Read: Philippians 2:19-30
Consider: Paul held both Timothy and Epaphroditus in high regard as is evident in today’s reading from Philippians. While we know quite a lot about Timothy, we know very little about Epaphroditus, as he is only mentioned in this letter from Paul to the believers in Philippi. His Greek name Ἐπαφρόδιτος means ‘from or of Aphrodite’, the Greek goddess of love. Despite being brought up in a pagan setting, he accepted Christ as his Saviour and was so trusted by the church that he was sent by the Philippians to take their gift of support to Paul.
Notice how Paul describes Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25 –
- brother – this is the same Greek word used by Paul in his letters to indicate the closeness of the community of believers (brothers and sisters in Christ);
- co-worker – Paul recognised that although Epaphroditus had been sent with a gift from the Philippians, he did not sit on the sidelines thinking that his work was finished. He willingly worked alongside Paul in sharing the good news of the gospel with others;
- fellow soldier – the Greek word used by Paul indicates that Epaphroditus not only laboured with Paul, he stood with him against oppression and conflict;
- messenger – Epaphroditus was a trusted messenger, not only of the gift from the Philippians, but also of their greetings and concern for him.
There is another term for Epaphroditus that is hidden in the phrase ‘… whom you sent to take care of my needs’ (v25). The Greek word λειτουργὸς could be translated as ‘servant’ or ‘he who ministers’ and shows that Epaphroditus had a servant heart and was willing to serve/minister to Paul’s needs.
We also learn from today’s passage that Epaphroditus had been seriously ill while with Paul and, having recovered, Paul was eager to send him back to the believers in Philippi. Notice what Paul said: For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety (Philippians 2:26-28). Not only was Epaphroditus held in high regard by Paul, he was also highly valued by the Philippians.
I like how Paul describes the gift sent by the Philippians in these words: I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God (4:18). When we give financially or otherwise to support those who lead and teach in the church, do we think of it as a ‘fragrant offering’ and an ‘acceptable sacrifice’ and ‘pleasing to God’?
The question we all should be asking ourselves is: How would our fellow believers and workers describe us? Would they describe us as a ‘brother’ (or sister), ‘co-worker’, ‘fellow soldier’, ‘messenger’ and ‘servant’?
Pray: Father, may our hearts be in tune with you, enabling us to meet the needs of others in a sacrificial way. May we not do things to receive the accolades of others, but to please and honour you. Amen
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