The most likely scenario is that Epaphras heard Paul preach in Ephesus (Acts 19) which is 120 miles west of Colossae. Then he took the Gospel back to his people and started a church.
Unfortunately some false teachers had begun to creep into that church. They were combining different ideas from Judaism, Christianity, and Phyrgian mysticism (cf. 2:8; 2:16-19, 23). They were saying, "The Gospel is good but you also need..." Paul's response is that we have everything we need in Christ (cf. 1:9, 1:23, 1:28-29, 2:6, 2:9-10). The Gospel is all the power we need.
1:3-4, "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints."
- Christ was the Object of their faith. Paul prays because he has heard of their faith, love, and hope (1:5). Faith is not simple "belief" for even the false teachers believed in Christ. This wasn't "faith in faith". It was Faith in Christ. If your faith in Christ is simply belief in his existence or belief that he ascended back to heaven then congratulations for the demons believe that. Our faith in Christ has to be focused on a correct group of propositions about who he is and what he has done. We must make sure that the faith we have is in the correct teachings of Christ (2:6-8).
- We have to make sure we are also teaching solid doctrine while we do apologetics. Statistics show must so-called Christians haven't received the true Christ. 40% strongly agreed that Satan is not a living being but simply a symbol of evil. 38% strongly agreed and 20 % agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God's power or presence but not a living entity. More than 22% strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on the earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat. That's almost 40% who think Christ sinned!!! When faced with the statement that "the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon, are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths we see that 41% agree, 40% disagree, and 20% are undecided. That means 60% of the so-called Christians are clueless as to what the Bible says, especially, regarding the nature of Christ. For a more information on these statistics, click here What is the point of "converting" someone if we only convert them to this sort of doctrinal heresy?
1:6-8 "which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit."
- Faith comes from hearing the Gospel (Rom 10:17). Plenty of people hear the Gospel but not everyone accepts it. We have the opportunity to come to faith and grow in our faith when we hear the Gospel. Apologetics are sometimes necessary but sometimes I wonder if we apologists make it necessary in situations that it is not? We should only use apologetics when necessary. Preach the Gospel first before you attempt to defend it for sometimes the living Word can defend itself.
- Apologists must be fluent in the Gospel and not just apologetics. It is amazing that I've met people who want to defend Christianity but do not have the foggiest idea about sound doctrine. Yes apologetics are useful, I use them. But let us not forget that people are converted through preaching the Gospel (1st Cor 1:21; Rom 10:17) not by osmosis (sorry Calvinists). What will you do if you convince someone God exists and the Bible is true but you can't lead them further?
- The Gospel is applicable everywhere, gimmicks fail eventually. Notice that the Colossian heresy was constrained to their city. Other places would have probably found that ideology foolish. Also, that heresy has failed but I would point out that the Gospel is still with us. Within the first century the Gospel had been taken by Matthew to Africa, Simon the Zealot to Persia, Thomas to India, Paul to Rome, Andrew to Turkmenistan, and many other places. The Church today may try to market the church, do programs, and apply gimmicks. But we must never forget that it is the Gospel that saves (Rom 1:16).
- The Gospel will have the same effect no matter where it goes. A few years back I attended a missionary convention in southern Germany. I was amazed at the stories these life-long missionaries were telling me. They said that the experts told them it takes around 10 years to build a relationship in order to preach the Gospel to Europeans. The missionaries came to find out how ludicrous this idea was. They said when they decided to just preach the Gospel they realized a few things. First, some of their friends never were and never would be interested in the Gospel no matter how good of friends they were. Second, some people wanted to know the Gospel regardless of how much they didn't know the missionaries. Man has always had the same problem; sin. God has always had the same solution; salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
- The Gospel produces a living apologetic. When we preach the Gospel we convert sinners. When we convert sinners we teach them further about Christ. When we learn more about Christ we grow in his likeness. When we grow in his likeness we learn to love. When we love we become a living apologetic who defends the Gospel, not with words, but with our life (John 17:20-21).