So Epaphras hears the gospel from Paul, believes and returns to his home town in Colossae to tell his friends about Jesus. They believe. A church is born. He doesn't go to plant a church. He goes to preach the gospel. There's something in that, I think.
A friend of mine who planted a church a year ago sat with me in a cafe' before he left and told me what his first preaching series was going to be. He and his wife were going to three couples in North Carolina. He said,"You know there's that saying, 'which came first the chicken or the egg'?" Then drawing a simple stick figure of a church and a cross on a napkin, he said, "I'm going to preach on which came first, Jesus or the church." Needless to say the church has grown really quickly, mainly with notorious sinners, as my friend has sought to preach "nothing else but Christ and Him crucified."
So back to Epaphras. He leaves the church in Collossae to hook up with Paul in Ephesus, but later returns to see how they are doing. He is impressed by their faith, hope and love but worried about the dangerous influence of some false teachers. It seems like these guys are a lethal mix of Jewish legalism and Mystic Gnosticism. Gnosticism at its core is the denial that Jesus was fully man. Therefore matter is evil and spirit is good,and so what follows is a denial of the body and an unhealthy obsession with all things spiritual.
Here's how Paul warns against these Jewish Mystics at Colossae.
"Let no-one disqualify you insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason with his sensuous mind. They have lost contact with the Head...from whom the whole body grows.." ( Colossians 2:18)
I am nervous about the obsession with manifestations, angelic appearances, heavenly visions among some of my friends today. Not because I don't believe in them or have not experienced them. I have found gold dust and oil on my hands from time to time which is fascinating. But honestly, for me it holds no more relevance to the gospel than the gold fillings that people got in the '90's. I know it is part of the package, but it is certainly not the whole package!Oh that these things wold be converted into gospel fruit!
I am hungry for the presence and power of God. I want God to speak to and through us prophetically. I affirm the reality of angels who minister to God's people, but I don't want to lose contact with the Head. A church that loses vital contact with Christ her Head is a paralyzed body, with uncoordinated limbs. Atrophy has set in. It's stomach is bloated and its limbs lethargic.It is unproductive.
Let the church rediscover that her life is hid with Christ in God. Let her receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and so walk in Him through the power of the Spirit. And let many more crosses be sketched on many more cafe' napkins!