March 19, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.”—Philippians 2:25–30 (NKJV)
Yesterday we saw how Paul’s compassion towards the Philippians moved him to send his most valuable earthly companion, Timothy, to them. But as we move on today, we see the apostle sent someone else along with Timothy to minister to their needs: Epaphroditus. Now, chances are you know a lot more people named Paul and Timothy than Epaphroditus, because his name’s sake here is a much lesser-known Bible character with a lower profile. And yet, what Paul writes about him here is quite worthy of our consideration.
Here’s what we know about this man based on what we see here along with what Paul will share later on in this book (Philippians 4:18). Epaphroditus was originally part of the Philippian church, but was sent out from the church on a “mercy mission” to deliver an offering to Paul who was imprisoned in Rome. Once there, Epaphroditus remained by Paul’s side to care for his many needs. If his story ended there, he would be defined by a strong sacrificial spirit. To willingly leave your home and way of life to resettle in a strange setting for the sake of someone else’s needs . . . this certainly takes an others-oriented outlook on life!
But something happened at some point during Epaphroditus’ ministry towards Paul. He got very sick. In fact, he came close to dying due to whatever his body was battling. Of course, word got out about him and made its way back to the Philippians, who were understandably worried that they would never see him alive again. Even in his illness, Epaphroditus was more worried about how this news was hitting everyone back home rather than himself, which further illustrates his others-oriented heart!
All of this caused considerable anxiety for Paul as well because he was an indirect cause behind Epaphroditus coming so close to death’s door. It’s at this point, though, that we get those two wonderful words: but God. The Lord had mercy on Epaphroditus and with this new lease on life, there seemed to be only one appropriate thing to do. Although Paul was blessed by Epaphroditus’ service, he knew it would bring an even greater blessing to the Philippians to see their favored son returned to them. So, the apostle sends him and Timothy to them along with this letter.
Again, we don’t run into many people named Epaphroditus these days. But based on what the Bible tells us here, it’s an honorable name! For in this man, we see the qualities and characteristics that should come to define each and every one of us who aspires to represent Jesus. If we are to walk as He walked, a sacrificial spirit and others-oriented attitude must be present. It must be formed in us as the Holy Spirit fulfills His lifelong work of conforming us into likeness of our Lord.
Pause: How would you summarize the character of Epaphroditus in your own words?
Practice: Consider ways you’re able to measure an increasing or decreasing spirit of sacrifice in your life.
Pray: Father, I confess my natural bend towards being selfish and preoccupied with myself. By Your Holy Spirit, break this in me, change this in me, transform this in me into Your character and compassion for others. Make me more like Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.