Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers…
1. There is no kind of qualification to this, no hint that Paul thought that Epaphras was asking with an extravagant expectation. They were no sham prayers; struggles after impossible attainments, but those that he and Paul thought might be realized. Such prayers are in conflict with modern notions, which regard perfection as beyond the range of practical Christianity.
2. What made Epaphras believe that he might ask this?
(1) Paul's teaching. "We pray for this, even your perfection." "That we may present every man perfect."(2) Christ's words, "Be ye perfect," etc.
3. Was this an attainment to be expected in this life or the next? In this. Paul wrote that he had not attained, etc., but he appealed to the Philippians on the supposition that he and they were perfect. And so Christ teaches us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," i.e., perfectly. There is no difficulty here. It is our duty to be entirely conformed to the will of God, and yet see a point beyond our highest attainments, and say, "We must reach that also." Let us consider the purpose of these prayers.
1. It is not that full knowledge and obedience may be achieved at once. This is impossible under the conditions imposed by the flesh, and both will be progressive under heavenly conditions. But we are to act according to our several ability. A child in the alphabet class must not be expected to do the work of the higher forms, either in the school of nature or of grace. It is enough that each does thoroughly what is allotted to it. An infant is perfect, but not in the same sense as a man. So it is in the kingdom of God.
2. It is not that temptation will be absent. Both Paul and Christ were fiercely tempted.
3. It is not that there will be an unbroken flow of joy and peace. No person is capable of being continuously under the same emotions, and alternations of joy and gloom make no difference to our spiritual standing, so long as under both we abide in God. There were changes of feeling in Paul and Christ.
II. POSITIVELY. It is that we may do the will of God as far as we know it. We are not to ordain an impossible standard. Our King distributes to us a variety of talents. Hence the young act differently from the old; men from women; sickly from healthy, and yet in each the love of God may be perfected, viz., in the keeping of His commandments. And these commandments have a wonderful variety, and relate to secular as well as spiritual employments, since all life by the Christian is devoted to God. Do you say that this is an easy kind of perfection? Try it — Or that it is inconspicuous? True, so was Christ's generally. Only on occasions did His divinity flash forth.
2. It is that we may use the means for our fulfilling the will of God perfectly. Epaphras laboured in prayers, which denotes the power from which we are to derive our ability. We must go to God and He will supply all our need: in faith in His faithfulness who has promised, "who also will do it," even sanctify us wholly.
(D. G. Watt, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.