Join Brother Charles as he continues to explore the people God chooses to use throughout the Bible to do great things!
THE PEOPLE GOD USES
Today, we continue our study of the people that God uses. We are going to consider a man who served with Paul, and who served Paul as we will see today. Today we will learn from a man by the name of Epaphroditus.
Now, what do we know about Epaphroditus. Well, we really don’t know anything about him.
We don’t know anything about his background;
We don’t know anything about his parents;
We don’t know how long he had been a Christian;
We don’t know what his function was in the church.
We don’t know when he was converted.
Another thing that might help us in understanding this man is that he has a very common name. In fact, the word Epaphroditus was a common word. This tells us that he came out of a pagan environment. Christians would never name a child like this. We don’t know when he was converted. It’s very likely his family worshiped among other deities, this goddess Aphrodite.
So this man came out of a pagan background, converted to Christ. We don’t know where. We don’t know in what way. It very possibly could have happened when Paul founded the church at Philippi. He could have been one of the early converts and been there from the very beginning, but we do not know that.
Remember now, Paul is a prisoner, a two-year incarceration in a private house by the Roman government. The Romans have chained him to one of their soldiers, keeping him a prisoner in his own house. During the time he is imprisoned by Rome he still has some freedom for ministry. The Philippian church who loved him very deeply, the church which he founded, as recorded in Acts 16, when they became aware of his situation were greatly troubled by it and decided they wanted to help him. Realizing he could no longer work to earn his living and support himself in his ministry, they wanted to send him a love offering.
So, the Philippians collected sacrificially from their people a gift of love and they sent it to Paul and it was taken by this man Epaphroditus.
Epaphroditus took the financial gift to Paul, but there was more involved than that. The Philippian church instructed him not only to deliver the money but to stay and to become the servant of Paul in the matter of all his personal needs. So Epaphroditus is sent with the love offering as the chosen delegate of the church.
Now that alone would tell us something about Epaphroditus.
First, the Philippian church would never have sent a man to work in proximity with the Apostle Paul unless he was most eminently representative of the godliness of that congregation.
We can assume that they wouldn’t want to put anybody suspect very close to the Apostle Paul who may well have been the most discerning human being that ever lived and who could see through anyone. And so we can be fairly certain that Epaphroditus was a man of genuine spiritual virtue, of depth in terms of his love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we could also ascertain that he was a man with a heart of a servant.
For him to go and to simply meet all the needs of the Apostle Paul would indicate to me that he saw himself in the role of coming alongside to serve. There is no indication that he was a significant preacher/teacher in the church, although he may well have been able to do that. It could well be ascertained that he was more likely a deacon than an elder and that his role was more the role of serving than the role of leading. But nonetheless we can for sure know that he must have had a servant’s heart. The Philippian congregation having chosen him as their ambassador, as it were, to Paul would never have chosen a man who wouldn’t literally give his life away in service to someone else because to do so would betray both their love for Paul and Paul’s trust in their judgment.
Thirdly, we can ascertain that not only was he a humble serving godly man, but he was a man of great courage because he knew exactly what he was walking into.
It was imminently possible that Paul could lose his life because he was, after all, a prisoner and there was consideration about whether or not he should continue to live since he was bringing the heresy of Christianity into the Roman world. And if in fact Paul’s life was taken away, it would probably be a matter of course for them to at least consider taking the lives of those who served alongside of him. So, he well knew the risk involved.
Look with me at verse 25. In this verse Paul gives his friend Epaphroditus three titles. Each title is introduced with the little word “My.”
First of all, he is called “My brother.” The key is the word “my.” Paul is viewing him in a very personal way.
He is my brother. What does Paul mean by that? Well, he means brother in the sense of spiritual birth. They both have the common source of life; God the Father having given them life in Christ through the Spirit. They are brothers in Christ and so they share the common eternal life.
But there is more to it than that. It is not only a brother of common life, but it is a brother of common love. And the term also carries the idea of camaraderie, friendship, affection, feelings. And so, Paul is saying, first of all, I want you to know that Epaphroditus not only shares with me common life, but he is a brother whom I love.
The second title is how he related to Paul’s ministry, and he calls him “my fellow worker,”.
This word is used thirteen times in the New Testament, twelve times out of the thirteen by Paul and he uses it of people who worked alongside him in the ministry. He is commendable not only for his relational skills, he is commendable also for his laboring effort, for his diligence. Not just brothers in life and love, but workers together for Christ.
Thirdly, he says “my fellow soldier.”
This is to say not particularly looking at his relation to Paul or his relation to the task at hand, but that he is commendable in relationship to the enemies which fight against the ministry. My fellow soldier…as it were…leader in the matter of spiritual warfare.
Now all three of these terms demonstrate the gracious humility of the heart of Paul. This is the humble heart of the great Apostle.
So he’s quite a man, quite a remarkable man…unselfish, humble, sympathetic, compassionate, all of those things. He’s a servant, he’s courageous, he’s godly. He built a strong bond with Paul. He worked alongside him and did his share, and he was a great soldier fighting the enemy.
Can I personalize our study as we close?
Do you have a role model? Someone who inspires you.
What have you and I sacrificed in ministry to others?
God can, and will, use us just as He used Epaphroditus. A common run-of-the-mill guy who made himself available.