The New Testament only mentions the man Epaphras three times, but his role in its creation is significant. Not only was he a fellow prisoner with Paul (Philemon 23), but he also founded the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:7), which is where we get Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul makes a curious statement about Epaphras in that letter. He says that Epaphras “struggles” in his prayers on behalf of the Colossian Christians, so that they will reach maturity and stand confidently in the will of God (Colossians 4:12). Epaphras prayed for their maturity. That is, he prayed for their spiritual growth. His desire for the Christians at the church he founded was such that he “struggled” in prayer. And it was his own maturity that advanced the Kingdom of God in ways that we cannot fathom, and that has spanned generations because he stood confidently in God’s will by founding that church. His prayers show that he sought that same potential in the church that sprang from his own mature obedience.
This is not an uncommon theme in the New Testament. Just look at Paul’s expectation in Ephesians 4:15 that we are to grow or mature in every way to become more like Christ. It’s likely that Paul means this both as an individual statement, as well as a collective one. For instance, he expected that each individual Ephesian would grow to become more like Christ. He also expected that the family of Christians at Ephesus would grow to become more functional as Christ’s body in that area (Ephesians 4:16).
All throughout the New Testament you will find an expectation of growth. Consider how the writer of Hebrews admonishes his fellow Christians for a lack of growth. He expected to see them as teachers, but found them more like children who needed to be taught again (Hebrews 5:12-14). The writer of Hebrews was disappointed in the progress he found among his brethren. But contrast that with Paul’s statement on progress to Timothy. Paul is instructing Timothy on how to shepherd his fellow Christians, and he tells him to immerse himself in the reading of scripture, teaching, and of not neglecting the gift he had been given. He tells him to do this so that everyone may see his progress.
Every Christian has been given some kind of gift, and there is an expectation on the part of God that every Christian grow toward maturity, and to be more like Christ in the use of that gift. How hae you progressed in the use of yours?