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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men (and women) to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome back to HBS where the Light is always on.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:7-15).
Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain (Philippians 2:14-16).
Please open your Bible at Philippians 2:25-30.
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. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 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. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Last week we read about our Apostle Paul singing the praises of “his own son in the faith,” namely Timothy, for his spirituality and reliability in pursuing the things of God: For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state (2:20).
This week we’re going to look at another godly man who followed Paul’s example. It’s truly unfortunate most of Christendom has never heard of this individual or of his accomplishments for the Lord and Paul. He responsibly carried the original (not a copy) manuscript of this letter from Rome to Philippi. His name is Epaphroditus.
Epaphroditus was the Believer selected by the Philippian saints to carry their monetary gift to Paul in Rome. There is disagreement as to what this money was to be used for. For the life of me, I can’t comprehend the need to concern one’s self with the answer to this obscure question. I believe we can safely assume it was meant to aid Paul’s ministry and to help him with everyday living expenses (i.e. food, clothing, medical care, writing material, etc.).
Now I read somewhere, sometime ago the trip from Rome to Philippi was approximately 800 miles give or take, one way. The article said it would take a person forty days to reach the destination. Whatever the case may be, we learn from this it was not an easy outing. Today if I want to travel to my hometown up in Indiana, about 1,000 miles, we’re talking about the expenditure of 3.5 tanks of gas and approximately 16.5 hours driving time. Not an easy drive, but it hardly compares to Epaphroditus’ journey back in the first century. Long distance travel was known to be arduous and dangerous. Only a man in excellent health would attempt it.
To the Philippians Epaphroditus was merely a messenger (2:25) but to Paul he was much more. He referred to him as: my brother, (this speaks of their personal relationship brought about by their faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ); my companion in labor (here Paul reveals he was his faithful partner in the faith who labored alongside him to further the gospel); his fellow soldier (fellow soldiers fight side-by-side, standing fast in the midst of the fray for the cause to which they have dedicated their lives).
“Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus - in the last study, Paul had initially considered sending Timothy to Philippi, and we discussed the need for his visit. The church at Philippi was not spiritually healthy due to persecution, the introduction of false doctrine by outsiders, and they experienced disunity. We know this because Paul said they were not “likeminded.”
Let’s go to verses 2:26-27:
For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 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.
I can’t speak for y’all but most of my incoming mail is nothing more than “junk mail.” I give it a quick glance and then chuck in the trash. However, on occasion I receive a letter from family or friends of a personal nature. Once the shock where’s off, my spirit is lifted and I can’t wait to open it and read it, probably more than once. Now, picture our Apostle Paul under “house arrest” and chained to a member of the Pretorian Guard 24/7 in Rome; a great distance from these people he loved. They could not minister to his needs from such a distance, so they sent Epaphroditus to Paul. I can picture the smile on Paul’s face when he saw him and received news from Philippi, and I’m sure his company and the saint’s monetary gift were received with joy.
However, upsetting news arrived with the good. Somewhere during this difficult journey Epaphroditus became very ill. We are not told what ailed him but since the text tells us he was “nigh unto death” we can assume his situation was serious. Plainly said, he put his life on the line in serving the Lord and Paul (2:30).
Since he was carrying a large sum of money, it’s highly probable he was not alone on this undertaking. Several Believers from Philippi were probably with him (See 2 Corinthians 8:16-23). After he became seriously ill, at least one member of this commission returned to Philippi with the sad news, while the others attended him.
When we become ill, even seriously ill today most people expect to recover and then go on with their lives. Back in Paul’s day, if you became very sick, you were expected to die. Epaphroditus’ illness would have brought about his death if God had not intervened: “For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him…”
What I find interesting here is God, not Paul, healed him. This underlines the biblical fact the sign gifts prevalent in the book of Acts, were no longer in effect (See 1 Timothy 5:23). So, it wasn’t that Paul didn’t want to heal him; he couldn’t. God the Father responded to the prayers of Paul and the Believers at Philippi and restored his health. Before I let this go, permit me to say I do not put God in a box by saying He does not heal people today. He is Sovereign and the Great Physician. However, truth be told, I have no faith in the “faith-healing” church sect of today. Ask yourself, if God did not permit Paul to continue miracle healings, what makes people believe He has gifted man with this ability today?
Paul was grateful God had healed Epaphroditus lest he “should have sorrow upon sorrow.” Today this may be referred to as “piling on” or “adding insult to injury.”
Think this through. Paul was already in prison, even though it was in a rented house in Rome, and although Paul was optimistic about the outcome of his trial, should Epaphroditus, his brother, companion in labor, and fellow soldier who fought the good fight of the faith die it would be a tremendous loss, or sorrow upon sorrow.
I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
In response to the outpouring of affection and concern about his wellbeing, Paul decided to express his sincere gratitude to the saints at Philippi by sending Epaphroditus back to them with this letter to the church. Upon arrival, they would express gratitude to God for answered prayer when they saw their brother in the faith in person and in good health.
To us Epaphroditus may appear to be just another Believer saved by grace (alone). He wasn’t well-known, as I pointed out earlier. He was not an apostle or the leader of the church in Philippi. Yet, Paul insists on him being received in a manner befitting a solider returning from the fight. Why? Epaphroditus saw a need and chose to meet it, selflessly and with steadfast devotion. He served in the place of the Philippian Believers who did not have the opportunity to serve Paul because of the distance and Paul’s current circumstances (2:30). This makes him the second Christ-like model we’ve encountered, confirming what Paul said “Look not every man on his own things (interests), but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (2:4-5).
If your looking to the interests of others, whether in your church, or beyond its walls, you may not receive a star on your churches’ walk of fame but be sure you are being recognized and appreciated by those you serve and the Lord Himself and one day future there will be an accounting:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
(To be continued)
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