Dr. Luke and Mr. Epaphras
October 13th, 1957 @ 7:30 PM
DR. LUKE AND MR. EPAPHRAS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-13-57 7:30 p.m.
Now, we read together the last chapter of Colossians, the fourth chapter of Colossians. This coming Lord’s Day morning, we shall begin with the letters to Thessalonica. This will close our preaching through the Book of Colossians. There’ll be some of these names that you may have difficulty with. Just make a stab at it and go on. It’s all right. The fourth chapter of Colossians. Now, do we have it? Your neighbor doesn’t have his Bible, share it with him; and let’s read it together. Colossians, the fourth chapter; all right, we ready?
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds,
That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord:
Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate and comfort your hearts,
With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him),
And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
For I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.
Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church which is in his house.
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
And say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it."
The salutation by the hand of me–Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
That’s right. Oh, can you hear yourself read up here? It is absolutely one of the most joyful experiences of my life hearing you read the Word of God.
Now, he dictated this letter as he did all of them. He wrote through an amanuensis, but he said: "There is a sign in every one of my letters" [2 Thessalonians 3:17]. He picked up the pen at the end, and he wrote a salutation, a benediction, with his own hand [Colossians 4:18]. Now, look at the one that he wrote here, that last verse, the eighteenth verse. After he had dictated all the letter through the seventeenth, then he closes: "The salutation by the hand of me–Paul." Then he puts in there: "Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen" [Colossians 4:18].
Now I can tell you why I think he wrote that in there. When he picked up the pen, heretofore he had written through a stenographer. When he picked up the pen to write the salutation, as his hand moved across the paper – the salutation, "By the hand of me– Paul" [Colossians 4:18] – the chain moved across the paper with him, and it called fresh attention to it; and he wrote that: "Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen" [Colossians 4:18]. Can’t you see that?
Now, in these last chapters of several of Paul’s epistles – almost all of them – they are filled with personal references and salutations and greetings [1 Corinthians 16:10-20; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Philippians 4:2-3, 21-22; Colossians 4:7-18; 2 Timothy 4:9-22; Titus 3:12-15; Philemon 1:1-2, 23-24]. Do you remember the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Romans [Romans 16:1-16, 21-23], how many, many, many, many, many – an astounding number – of brethren and sisters that he greets personally?
Now, he does so here [Colossians 4:7-18]. In the seventh verse is Tychicus who carries these letters. In the ninth verse is Onesimus, that runaway slave. In the tenth verse is Aristarchus and Marcus – John Mark – who wrote the Gospel of Mark. In the eleventh verse is Justus. In the twelfth verse is Epaphras. In the fourteenth verse is Luke and Demas.
In the seventeenth verse is Archippus. "Say to that young fellow, pastor of the church there in Laodicea, say to him that he’s not doing good in the ministry of the Lord, and tell him to take heed to the ministry that he fulfill it" [from Colossians 4:17].
Remember that church at Laodicea? You read over there in the Book of the Revelation about that church [Revelation 3:14-22]. No wonder that church wasn’t doing any good. Archippus, the pastor, wasn’t doing any good. And he was becoming – oh, he liked the world and lived in it just like a whole lot of churches that I know.
They like the world, and they put the world in it. Out there in a parish, they’ll have a dance hall; and up here in the nice clubrooms in the church, they’ll have all kinds of bridge tables. I went through a great first church here in the state of Texas, and I never saw a Bible in it, but I saw enough decks of cards and enough bridge tables to open the casino in Monte Carlo had somebody robbed them of their instruments of gaming. Why, it just surprises you! That was the Laodicean church and St. Archippus: "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received of the Lord to fulfill it" [Colossians 4:17].
Now, listen. I don’t want to – I’m getting off. I got something else to preach here. I want to preach tonight about two of these and Archippus isn’t one of them. I want to preach about two of them. The announced sermon is Dr. Luke and Mr. Epaphras, and those are the two that I want to speak of tonight.
Now, in the twelfth verse [Colossians 4:12]: "Epaphras, who is one of you" – that is, he’s a Gentile. He was a heathen idol worshiper, and he was saved in Ephesus. And when he was converted in Ephesus, he went back to the place of his nativity and there he established three churches.
On that side of the Lycus River, he established the church at Hierapolis. Six miles below this side of the Lycus River, he established the church at Laodicea. And twelve miles up the Lycus River, he established the church at Colossae. All of that Lycus Valley was about a hundred miles inward in Asia Minor – what you call Turkey today – up about a hundred miles of the Maeander River in the Lycus Valley. This Epaphras was down there in Ephesus for some reason, and he was converted. And when he was saved, he went back home, and there in his testimony for Christ those three wonderful churches were organized.
Epaphras – that’s a short name. It’s a nickname. His full name would be Epaphroditus. There were – it was a common name. We have an Epaphroditus in the Letter to the Philippians [Philippians 2:19, 25, 4:18] – not this one.
Epaphroditus. The Greek name of the goddess Aphrodite, and on that, they built this name "Epaphroditus;" and it means "lovely, charming." The Latin word for "Aphrodite" is "Venus," and they built a word, a name, for a young fellow, Venestus, which means "handsome." And in the Roman Empire, everywhere, you’d have an Aphrodite and a Venestus. It meant "charming, handsome, lovely."
Now, that’s Epaphras. And he had a great, great work there in the Lycus Valley, and you won’t have to go far to find why. Look how he’s described. Epaphras, who’s now in Rome, he had problems. He was a layman. He had problems in those churches he couldn’t cope with – philosophical, theological aberrations he knew nothing about, and he took them straight to the Apostle Paul.
Now, look how he is described: "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you" – look at him – "always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, and for them at Laodicea, and at Hierapolis" [Colossians 4:12-13].
Now, that man, was he a great preacher? I don’t know. Was he another Apollos? [Acts 18:24-28] It doesn’t say. Was he eloquent and learned? I don’t know. But there is one thing that is said about him and it is this – that he was mighty in prayer: "Laboring fervently for you always in prayer, that ye may be perfect in the will of God" [Colossians 4:12].
I tell you, if you had saints like Epaphras in the fellowship of the church who were mighty in prayer, you’d have an irresistible witness. Whether we are eloquent or not is beside the point. Whether we are learned and educated or not doesn’t matter. Whether we have great resources at our disposal is absolutely not in the equation. But, man, man, and women, women, if we had people who were mighty in prayer, there’s no limit to the power of God in us! "Epaphras, who is one of you . . . laboring fervently for you in prayer, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" [Colossians 4:12].
The greatest revival that this world has ever seen since the days of the apostles was here in our own country in the middle 1800s. And I read of a businessman who said that he started in New York City on a business trip out to the West, and he said, "I am in a prayer meeting two thousand miles long." And it resulted in a colossal, indescribably glorious revival.
Well, that’s Epaphras. Now, the second one here that he mentions that I speak of is Luke: "Dr. Luke, the beloved physician, he greets you" [from Colossians 4:14].
The profession of medicine is one of the oldest professions in the world. In the fiftieth chapter of the Book of Genesis, it says that Joseph called his physicians, and they embalmed his father Israel in the land of Egypt [Genesis 50:2]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, he cries, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?" [Jeremiah 8:22]. The father of medicine, Hippocrates [460-370 BCE], was a Greek who lived – who was born – 450 years before Christ. One of the greatest of all and the ablest of all of the physicians was Galen [130-200 CE] who was born 120 years after Jesus. This science of medicine is an ancient, ancient practice.
And Luke here, the beloved physician – he must have been a taught and a learned man. The most beautiful and elegant of all the Gospels is that by Dr. Luke. The way he begins it – one of the most classical sentences in literature – is that long, first sentence of dedication of the Gospel of Luke [Luke 1:1-4]. Renan [Joseph Ernest Renan, 1823-1892], the French critic, said that the most beautiful story in the world is the story of the two on the way to Emmaus which is recounted in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke [Luke 24:13-35]. This beloved physician, this doctor, must have been a most acceptable and learned man.
Now, to my sermon. I want to talk about the dedication of those two to God. The professional man – the learned man, the educated man, the doctor, the physician – and the layman – maybe the untaught and the uneducated. I want to talk of both of them dedicated to God.
First, the learned man, the professional man, the educated man, the man of the schools, the man of degrees, the doctor, the physician. An astronomer can look up into the heavens and behold the handiwork, the glory of God [Psalm 19:1]. An anatomist, if he has eyes to see, can look into the architectural glory of the creative handiwork of God in the human body. And there, in brightly colored letters, he can see mind and intelligence and design written in the minutest part and in the smallest organ.
Oh, how wonderfully did God make his universe! No less how wonderfully did God make the human body. In the one hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm, in the fourteenth verse, the psalmist says – after he describes us – he says, "And we are fearfully and wonderfully made" [Psalm 139:14].
Do you remember that story of those mischievous boys who took the Bible of the old southern preacher and glued some of the pages together? And when he stood up to preach, he opened his Bible to take his text, and he didn’t know some of those leaves were glued together. So he started off reading in the Word of the Lord: "And when Noah was 140 years old, he took unto himself a wife." And he turned what he thought was one page: "And she was forty cubits broad and fifty cubits high and a hundred cubits long." And he looked there, and he continued to read: "Made out of gopher wood." And he continued to read: "Dogged on the inside and out with pitch."
Now, he looked at that and at his congregation, and he say, he say, "Brethren, sisters, I never see’d that before in the Book of the Lord, but if it’s in the Bible, I believe it," he says. Then he thought and marvelously added, "Brethren, sisters, that just goes to prove where it say in another place in the Bible, ‘We am fearfully and wonderfully made’" [from Psalm 139:14].
He had the idea which some of our learned physicians never see. The handiwork of God in the building of the human frame is as much of genius and of glory and of creative wonder as the whole system of the stars above us.
And what a marvelous open door, what an opportunity, God hath given the trained and the professional man. Verily I say unto you, in our modern day, in this new age, they can speak to the paralytic, and he can walk. They can say that more than magic word ephphatha, and the blind can see. They can touch the leper, and he drops his loathsomeness. They can say ‘Nay’ to the fiery march of fever, and the sick are well again.
Oh, what a marvelous opportunity God hath given to the professional man! Into their hands we commend and commit the lives of those whom we love. He saw, many times with reluctance, but chosen of God – he looks upon the last farewells of the dying, and he mingles with those who gather round when the tears of bereavement and separation flow like showers from our eyes. Oh, the opportunity of the professional man!
Isn’t it a sad thing that most of them are not Christians? With all that God hath done and with all that God hath wrought and for a man to see it and look upon it then turn aside and not believe it, what a sad thing it is when the professional man is not a Christian – turning aside from the faith of Jesus, looking with cold stare upon the Word of God, and substituting for it, embracing, some kind of cheerless, heartless materialism, following an earth-bound philosophy that leads to nowhere but to the grave.
Isn’t it a tragic and a grievous thing when the professional man mingles with the prayers and the tears and the sobs of the sick and the dying the oaths and the blasphemies of his own infidel, unbelieving profession? It is hard for me to see or to understand. And yet as I look on the field of the professional man, and the field of medicine in particular, most of them never use the name of Jesus but to curse Him and never think of the faith but to blaspheme it. They’re materialists. They are anchored in this world. Oh, how blessed and how precious a learned man who gives his life to the Lord! "Luke, the beloved physician, saluteth you" [Colossians 4:14].
I tell you verily, the Holy Spirit has an affinity for a trained mind. The educated man: how God can use him, how the Lord will bless him if he’d just be humble enough to bring the little knowledge that he knows and lay it in the hand of Jesus! Why should a man be proud and lifted up because he has read a book or he has learned to pronounce a few anatomical names or he has a vocabulary in science, in atomic energy and fission, that the layman might not understand? And because of his superior education – O Lord, I don’t understand. We know so little, can explain nothing, just observe what God hath wrought, and yet men, mere men, reading a little and knowing a little, lift themselves up and spurn the overtures of God. I don’t understand it.
But I do say the trained mind and the trained heart, the Holy Spirit has an affinity for such an one. Moses was learned in all of the arts and sciences of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22], and Paul was one of the learned of his day – grew up in the university city of Tarsus [Acts 21:39, 22:3], taught at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem [Acts 22:3], the greatest rabbi of all time. When he spoke before the supreme court of the Athenians, the Areopagus, he quoted from their own Greek poets [Acts 17:22-34]. I say, the Holy Spirit has an affinity for a trained mind. It’s just tragic, I say, when because a boy’s been to school or he’s read a book in philosophy or he has memorized the nomenclature and vocabulary of a science, therefore, he’s too smart for God.
And that brings me to this avowal concerning Epaphras, the layman, the man who’s not trained, who’s not educated. Now, I want you to listen to me. I think I have the Spirit of the Lord when I say, "When you say a man is not educated and he’s not learned and he’s not trained, do you mean by that that he knows less?" I used to think so. I used to have a tendency – like all neophytes, these little fellows who get out of school – to see a man who hadn’t been to school and his language is atrocious, abominable – he says, "We ain’t," or "hain’t," and he says, "I heared," and "I see’d," and "he doesn’t know nothin’" – I used to have a tendency to look down upon such an one.
Well, let me tell you an experience. In one of my little churches in Kentucky, there lived beyond, out in the woods – I don’t know where he lived. I couldn’t tell you. Way out there in the woods, there lived a man and his wife, and they came to church. They came to church every Lord’s Day. If it were pouring down rain – and it can rain in that country – if it were pouring down rain, they sloshed through the mud and came to church.
And you should have seen them. He grew up back there all the days of his life, had married back there and lived back there. You should have seen him, the kind of clothes that he wore, and you should have seen his wife. Say, she was something to look at! She wore those old-time dresses: the button around her neck here, clear around her neck, and went clear down to her ankles – those dresses. And once in a while when she would walk, you could see her ankles, and she wore high-button shoes. Did you ever see high-button shoes? Yeah. He’s one of them. He knows.
Old-timey people, and they talked in an old-timey way. He nor she had ever been to school a day of their lives. They were like the old saying, "They had enough ignorance to ignorance the whole world." But they were so faithful.
Upon a day, they asked me to go home with them and spend the day and eat dinner with them. Why, bless your heart, they were so fine and sweet and faithful to the Lord that I went out and spent the day with them. Now, I can’t tell you where I went. The Lord only knows where they lived, but it’s a way and a way and a way and a way back there somewhere. And I spent the day with him.
All right, let me tell you what we did. We went out into the woods, and we walked through the meadows; and outside of the time that we were at that house eating dinner prepared by that dear, blessed woman, we spent that day walking through the woods. And do you know what? I never a saw man in my life that I felt was so smart or knew so much. When we walked through the woods, he knew the name of every tree in it. He knew the name of every bush and berry and shrub in it. He knew the name of every bird on every branch. He could tell me where the animals had been running by, and he knew how to trap them and he knew how they raised their young and where they made their dens and nests. I never saw a man that knew so much in my life, and I marveled at him.
And when the day was done and I came back into my little theological shell there at the Louisville cemetery, I changed my mind. I changed my mind. I sure did. He might not have known the difference between an aorist and an indicative Greek verb. That’s right. And he might not have known what I meant by the word "vocabulary" or "nomenclature," and he might have said "heared" and "hain’t" and "ain’t" and "see’d," but he knew God and God’s world.
Why, bless his heart! I felt I didn’t know anything. And I got to thinking about him. He’d been back there all his life. He’d made his living back there all his life. He wasn’t dependent upon anybody to live. He supported himself. Well, I got to thinking about me. Lo, have mercy – if you were to stick me back there, I’d burn up in the summertime, I’d freeze in the wintertime, and I’d starve to death any other time! I just would. I just would. Now don’t you laugh. You would too. You would too. Yes, sir. We all would.
I am just telling you that this thing of a man passing by, and he arrogates to himself superiority and he thinks because he knows a little, he knows everything, and he spurns the wisdom of God and the grace and mercy of Jesus. Oh, my soul, how shall he live, and what shall he say in the great day of the judgment of God?
You know, I get to preaching to you, and I forget the time. I want to say one word, then we’ll close. All God asks of us is this: not, "Did you get a Ph.D. degree?" Not, "Did you make a hundred securing that M.D. examination?" Not, "How much do you know?" Oh, those things in God’s sight are nothing but instruments by which a man could serve Jesus better. That’s all. But when we come to the great by and by and the Lord looks into our souls, all He will ask is this: "Were you faithful? Were you? Did you use what you did know and what you could do for Jesus? Did you?" [Matthew 25:14-30]
Like Dwight L. Moody [1837-1899]. An English professor came up to him after one of his sermons and said, "Look here, Mr. Moody. I have checked seventeen flagrant grammatical errors you made in your sermon tonight." And Mr. Moody was a humble, uneducated man, and he said, "I know. I know." But he said, "I’m doing for Jesus the best that I can. Are you?"
Are you? "The best that I can. Are you?" If I’m not educated, so-called, you may know more than anybody else. But if you’re not learned in books, that doesn’t matter. You can love God and serve Him.
If you’re untaught and untrained nor does that matter. You can love Jesus and walk in His way. No matter who we are or how the fortunes and vicissitudes of life have changed the course of our destiny, that doesn’t matter. It was in God’s hands, and I can bring to Him my feeble and humble best, lay it at His feet, consecrate it in His name, and ask Him to bless me and what little I might do for Him [Luke 21:1-4].
And that’s the appeal of this song tonight while we sing. Somebody you, put your life in the hand of Jesus. Somebody you, come into the fellowship of the church. I can’t say the word or make the appeal. The Spirit of God does. And while we sing this, in this balcony around, somebody you, come down these stairwells and stand by me, or on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: "I give you my hand, pastor. I give my heart to Jesus." Or a family of us, "We’re coming into the fellowship of the church." Or just you, one somebody you, while we sing the song, would you come? While we stand and sing.
DR. LUKE AND MR. EPAPHRAS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The salutation was Paul’s signature(Colossians 4:18)
B. Last chapters of Paul’s epistles filled with personal references and greetings(Romans 16, Colossians 4)
II. Epaphras(Colossians 4:12)
A. Full nameEpaphroditus; means "charming, handsome"
B. A Gentile, converted in Ephesus(Colossians 1:7)
1. Evangelist of the Lycus Valley – established three churches
C. Came to Rome to see Paul, his heart burdened for the churches(Colossians 1:8)
D. He was mighty in prayer(Colossians 4:12-13)
III. Dr. Luke(Colossians 4:14)
A. The ancient practice of medicine(Genesis 50:2, Jeremiah 8:22)
B. Must have been a taught and learned man
1. His is most beautiful and elegant of the Gospels
IV. Dedicated to God
A. The trained, educated, professional man
1. Able to see the mark of design, intelligence in creation(Psalm 139:14)
a. Preacher reading of Noah’s wife, the pages glued together
2. The sacred calling and opportunity of the professional man, the doctor
3. How tragic the doctor who is not a believer
4. The affinity of the Holy Spirit for a trained mind
B. The layman
1. Tendency to look down upon one who is uneducated, untrained
2. Spending a day with an old-timey couple in Kentucky
a. He knew God and His Word
3. God will not ask if we got a Ph.D., but were we faithful