Paul would be thought of as a major actor while Timothy and Epaphroditus would belooked upon as supporting actors.There are about 100 folks mentioned in Paul’s letters and in the book of Acts whohelped him in his ministry.Paul would not have been able to accomplish half of what he did without these 100people to support him.*Epaphroditus is one of those 100 whom God had prepared to help Paul.*He had traveled 700 miles (no motorized vehicles) to get there.*Everything we know about Epaphroditus, we know from this little letter.*Although there is very little written about Epaphroditus in books here on earth, theremay be libraries in Heaven full of all the things that God accomplished through him.EPAPHRODITUS: THE LOVING GAMBLERThe third model spiritual servant described in 2:17-30 is Epaphroditus, another protégéof Pauls.He was not an apostle and spiritual statesman such as Paul or even an elder likeTimothy. There is no record of any outstanding work that he accomplished.Nothing is known of his family, his personal background, his conversion, how long hehad been a believer, or his specific functions in the churches at Philippi, Rome, orelsewhere.Epaphroditus’ level of sacrificial service to the Lord is especially encouraging for thebeliever, for whom the examples of great preachers and pastors such as Paul andTimothy may seem beyond reach.Philippians 2:25-3025) “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellowworker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;26) because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heardthat he was sick.27) For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and noton him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.28) Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him againyou may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.29) Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;30) because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to completewhat was deficient in your service to me.” (Philippians 2:25-30)25)“But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellowworker and fellow soldier,” Phil 2:25
The name Epaphroditus means "favored by Aphrodite," the Greek goddess of love(whom the Romans called Venus), indicating that, like Timothy he was probably bornand educated in Greek culture.*The name was common and later came to mean "loving”.Although Epaphroditus was often abbreviated to Epaphras, there is no evidence hewas the man by that name mentioned in Col 1:7 & 4:12(pastor in Colosse).*Paul knew that it was time that Epaphroditus went back home, and in all probabilityhe was the bearer of this letter.*But there was a problem. The Philippian Church had sent Epaphroditus to stay withPaul, and if he came back home, there would not be lacking those who said that hewas a quitter.Here Paul gives him a carefully worded, tremendous testimonial which would silenceany possible criticism of his return.Paul called Epaphroditus: his brother, his fellow-worker, and his fellow-soldier. (v25)In using the pronoun “my”, Paul manifested a deep and loving relationship with thisremarkable man. My brother, & fellow worker, & fellow soldier.Paul ventured to call an ordinary and virtually unknown believer not only his brother,but also his fellow worker and fellow soldier in God’s service.Epaphroditus was a brother, which means he knew the fellowship of the Gospel; afellow-worker, which tied him to the furtherance of the Gospel; and a fellow-soldier,which means he knew how to battle for the faith of the Gospel.II Timothy 2:3-4“Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active serviceentangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the One Whoenlisted him as a soldier.” II Timothy 2:3-4How easy it is for Christians to get out of balance!*Some Christians think only of the fellowship and have no time to win souls or fight theenemy.*Others are so wrapped up in service that they forget fellowship.*This was the mistake Martha made (Luke 10:38-42).*Still others are always fighting, so much so that they neglect the fellowship.*We need to be balanced Christians.Epaphroditus exemplifies the spirit of sacrifice for the sake of Christ that involves nopublic acclaim, no prominence, no high office, no great talents .
He was not a noted preacher, teacher, or leader; therefore his example seems to bemore relevant and attainable.*Then Paul goes on to call him your messenger and the minister of my need.*It is impossible to supply the flavour of these words in translation.*The word Paul uses for messenger is apostolos.*Apostolos literally means anyone who is sent out on an errand, but Christian usagehad ennobled it and by using it Paul by implication ranks Epaphroditus with himselfand all the apostles of Christ.*The word he uses for servant is leitourgos.*In secular Greek this was a magnificent word.In the ancient days in the Greek cities there were men who, because they loved theircity so much, at their own expense undertook certain great civic duties. It might be todefray the expenses of an embassy, or the cost of putting on one of the dramas ofthe great poets, or of training the athletes who would represent the city in the games,or of fitting out a warship and paying a crew to serve in the navy of the state. Thesemen were the supreme benefactors of the state and they were known as leitourgoi.Paul takes the great Christian word apostolos and the great Greek word leitourgos,and applies them to Epaphroditus.*"Give a man like that a welcome home," he says.*"Hold him in honour for he hazarded his life for Christ."*Paul is making it easy for Epaphroditus to go home.*There is something very wonderful here.It is touching to think of Paul, himself in the very shadow of death, in prison andawaiting judgment, showing such Christian concern for Epaphroditus.He was facing death, and yet it mattered to him that Epaphroditus should not meetwith embarrassment when he went home.Paul was a true Christian in his attitude to others; for he was never so immersed in hisown troubles that he had no time to think of the troubles of his friends.26) “because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heardthat he was sick.” Philippians 2:26Epaphroditus knew that news of his illness had filtered back to Philippi, and he wasdistressed (his heart ached) because he knew that his friends there would be worriedabout him.*He may unintentionally have become distracted to the point of being less useful toPaul.
He was not apprehensive about his life-threatening illness, but rather was distressedover their distress!27) “For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, andnot on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” (2:27)The Philippians had good reason to be worried about Epaphrodituss health, becausehe had been sick to the point of death.Astheneo (was sick) translates a compound verb composed of the negative -a (“without”) and sthenos ("strength") and literally means "without strength."In Rome Epaphroditus fell ill, perhaps with the notorious Roman fever whichsometimes swept the city like a scourge, and was near to death.*Had God not had mercy on him, he would have died.*It is interesting that, although Paul once had exercised the gift of healing (Acts 28:8),he evidently did not use it to heal Epaphroditus — perhaps because the era ofmiraculous apostolic signs was nearly over (2 Tim 4:20).Many sincere believers today hold the theory that Christians should not be sick, thatthey should trust God to heal them.*Epaphroditus was so sick he almost died!*Why didnt Paul heal Epaphroditus?Paul and the other apostles had "sign gifts" because they did not have what we havetoday, the New Testament!When Paul started out with the Gospel message, nothing of the New Testament hadbeen written.*Paul himself wrote 1 Thess, the first book of the New Testament to be penned.*When he went into a new territory with his message, what was his authority? He hadno authority, except sign gifts, which included the gift of healing.*But now Paul is nearing the conclusion of his ministry.*You will remember that Paul had a thorn in the flesh which the Lord Jesus would notremove.*Instead, Jesus gave Paul the grace to bear it.*Then you remember that Timothy had stomach trouble.*If Paul had been a faith healer, wouldn’t he have healed Timothy?*Actually, Paul told him to take a little wine for his stomachs sake.*And in 2 Timothy 4:20 he said that he had left Trophimus sick at Miletus.*Why hadnt he healed him?
And now Paul says he has this young believer, Epaphroditus, with him and he was sosick he almost died.*Paul didnt heal him.*Rather, he gives all the credit to God; he says that God had mercy on him.*His healing came about in a natural sort of way.God heals in one of three ways:*Directly*Indirectly*Delayed*Paul made it a matter of prayer, and God heard and answered his prayers.*Why hadnt Paul used his gift of healing?Because at this late stage, even before the apostles disappeared from the scene, theemphasis was moving back to the Great Physician.When God spares a person from death it is always a reflection of His mercy.The two blind men who begged Jesus to restore their sight realized that their onlyhope was through His mercy. (Matthew 9:27)*Their initial cry, in fact, was for mercy, not healing.*Similarly, the ten lepers first cry to the Lord was, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us, "(Luke 17:12-13).In the same way, the Canaanite woman, the man with the deranged son, and theblind beggar Bartimaeus all came to Jesus asking first for mercy.God in his mercy spared the life of Epaphroditus and so spared Paul yet more sorrow(in addition to being imprisoned).28) “Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him againyou may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.” Phil 2:28Despite the personal loss he would experience, Paul gladly sent Epaphroditus backeven though the Philippians had not asked that he be sent back.*He knew that his loss would be their gain.*And their joy in having Ephaphroditus back in their fellowship would bring Paul relief.*Paul wanted them to rejoice, not sorrow. So “that I may be less concerned aboutyou" -- he was disturbed about the church in Philippi because it had been mourninginstead of rejoicing.
29) “Therefore receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in highregard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life tocomplete what was deficient in your service to me.” Philippians 2:29*Such is the remarkable power and reward of selfless love.*Paul, Epaphroditus, and the believers in Philippi were indeed "of the same mind,maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose, doing nothing fromselfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind“ regarding one another asmore important than themselves; not merely looking out for their own personalinterests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil 2:2-4).*Paul selflessly exhorted the Philippians, “receive him then in the Lord with all joy”*Prosdechomai (receive) refers to glad and favorable acceptance.The Pharisees and scribes used this word derogatorily of Jesus receiving and eatingwith those they considered vile sinners (Luke 15:2).Jesus used it to describe the way that humble, childlike believers (Matt 18:5), faithfulpreachers of the Gospel, and the Gospel itself should be received.30)“because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to completewhat was deficient in your service to me.” Philippians 2:30They were to hold Epaphroditus in high regard (v29) because he had risked his life(v30) in his service to Paul on behalf of the Philippians’ church.That he was willing to go to Rome while Paul was still imprisoned also shows greatcourage.Although Paul lived in his own rented quarters and could receive visitors, Epaphroditusunderstood that this situation could change overnight.If Caesar decided that Paul was indeed a threat to him as had been charged, hewould not hesitate to order his immediate execution.That would put Pauls associates in danger of arrest, imprisonment, and perhapsexecution.Epaphroditus knew that the risk he was taking was real.There is a word in this passage which later had a famous usage.The word is the verb paraboleuesthai (risking); it is a gamblers word and means “tostake everything”.Risking translates a form of paraboleuomai, which literally means "to throw aside."
It speaks of voluntarily hazarding ones welfare and thereby exposing oneself todanger.Sometimes used of gambling, it is for that reason that the title of this section refers toEpaphroditus as “The Loving Gambler“.Paul is saying that for the sake of Jesus Christ Epaphroditus gambled his life.With total disregard for his own welfare, Epaphroditus continually put his life on theline for the work of Christ.Soon after New Testament times, a group of Christians banded together in anassociation they called Parabolani, which means "The Gamblers."In A.D. 252 plague broke out in Carthage; the heathen threw out the bodies of theirdead and fled in terror. Cyprian, the Christian bishop, gathered his congregationtogether and set them to burying the dead and nursing the sick in that plague-stricken city; and by so doing they saved the city, at the risk of their lives, fromdestruction and desolation.Taking Epaphroditus as their model, they visited prisoners and ministered to the sick,especially those with dangerous communicable diseases whom no one else wouldhelp.*They boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever they went.Perhaps Paul was here playing on the name Epaphroditus, which, as noted above,means "favored of Aphrodite."Because she was the goddess of gambling as well as of love, men would often cryout "Epaphroditus" as they cast the dice, hoping to be favored by her.In stark contrast to those men, Epaphroditus was risking his life for somethingimmeasurably more valuable than money.*His life entailed much risk; but it was really no gamble.*Without reservation, he could sincerely testify with Paul that "whatever things weregain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, Icount all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus myLord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish sothat I may gain Christ" (Phil 3:7-8).There should be in the Christian an almost reckless courage which makes him readyto gamble with his life to serve Christ and men.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.“Jim Eliot October 28, 1949Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus were three very different individuals: Paul the bold,fearless leader; Timothy his quiet, devoted assistant; Epaphroditus a diligent, behind-the-scenes worker. Yet all three manifested the most important characteristic of agodly leader — a life worth imitating.*It should send chills up and down our spines to read about these men.*They lived in the first century, at the time of the Roman Empire.The empire of Caesar Augustus grew, moved out and took over the world.*The law of Rome became supreme everywhere.*There was little mercy shown to anyone, but there was law and order everywhere.There was not a power in that day that could protest against Rome.Then there went out this little man, Paul the apostle, and those who were like-mindedwith him, and they preached a Gospel that there is a God of the universe Who,through a redemption that He had wrought on a Roman cross, had provided mercyfor mankind. Multitudes turned to the Lord Jesus in that day.*Now in the book of Philippians, we see this little man, Paul the apostle, chained to aRoman soldier.*What is he doing?*Well, he is witnessing for Christ, and he is rejoicing in the Lord.*He has the mind of Christ.*Also we see a fine young man, Timothy, walking in that pagan city.*You say you cannot live for Christ in a godless society?*Well, look at Timothy!*He did very well.*He also had the mind of Christ.Now take a look at Epaphroditus, a faithful believer way up yonder in the city ofPhilippi -- it was a Roman colony, but it was also a pagan, heathen city.*Epaphroditus had the mind of Christ.*When we look at him, we need to say to ourselves: “Stop making excuses in this dayin which we are living!”If these men could have the mind of Christ in the first century, surely today in thetwentieth-first century right where we are now, you and I can have the mind of Christ.By yielding to Him, the Spirit of God can produce in our own lives the mind of Christ.*Oh, how desperately this is needed in our day!