Why Paul Felt It Necessary To Send Epaphroditus - Part #1 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Date: 10/31/18

Lesson #19

Title: Why Paul Felt It Necessary To Send Epaphroditus
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” are shown as endnotes.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.

Scripture: (Philippians 2:25-28, NIV)
(25) But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. (26) For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. (27) Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. (28) Therefore I am all the more eager to send him so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.


Having set before the Philippian church not only the example of Christ, but his own life as an apostle, and Timothy’s life of testimony, Paul now commends “Epaphroditus,” who had been sent by the Philippians to minister to him and to bring an offering. He is now being sent back to them with Paul’s commendation.

Although Timothy’s visit was delayed, “Epaphroditus” was to go immediately, taking with him the epistle Paul was writing.

There is a dramatic story behind this. When the Philippians heard that Paul was in prison, their warm hearts were moved to action. They sent a gift to him by the hand of “Epaphroditus.” What they could not personally do, because distance prevented them, they delegated to “Epaphroditus” to do for them. Not only did they intend for him to be the bearer of their gift; they also intended for him to stay in Rome and be Paul’s personal servant and attendant. Clearly “Epaphroditus” was a brave man, for anyone who proposed to offer himself as the personal attendant of a man awaiting trial on a capital charge was laying himself open to the very considerable risk of becoming involved in the same charge. In truth, “Epaphroditus” risked his life to serve Paul. The rest of the story is found in the following passage.

(2:25) But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, who is “Epaphroditus”? “Epaphroditus,” whose name means charming, is not the Epaphras mentioned in Colossians 1:7 and 4:12 an individual who lived in Colosse, and we do not know any more about him than Paul tells us here. “Epaphroditus,” bore a name commonly used and frequently found in ancient literature, sometimes in its shortened form, Epaphras. It has been supposed that “Epaphroditus” was the pastor of the church in Philippi

In Paul’s glowing commendation of this dedicated servant of Christ, three terms my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier describe his relation to the apostle, and the word

messenger his attachment to the Philippians. Paul loved “Epaphroditus” because he had the mind of Christ and he could trust him.

My brother in the faith, my co-worker in preaching, my fellow-soldier in adversity―please note that the three words are arranged in ascending order: common sympathy, common work, common danger in toil and suffering. For the apostle to recognize an ordinary layman with such a high commendation was generous of Paul and also expresses his appreciation for all Epaphroditus had done. It can be said of Epaphroditus, “We see the mind of Christ in him.” He was a man who could work with others, and this is certainly a great asset for those who want to lead a Christian life and serve God and man. It was one thing for a believer to work independently, having everything his own way. It was far more difficult to work with others, to play “second fiddle,” to do common or menial work, to allow for individual differences, to submerge one’s own desires and opinions for the good of the group. By doing the hard work, “Epaphroditus” humbled himself. But God exalted him by recording his faithful service in Philippians 2 for all future generations to read. Let us be fellow-workers and fellow-soldiers.

Paul knew that it was time to send “Epaphroditus” back home, and in all probability, he was the bearer of this letter. But there was a problem. The Philippian Church had sent “Epaphroditus” to stay with Paul, and if he came back home, there would be those who would say he was a quitter. But the apostle counteracted that by giving him a strong testimonial, which will silence any possible criticism of his return. In this testimonial, every word is carefully chosen. The gist of the testimonial is “Give a man like that a welcome home,” he says, “Honor him for he hazarded his life for Christ.

whom you sent to take care of my needs.
As the apostle or appointed delegate of the Philippian church (2 Cor. 8:23){a], “Epaphroditus” was sent to perform a sacrificial service for Paul by presenting him with their gift of money (4:18){b] and ministering to his needs in prison on their behalf (see v 30){c].

While ministering to Paul, “Epaphroditus” had become ill―perhaps with the notorious Roman fever which sometimes swept the city like a scourge―and was close to death; and now both he and Paul were concerned that the Philippians had heard reports of his illness without reports of his recovery. Paul explains that “Epaphroditus” had indeed been sick, in fact, he had almost died, and that his recovery was evidence of the mercy of God on him, and also on himself, for he feared that the death of “Epaphroditus” would bring additional sorrow upon him in his imprisonment. But God in His mercy spared the life of “Epaphroditus” and so spared Paul yet more sorrow. It is comforting to know that the heart of God is filled with mercy, that is, with loving kindness and active pity. In Christ, he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

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