area.

A Faithful Man

The above verses also tell us that Epaphras was faithful.

Not only was he faithful to Christ, but he was faithful to those to whom he ministered. He spoke highly about the positive traits of the church.

Although by reading the Scriptures we can infer that he also spoke of conditions concerning the church. Those were spoken of only because of Epaphras’ desire for help in ministering and establishing the saints in their personal walk with the Lord.

A Positive Man

His conversation was as any minister’s should be.

He spoke of the love shown by the Colossians toward each other, their faithfulness to Jesus Christ, their reception of the gospel, and the fruit that was being displayed by the church. He also spoke highly of their love of spiritual things (Col. 1:4-8; 2:5). In no way was he negative of the members of the body of Christ where he served.

A Praying Man

We also see that Epaphras was a prayer warrior (Col. 4:12-13).

Scripture tells us that he was “always labouring fervently” in prayers. His prayers were not general; they were specific requests to God.  Those requests manifest to us his desire to see the church “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”

His burden is further shown by his great zeal.

It is refreshing to hear a minister speak excitedly about his congregants and the growth that is being experienced by the individual members of the body.

Epaphras’s focus was on what was right about the church.

His concerns focused on what would help the church go further in their walk with Christ. He wasted no time in gleaning from Paul instruction that would help him further his ministry to these people.

A Standing Man

Epaphras is also mentioned in Philemon 23.  Here he is described as being a “fellowprisoner.”

Was he arrested while visiting the city, arrested while ministering in Colosse and then brought forcefully to Rome, or arrested later and brought back to Rome, we do not know. We only know his stand for Christ led to his imprisonment of some sort.

The mention of his name in Paul’s letter to Philemon lets us know that Epaphras remained faithful in spite of difficult circumstances.

Faithfulness is a character trait that each of us should covet especially in these times of uncertainly. Faithfulness, service, zeal, and prayerfulness should be the description of every saint’s character.