I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
(Philippians 2:25-30 ESV)
Today we meet Epaphroditus who had been sent by the Philippians (“your messenger”) to deliver their letter to Paul, to which he was now responding. It was also the Philippians intent that Epaphroditus would be of service to Paul while he was there (“minister to my need”). Now Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to the Philippians with this very letter.
Paul considered Epaphroditus to be his “brother”. The Greek word for brother used here can mean “united to another by the bond of affection” or “”brethren in Christ” or both. Paul considered Epaphroditus to be his spiritual brother and enjoyed being in his company.
Paul also called Epaphroditus his “fellow worker”. Epaphroditus was a doer. He helped Paul in Rome. Finally, Epaphroditus was a “fellow soldier” by standing up for the Gospel in the hostile environment that was Rome.
These five characteristics – brother, worker, soldier, messenger, and minister – describe the Christian life. All who are children of God [John 1:12] are spiritual brothers and sisters and we are to treat each other as such. We are also to work alongside each other for the furtherance of the Gospel, which will often include doing spiritual battle against the evil forces trying to thwart God’s plan. We are also messengers of the Gospel – commanded to hold it forth in a crooked and twisted generation [Philippians 2:15-16]. Finally, we are to minister to other believers. No one is immune from pain and trouble in this world. We all have needs. God meets the needs of people through other people.
Epaphroditus is only mentioned twice in the Bible (both times in Philippians). He was not a rock star. He flew under the radar. Yet God has held him up as a great example of what He expects from His children.
The only way we can successfully perform in all these roles is follow the advice Paul has been teaching in this letter to the Philippians. We are to not act with selfish ambition or conceit. Rather we are to humbly consider others more worthy than ourselves [Philippians 2:3-4], having the same goal – promoting the Gospel of Jesus [Philippians 2:2].
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