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)
Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippians to Rome with a monetary gift for Paul, who was in prison. Somewhere along the way he became very ill and almost died. The reading of the text suggests that Epaphroditus’ illness was the result of overexerting himself in serving Jesus as opposed to simply catching a virus (“nearly died for the work of Christ”).
One of the things that struck me about this passage was the all-around mutual concern these believers had for each other. The Philippians had heard that Epaphroditus was ill and were “distressed”. Epaphroditus found out the Philippians were distressed and was now “longing” to see them.
Paul was concerned about the Philippians distress also and therefore “thought it necessary” to send Epaphroditus back to them so they could “rejoice” at being reunited with him. Paul was “eager” to ease the Philippians’ heartache.
And not to be overlooked, God was concerned about everyone, notably Paul who was already experiencing a very stressful situation being in jail awaiting possible execution. By healing Epaphroditus God was having mercy on him but was also showing mercy to Paul who now had one less thing to think about.
Earlier in this letter God commanded believers to be concerned for each other and to put the welfare of others above their own. [Philippians 2:3-4]. Here we see a real-life example of people living this out.
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