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Epaphroditus

But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; (Philippians 2:25

Philippians was written at a time when Paul was in a Roman prison. He was chained to a Roman guard and his activities were limited. Yet, Paul never forsook his calling to the Lord’s service and ministry. Even though Paul was restricted by the Roman guard still he was able to continue in the ministry. As always with Paul, it was a ministry of sacrifice but now he was unable to provide for his own maintenance. So many times we find ourselves in that same station in life, unable on our own to make ends meet. Paul’s faith that the Lord would provide for all his needs never wavered and he kept moving forward towards the goal of his purpose, in a complete passion for the work he was involved in, persevering in the race he was running for the glory of Christ.

The Lord will bring people into our lives to sustain us in our endeavors for His Kingdom. The Philippian Church in Philippi was a Church that Paul had founded as recorded in Acts 16. The family of believers in the Philippian Church loved Paul deeply and when they had learned of his situation in Rome they wanted to help him. The Philippians wanted to send Paul some money to support Paul and his ministry. They took up a sacrificial offering that they would send to Paul. They didn’t take an offering out of their abundance but reached deep into their pockets to provide for Paul. When you sacrifice your own needs for that of another it is an act of Faith that the Lord will provide. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

This gift was taken to Paul by a man named Epaphroditus and he was also instructed by the Church to remain with Paul and be an assistant in all of Paul’s personal needs. This privilege that the Philippian Church had given to Epaphroditus certainly tells us something about him. The Philippian Church would have never sent a man to Paul that did not eminently represent the godliness of the congregation. The Apostle Paul was quite possibly the most discerning man who had ever lived. The Church then would not have wanted to place anyone from them that was suspect in any way. Therefore, we can be sure that Epaphroditus was a man who had a true depth of spiritual virtue and a depth of love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can also see that Epaphroditus was a man with the heart of a servant. Epaphroditus was willing to leave his home and travel to Rome in order to meet the needs of Paul. Epaphroditus was not a man who would only lead but a man who wished to serve alongside of others. So many want to be the leader, the director and the commander, but few are willing to quietly without personal glory serve others. Perhaps that is a natural trait of the human heart, to be the chief and not the one to actually accomplish the work. There is nothing in this verse that tells us that he was a preacher or teacher although that is a possibility. More likely he was a deacon rather than an elder as he was a servant and not a leader. (Titus 1:5-9 1 Timothy 3:1-10) We can be sure that whatever his position Epaphroditus had the heart of a servant. The Philippian Church would not have chosen one who would not willingly give his life to the service of another as this would have been a betrayal to Paul and Paul’s trust in their judgment.

Epaphroditus was clearly a humble and Godly man but he was also a man of strong faith and courage. He knew exactly what he was walking into as there was no question as to how the Romans felt about Paul. Paul’s imminent death was a certain possibility as he was not only a prisoner but a man that was bringing the Christian heresy into the Roman world. If the decision came down to execute Paul it would only be a logical conclusion that they would also take the life of the one who served alongside of Him.

Paul gives Epaphroditus three titles in this verse. First Paul calls him “My Brother.” This is a very personal expression of their relationship to each other. Epaphroditus is considered Paul’s brother. What Paul means is that they are brothers in a spiritual birth. They as brothers in Christ have a common source for their life, which is God the Father. They are brothers in Christ that will share eternal life together. It is deeper than that between Paul and Epaphroditus as the word used here for brother is “adelphosalso” meaning camaraderie, friendship, affection, feelings. Epaphroditus was a brother whom Paul loved.

Paul also titles Epaphroditus as “fellow worker.” Paul uses this title twelve times and it is always in reference to those who worked alongside of him in the ministry. Paul not only commends Epaphroditus as one whom he has great affection but also one who shares in the commitment of the ministry for Jesus Christ.

Epaphroditus is given the title of “fellow soldier.” Epaphroditus is not only joined with Paul in a bond of love and a serving heart for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he also shares the relationship towards the enemies which fight against the ministry he and Paul are engaged in. Fellow soldier was a strong title in the Greek. It was given to the warriors of great valor and meant that they were equal in the fight as the commanders. Paul then is saying that Epaphroditus was his fellow commander in chief, his fellow leader in the spiritual war in which they were engaged.

Paul through the wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ was sent Epaphroditus to supply the need that he had to accomplish the work set before him according to the plan of the Lord. So many times we find reasons to not serve in the capacity that we have been called. If there is anything hindering our walk then first we should take it to the Lord in prayer. Our Lord knows just what we need to overcome the obstacles in the path before us. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8)

Paul was sent Epaphroditus as brother in Christ. They together who had been born again in the Spirit of Truth shared a like-mindedness in the mind of Jesus Christ. They were no longer who they once were but now were together in purpose by the renewing of their mind. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) They were one in Christ to accomplish all things by the strengthening of Jesus. (Philippians 4:13)

Epaphroditus was a fellow worker with Paul. He was not seeking glory for himself nor the glory from men, he was seeking only the glory that comes from His Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Epaphroditus had picked up his cross and was following Jesus, he had put himself to the plow and would not turn back. “But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) As an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven he would not let the trappings of this world deny him the reward that awaited him on the yonder shore.

Epaphroditus was a fellow soldier in the spiritual war with the forces of evil that seek to deny the restored relationship of man with God the Father. He, as well as Paul and many other servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, was willing to make the good fight. “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12) There is only one foe and he was defeated on the cross of Jesus. Epaphroditus was willing to share to all that will hear that as many who will shall come to know the truth of Jesus, the only way to reach our eternal home.

Epaphroditus was a committed servant unto the Lord. He had dedicated his life to the service of his Master and to tell the lost sheep that are “distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) As Christians, followers of Christ, this is our purpose, this should be our passion, and we should persevere until the day He calls us home to be with Him.

I have to ask myself, as we are to examine ourselves each day, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) am I regarded by my Lord as a His brother, a fellow worker, and a fellow soldier for the cause of Christ?

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 23, 2014

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