Friday, November 30, 2012

Hold Such in High Regard

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)
Paul is confident that he will have a good result at his trial in Rome and will be free to come to the Jesus believers at Philippi before long. In the short-term, he plans on sending Timothy, who will minister to them in the same way Paul would. Right now, however, he is sending Epaphroditus: “My brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier.”
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are brothers in Jesus, members together in the family of God. This was no small thing for Paul. Google “brother” in his letters and you will find how important the bond of Christian brotherhood is to him. He is no loner, he always has a team with him. They are not just partners in the ministry, they are brothers in the Lord first.
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are “fellow workers.” The Greek synergos, which is where we get our English word “synergy.” They have been working together in a focused and coordinated fashion toward the common goal of preaching the good news about King Jesus. Paul identifies a number of “fellow workers” in his letters: Priscilla and Aquila, Urbane, Timothy, Apollos, Titus, Clement, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Philemon, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. We can also add Barnabas, who first introduced Paul (then called Saul) to the wary believers at Jerusalem and was his first partner in apostolic ministry. And, of course, there is also Silas, who served with Paul at Philippi and did some jail time with him on the night the jailer there believed on the Lord Jesus.
  • Paul and Epaphroditus are also “fellow soldiers,” serving together on the front lines in advancing the gospel, from Paul’s house prison in Rome. Remember that, earlier, Paul spoke of the “furtherance” of the gospel, and the Greek word he used had a military connotation. Remember also that it has also been a time of growing opposition to the gospel and persecution of those who preach it. It is not an easy life and it requires a well-disciplined focus. As Paul would will later write to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Paul is certainly enduring hardship as a “good soldier,” and so is Epaphroditus, as we will see.
That is what Epaphroditus is to Paul. Now Paul reminds the believers at Philippi who Epaphroditus is to them. He is one of their own, a member of their fellowship sent by them to minister to Paul’s needs, supplying on their behalf what they were not able to do in person. And he has been very diligent about it, too diligent perhaps, pushing himself until his health broke. Or maybe he became sick because of the difficulty of the times and the circumstances he has endure. At any rate, he was close to death at one point, and the prospect of losing their brother would certainly have brought great sorrow to Paul and the Philippians. It is with great relief, then, that Paul now sends him back, strong and well, to rejoice with his brothers and sisters in Jesus.

“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem,” Paul says. Welcome him, rejoice over him, show him honor — he is well worth it. Indeed, all who are like him are to be greatly admired and respected, because they are showing the same sort of faithful, humble service that the Lord Jesus came to show for all our sakes. As we like to say at my home church, Jesus looks good on them.

So, in speaking of Epaphroditus like this, Paul has not departed one bit from the purpose he started with at the beginning of Philippians 2, or from the hymn of divine humility he followed it up with: that they may be of one heart, one mind and one purpose, serving each other and watching out for each other, just as the Lord Jesus came to do for all of us — for all who belong to Jesus belong also to each other.

This is not something that is beyond their ability, for God is at work in them both to desire and to do whatever is needed. And Epaphroditus, one of their own, has very ably demonstrated it in his own self-giving service on their behalf. He has been like the Lord Jesus, who came to serve, even to die, not regarding His own life. All who follow such an example are worthy of great honor.

Focus Questions
  1. Is there someone in your life who has been an example of such self-giving service and humility as Epaphroditus, as well as Jesus, has shown?
  2. Do you believe that it really is possible for you to be such an example yourself?
  3. How do you suppose you can lay hold of God’s desire and ability to do that?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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