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There is a healthy way to think of our own uniqueness in Christ. We are each gifted by the Spirit for a particular kind of work of service for the benefit of others. (See 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:12-16; Romans 12:3-8.) There is something that–by grace and through the Spirit–we “bring to the table” of ministry. We do contribute to the life of the body through the gracious gifting of God.

But there is also a dangerous way to think of our own uniqueness. Although we are each gifted, we can end up in troubling waters if we believe ourselves to be absolutely unique, if we think that no one could do what we do in the lives of others, if we over-value our own significance and importance in the life of the body.

When we live as if we are irreplaceable, when we privilege our particular way of saying of doing things, if we end up believing that the body would be irrevocably harmed if we weren’t around, we are at risk of wrongly understanding our own place in the body.

Although Paul is not purposefully addressing this idea, what comes through in his words about Epaphras in the close of his letter to the Colossians does help us keep perspective.

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:12-13)

Paul calls Epaphras a “bondslave of Jesus Christ”–a term Paul often uses for himself (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Titus 1:1). Paul touches on Epaphras’ fervency in prayer–something Paul highlights in his own life and ministry (Romans 1:10; Ephesians 1:16). Paul writes about Epaphras’ “earnest labor”–using the very language he uses to speak of his own work in ministry (Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 4:10). Paul notes that Epaphras’ desire is for the Colossians to “stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God”–echoing Paul’s description of his own ministry (as seen earlier in Colossians 1:29).

Taking together, it is clear that Paul sees Epaphras no different from he sees himself. Paul recognizes his own giftedness and his own unique call. But Paul also sees clearly that he is not the sole gifted minister to the Colossians, he is not the only one who cares for and shares with and builds up the Colossians in the grace of God.

In Paul’s words of appreciation, we catch a glimpse of Paul’s understanding of his own call and his own ministry. Although he knows his own call, Paul also sees himself as one among others. A very healthy self-awareness that is seen in a very honest expression of appreciation.

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