EPAPHRAS (ĕp'a-frăs, Gr. Epaphras). A contraction of Epaphroditus, but not the same NT character. He was Paul’s “dear fellow servant” and minister to the church at Colosse, perhaps its founder (Col.1.7). He brought to Paul a report of their state (Col.1.4, Col.1.8) and sent back greetings to them from Rome (Col.4.12). Commended by Paul for his ministry of intercession, he desired their perfect and complete stand in all the will of God—true pastoral concern that extended to other churches in the Lycus River Valley also (Col.4.13). Paul also called him “my fellow prisoner.” This may mean that he voluntarily shared the apostle’s imprisonment, or he may have been apprehended for his zeal in the gospel.
Epaphras may have been Paul’s convert. As Paul’s representative he had evangelized Colossae (Col 1:7 RSV) and the neighboring towns of Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:12, 13) during Paul’s Ephesian ministry (Acts 19:10). His visit to Paul in Rome and his report concerning conditions in the churches of the Lycus Valley caused Paul to write Colossians (Col 1:7-9).
Paul’s high esteem for Epaphras is seen in the terms he applies to him, “our beloved fellow servant,” “a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf” (Col 1:7), “a servant of Christ Jesus” (4:12), and “my fellow prisoner” (Philem 23). Because the last term is applied to Aristarchus (Col 4:10), the probable meaning is that Epaphras and Aristarchus alternated in voluntarily sharing Paul’s imprisonment.
The unique distinction of Epaphras is Paul’s praise of him for his fervent intercession for the churches in the Lycus Valley (Col 4:12, 13).
Commentaries on Colossians in loc. H. S. Seekings, The Men of the Pauline Circle (1914), 147-153; H. C. Lees, St. Paul’s Friends (1918), 146-159; D. E. Hiebert, Working By Prayer (1953), 67-82; H. Lockyer, All the Men of the Bible (1958), 110, 111.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A contracted form of Epaphroditus. He must not, however, be confounded with the messenger of the Philippian community. He was with Paul during a part of his 1st Roman imprisonment, joining in Paul’s greetings to Philemon (Phm 1:23). Epaphras was the missionary by whose instrumentality the Colossians had been converted to Christianity (Col 1:7), and probably the other churches of the Lycus had been founded by him. In sending his salutation to the Colossians Paul testified, "He hath much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis" (Col 4:13). Epaphras had brought to Paul good news of the progress of the gospel, of their "faith in Christ Jesus" and of their love toward all the saints (Col 1:4). Paul’s regard for him is shown by his designating him "our beloved fellow-servant," "a faithful minister of Christ" (Col 1:7), and "a bondservant of Christ Jesus" (Col 4:12 margin) . The last designation Paul uses several times of himself, but only once of another besides Epaphras (Php 1:1).