Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Philippians 2:25 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,
The second chapter of Philippians has already taught us so much about being a true servant of Jesus Christ. We heard two challenges to live in unity and harmony with one another, and we have already learned those principles by seeing two examples people who successfully did it – Jesus Christ and Timothy. Now Paul gives us a third example in the life of Epaphroditus.
Based on his name, Epaphroditus (from the Greek goddess Aphrodite) was of Greek descent, probably born and raised in Philippi. Because of the outreach ministries of the church Paul planted in that city, Epaphroditus became a disciple of Jesus Christ. He became a very well-respected member of the church. He must have given up whatever secular employment he had to accept an appointment from the church to leave Philippi and make the forty-day trip to Rome to be with Paul and care for him while he was in prison. Paul was so impressed with the faith and commitment of Epaphroditus that he uses him as an example of a dedicated servant of Jesus. Paul tells us five things that were true of his life.
- He was a brother
- He was a fellow worker
- He was a fellow soldier
- He was a messenger
- He was a minister
In his commentary on Philippians, John MacArthur writes this about Epaphroditus:
“His level of sacrificial service to the Lord is especially instructive and encouraging for the believer, for whom the examples of great preachers and pastors such as Paul and Timothy may seem beyond reach. He exemplifies the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of Christ that involves no public acclaim, no prominence, no high office, no great talents or gifts. He was not a noted preacher, teacher, or leader; therefore his example seems to be more relevant and attainable.”
We can all relate to him because he was average, and yet we can all learn from him because he excelled at serving Jesus.
The first thing he did well was to be a brother to Paul. The body of Christ is built on brotherhood with Jesus. At the moment of our salvation we were made to be sons of God (See John 1:12) (see note below on use of the masculine term, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ of all eternal rewards (See Romans 8:17 and Galatians 4:7). Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus called His disciples brothers, and since we are His brothers we are also brothers with one another. So what does true Christian brotherhood look like?
First, we bring strength to one another. No man an island unto himself. If we try to be, we soon discover we are much weaker going solo than if we are in a band of brothers. Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Second, as brothers we are to serve one another in love. Paul tells the churches in Galatia, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Epaphroditus modeled this kind of servant heart for us when he left his family, home, and career to serve Paul in prison.
Third, brothers support and encourage one another even when they fail. Again, writing to the Galatians, Paul says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Brothers don’t jump on family members who are down, or condemn those who have failed, but rather they hold out a hand to lift and support.
And fourth, brothers sacrifice for one another. They are willing to not only lay down their lives for one another but also to lay down their wallets. The Apostle John tells us what this kind of sacrificial love should look like in 1 John 3:16-17. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” Epaphroditus almost died in serving Jesus Christ by ministering to Paul. He was willing to give his life to deliver the sacrificial monetary gifts the Philippian people had given. He and the people of the church loved sacrificially.
Epaphroditus showed us how to be a brother. Now, go and do likewise.
NOTE: The Scriptures call all men and women “sons of God” for the purpose of establishing rights of inheritance. In Christ we are all equal and inherit all of God’s spiritual blessings equally, regardless of gender, race, or color. When the Scriptures use the term “brothers” to describe the body of Christ, it includes “sisters”.