Philippiansby David Sanford
The name Epaphroditus means ″handsome″ and ″agreeable″. After the near-death illness he experiences (Philippians 2:27), we should probably add ″one whom God restored to life″.
Epaphroditus is a believer in Christ from Philippi. He had been sent by the Philippian church to take care of Paul's needs, and now Paul has sent him back to the Philippian believers.
Paul expresses his utmost respect for Epaphroditus by calling him ″brother, co-worker and fellow soldier″ (v. 25). Like Timothy, Epaphroditus loves the Lord wholeheartedly and loves others as himself. Some biblical scholars have concluded that Epaphroditus was likely a risk-taking leader, willing to place himself in harm's way. Others have suggested that he may have been a man of means. Whatever the case, he set out on a journey of well over 1,100 kilometres, carrying generous and valuable gifts for Paul (4:18). ″Travel safety″ were two words that didn't usually appear together in the ancient world: Epaphroditus faced potential dangers on both land and sea and, like Paul, this probably included hostility from other travellers, soldiers, and bandits. In the end, Epaphroditus fell dangerously ill and ″almost died for the work of Christ . . . [risking] his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me″ (2:30). It's likely that both Paul and Timothy cared for their brother, prayed for his life, and nursed him back to health.
Epaphroditus' return trip to Philippi would likely have been equally arduous, though this time the treasure he carried was this epistle, written on leather or parchment. This epistle has now been translated into more than 1,520 languages and published billions of times. Today, we can read, understand, reflect, and apply God's Word to the Philippians anew.
No wonder Paul instructed the Philippian believers to ″welcome [Epaphroditus] in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him″ (v. 29). Do you know any risk-taking missionaries, church planters, or pastors? If so, how can you demonstrate your respect for these leaders today?
List the names of the risk-taking leaders you know who remind you of Epaphroditus. Write and send a letter of affirmation to one of them.
If the Lord calls you to undertake arduous travel in His service, what would your response be, and why?