Monday, May 14, 2018
Philippians 2:25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus…whom you sent to take care of my needs.
There is one more step in the process of reaching full maturity in Christ, as it relates to our relationship with people. Using Paul’s description in Philippians 2 of Epaphroditus, we see that we start out as brothers in Christ; then we become workers for Christ; then we become soldiers of Christ; then we become messengers of the Gospel. The final step is to become ministers to people.
Epaphroditus was sent by his church in Philippi to deliver gifts to Paul so that his needs would be met. The phrase “whom you sent to take care of my needs” is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as “he that ministered to my wants.” The word “ministered” has deep and significant meaning. It goes far beyond simply delivering what someone else has provided. A minister is someone who works for the betterment of a group of people. We approach maturity in Christ when our primary work for Christ is to minister to people’s needs. It is the outward expression of love through involvement in people’s lives that fulfills the purpose of Christ in us.
James, the brother of Jesus, said it this way: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27).
Faith reaches full maturity when we go from being a messenger of the gospel to being a minister that meets people’s needs. The people of the church at Philippi were ministers to Paul by sending gifts to provide for his needs. This is commendable and highly spoken of by Paul. But it still goes deeper. Epaphroditus, in addition to delivering the gifts, ministered personally to Paul’s other needs that could not be met by the gifts. In Philippians 2:29 – 30 Paul says, “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” The gifts did not meet all of Paul’s needs, but Epaphroditus did.
What did he do? We are not specifically told what needs of Paul’s were met by Epaphroditus, but we can use good logic to come to some probable conclusions.
- Gifts are great, but nothing beats face-to-face time with a trusted friend. Paul could not go to his friends, so a friend went to him. This friend sacrificed all personal priorities for the sake of investing his life into Paul. In the 1960’s there was a hit rock-and-roll song that went like this: If you need me, call me, No matter where you are, No matter how far, Just call my name, I’ll be there in a hurry, You don’t have to worry, ’cause baby, There ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough, To keep me from getting to you. That’s what Epaphroditus did. That’s what mature ministers do. No matter what the obstacle or inconvenience, they invest their lives sacrificially into the lives of others.
- Epaphroditus got involved in doing the work that Paul was no longer able to do. Paul was under house arrest and probably chained to a guard, unable to go out to the community and preach the gospel and minister to the needs of the church there in Rome. We know there was a strong church there, but Paul was not able to attend or preach. My conclusion is that Epaphroditus got involved in doing the work that Paul wanted to do. Sometimes we have to step up to the plate and pinch hit for someone who has been placed on the disabled list. It may be way out of our comfort zones to do it, but being a mature minister is not about our comfort but is about meeting the needs of people.
I’m glad that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m excited about the work God has given us to do together. I’m proud to serve the King shoulder to shoulder with you as soldiers in His army. I’m thrilled to hear how the messengers are spreading the message of the Savior. But I am most satisfied and fulfilled when I know that we have reached full maturity in Christ by becoming the ministers of grace and love to people in need no matter what the cost to us.
Intentional and intimate intervention into the lives of people is the greatest gift we can give them, and allows them to see the reality of Jesus in us.
Thank you for being such a minister.