Philippians 2:25-30 – Epaphroditus: God’s Labourer5 min read
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. (26) For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. (27) For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (28) I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. (29) Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: (30) Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me. – Philippians 2:25-30
His Description and Duty
The first characteristic of this man is that he was a companion, fellow-laborer, and brother. In the gospel field, it is essential for a laborer to be one who supports his fellow-laborers. Paul no doubt emphasized this truth about Epaphroditus because he knew what it meant to be accompanied by unfaithful companions (Barnabus and Mark: Acts 15:37). It meant a great deal to Paul to have a man he could depend upon; and though we may not all be on the “front lines” of evangelism, let us understand the importance of being a person whom others can rely upon.
Secondly, we see about this man that he was a man of service: “he ministered to my needs.” What were Paul’s needs? No doubt there were many and quite diverse in nature, yet Ephaphroditus was there for him. Perhaps there is a laborer in your area who needs a temporary home on his journeys. Are you willing to supply that need? Perhaps there is a laborer in need financially. Are you willing to supply that? Perhaps you feel that God is calling you to evangelize. Are you willing to assist that laborer in his work if God calls you there? Let us not only be faithful companions, but let our love for believers be shown by true service.
Not only that, but Epaphroditus was a man of the assembly – a man with an active zeal for the house of God. O how this is lacking today! His desire was not only to assist Paul, but to bring the teaching of Scripture to the people of God. Truly a man of the gospel must be a man of the assembly, for the gospel and the assembly have the same foundation: the Person of Christ. These two elements so dearly precious to God must not be separated. (Are they ever in Scripture?)
As a fourth characteristic, we see this was a man of devotion. How do we know this? “For the cause of Christ, he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life.” (And to think some of us won’t even attend an assembly meeting because of fatigue.) The Lord Jesus commanded “Be faithful unto death.” (Rev. 2:10). How are we doing with that? Now, the Lord may not call us to martyrdom, but what if He does? What if he calls us to so-called “social suicide” by our testimony of the gospel? How far will we go? How far must we go? The answer is seen in the phrase “for the cause of Christ.” We must go unto the end, because it is for Him. This man knew what true worship is, and unless our life will be one of worship, it will not be one of sacrifice.
Finally regarding his character, we see Epaphroditus was a man of burden. Notice in verse 26 that he “longed after you all, and was full of heaviness.” O that we might be believers with a burden for the things of our God, for His children, for lost souls, for the assembly! God doesn’t use people who don’t care. He may use them indirectly by His sovereignty, but will they be great people of God? No. We must have zeal that the things of God might go forth in power. We must have burden that the things of God might go forth with weight.
His Source of Strength
How was this man of such high character and of such great service? Notice the phrase “God had mercy on Him.” Of course this directly speaks of his sickness, but for a man to be great for God, here is a principle we must not miss. What God gave Epaphroditus physically he was dependent upon spiritually: mercy. Never do we find a true man of God who in pride relies on his own strength. “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” We owe nothing to ourselves. Salvation was by grace; why should we not realize the same regarding life after salvation? We are fully in need of His mercy. May we daily seek it so that we might truly, humbly, and faithfully live for Him.
The Assembly’s Attitude
Finally, it is important to notice what an assembly’s attitude is to be toward such a laborer: “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation.” Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 3:21 “Therefore let no man glory in man.” What, then, should our attitude be? It should be this: we never glorify a man, but yet we must respect God’s laborers and their work because they are messengers from the Lord. Just as sinners are accountable to receive gospel messengers, so is the assembly accountable to receive/respect genuine ministers of the Word. Often they sacrifice much for the assembly’s sake. Rather than constantly belittle their preaching styles, why not build up and pray for these men? God has sent them. We must learn to care, for they come and speak of the behalf of God.
And so we conclude these few thoughts feebly presented with the desire that each reader walk away convicted as to his attitude and character towards service and the assembly. May we rely on God’s mercy to apply these principles to our lives!