Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.


Although the theme of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians is that of joy,  it is also a call to humility, according to Philippians 2:1-8.  We are to live out our lives without pride if life goes well for us and without complaint if we are faced with difficulties.   Joy and humility are usually found together. Outstanding examples of that truth are found in the person of Jesus, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.


Joy and humility are also found in the great missionary heroes, such as Hudson Taylor, missionary to China,  David Livingston, missionary to Africa, George Mueller who operated an orphanage in England in the 19th century or the five missionaries who were martyred by the Auca Indian tribe in the jungles of  Ecuador in 1956.


That kind of sacrifice is rare in America today and rare is the Christian who is bubbling over with joy, for sacrifice and joy are usually found together.


Earlier in our study of Philippians 2:17-24, we looked at the joy of the Apostle Paul and his son in the Faith, Pastor Timothy.  In this article we want to look at Epaphroditus in verses 25-30.


Epaphroditus was born into a heathen Greek culture. He was named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.  As a young man, he was saved and became a trusted, faithful deacon or servant in the church of Philippi.  


He was a common man who had nothing personal to gain by his sacrifice. The Church of Philippi had entrusted Epaphroditus with a gift of money to take to  the imprisoned Apostle Paul in Rome.


How did Paul recognize Epaphroditus?


Paul recognized him as a brother in Christ and a faithful fellow worker who worked alongside of Paul to spread the Gospel.  He also recognized him as a fellow soldier.  Paul did not look down on Epaphroditus. He elevated him as his beloved co-worker.


He also recognized Epaphroditus as an apostle or sent one in 2:25.


Although there were only twelve Apostles chosen, trained and sent out by Jesus to establish the Church, I believe Paul was the twelfth Apostle who replaced Judas after he betrayed Jesus and hung himself, although I don’t question it could have been Matthias who was chosen by the Apostles by casting lots. The point is, there were only twelve Apostles. Those Apostles are referred to in Revelation 21:14 where we find their names written in the  foundations of the Holy City in eternity.


But in addition to the twelve Apostles (which I spell with a capital A) to distinguish them,  the early church also sent out apostles, (which I spell with a lower case a).  In both cases, apostles  were simply sent ones. Epaphroditus was an apostle or sent one by the Philippian church.


In both cases, the Apostles of Christ and the apostles of the local churches left their homes, their livelihood and self-interests to devote their lives for Christ.


Why was it necessary to sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi?


Philippians 2:25-26 informs us that Epaphroditus was distressed. Why was he distressed?  Because they learned he was sick and close to dying, and because of their love and concern for him, they  were distressed.  Their distress became Epaphroditus’ distress.


Paul who needed Epaphroditus’ help, did not say to him, “Snap out of it. So what if the Philippian Church feels badly over your sickness. Let them get over it and YOU get over it also!”  No, Paul did not talk  or even think like that.  Paul knew that relationships were more important than programs.


God had mercy on Epaphroditus. He recovered from his illness.  He also showed mercy to Paul; otherwise, Paul’s sorrow might have been much worse. Paul already bore the daily burdens of all the churches, II Corinthians  11:28 reminds us.


We all have problems and burdens.


The Philippian Church had their problems and burdens. Philippians 1:29 speaks of their sufferings.


Paul had his problems.


Epaphroditus had his problems.


But no one was concerned for their own problems.


The Philippian church was concerned for the Apostle Paul and their apostle, Epaphroditus.


Paul was concerned for the Philippian Church and for Epaphroditus.


Epaphroditus was concerned for Paul and the Philippian Church.


All of them were concerned for one another, rather than themselves. They were as Galatians 6:2 teaches,  bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ, which is love for one another.  Therefore Paul sent Epaphroditus home to his church and wrote to the Philippian Church,  “Receive Epaphroditus, welcome him in the Lord and hold him in high regard, for he came close to death for the work of Christ, even risking his life.


For what are we spending or risking our lives?  For the cause of Christ, or for self-fulfillment?


For whom are we primarily concerned? Ourselves or for others?


God help us to so bear the burdens of others that our own burdens seem as nothing.

August 31, 2009 - Posted by | Philippians

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