The passage we will look into today is Philippians 2:25-30
Before we begin, I want to ask a question. Can you name your favourite hero from the Bible whom you like & admire? And why?
Very often, when we think about our favourite heroes, we prefer the ones that are famous and the ones who are top leaders in their community. We usually have a perception that only a few men with exceptionally high qualities are great. The world looks up and appreciates men with exceptional attributes and looks down on the ones who are insignificant and small.
But in the bible, in Luke 9, an argument aroused among the disciples of Jesus as to which of them was the greatest and Jesus responded by saying “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
In today’s passage, we will read about one such hero. His name is Epaphroditus.
25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Honestly, I knew nothing about Epaphroditus until I read this passage and started investigating him. Could be because he wasn’t a famous hero like the other characters in the Bible who achieved great things for the Kingdom of God and there is also not much written about him to grab our attention.
But even though he wasn’t great like others, he was a special one. I won’t be surprised to hear that in heaven, he’s considered one of the greatest, greater than other folks, maybe even greater than King Solomon.
In closing of this passage in verse 29 while talking about Epaphroditus, Paul writes to the Church of Philippi saying “receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honour such men”. And that is what we will discover in today’s sermon, what makes Epaphroditus so unique. I’ve made three observations that make men like Epaphroditus unique.
The first quality I see in men like him is that they…
Are fully transformed by the Gospel
Interestingly, Epaphroditus’s name is of pagan origin. It means “belonging to Aphrodite”—the name of the goddess is incorporated into the name Epaphroditus.
I am assuming that when Epaphroditus heard & received the Gospel, it opened his eyes to the dead religion he was following, made him aware of the vanity of life, and set him free to serve the living God. The idol he worshipped had no claim on him, regardless of his name.
Brothers & Sisters, I hope you know that the life we live on this earth without God is a total lie. It is twisted and bathed in sin. The world we live in is not the world God created and intended it to be. When God created the world and human beings, he instructed us to walk in his precepts so we can enjoy it as God intended, but unfortunately the first man God created sinned against him by disobeying his commands.
According to the law of God, even though the punishment for our sin was death, instead of killing us, God gave us a second chance, second chance not to try and make it right in our own efforts, which we will never accomplish. Second chance by giving us an opportunity to receive the gift of salvation through his son Jesus.
Externally, to accept this salvation, we repent of our sins and put our faith in Christ. But internally there is a miraculous transformation that happens in our heart when we receive Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour.
And the proof that we are truly believers and followers of Christ can’t be determined only by the mere external confessions, like repentance and saying it out loud to others that we believe in Jesus; it is the internal transformation that’s the proof of the pudding.
A portion of food placed on your table can look beautiful & pretty, but the real test is the taste when we put it in our mouth.
It is tough to know whether a person is a true believer in the first instance. It is only when we spend time with him/her and get to know that person better that we see the effects of the transformation evident in the person’s life.
Reading about Epaphroditus, looking at his life and reading Pauls words, we can surely confirm that his life was a fully transformed life. He was not someone who would say I love Jesus, but I also love goddess Aphrodite, both are same for me. In my house, I have Jesus’s picture and Aphrodite’s picture side by side, and they are both gods for me.
He was not someone who would say I love Jesus, but I also love the world and its pleasures. On Sunday I go to Church, sing songs and listen to whatever the preacher blabbers, on Friday I go to GC, and enjoy the party. But other days are for me, and I live it as I like.
What makes Epaphaditus and men like him special is the fact that their repentance and faith in Jesus are genuine & true and it could be witnessed by their transformed lives.
It doesn’t mean that they were perfect human beings but you can see the fire of the Gospel burning in their heart, transforming them into the image of Christ every single day.
If we had met Epaphraditus and asked him about his life, what is special about him and about his life, he would have definitely said: “Christ in me the hope of glory”.
The second quality that makes men like Epaphroditus special is that they…
Are committed to, loved & approved by the Church
Paul was in prison, and the Church wanted to send him a care package. It was a risky operation, and they wanted a man who could be trusted, courageous, servant-hearted, humble – and Epaphroditus was chosen for it.
25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need
Epaphroditus was not chosen randomly but chosen with due diligence. Paul’s words in verse 26 “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” suggests that he had a deep and affectionate relationship with the Church in Philippi. When the Church needed help to deploy a risky operation, they found Epaphraditus worthy and ready for the task.
After observing him for months and years, they knew there was no better person than Epaphraditus for the task. Under no circumstances will Epaphraditus abandon the mission. They knew he had a servant’s heart and will faithfully serve Paul with a genuinely loving heart.
To be chosen by them for such a task, Epaphroditus must have walked faithfully while he was among them, fully committed to the Church.
Epaphroditus was a man of obvious devotion, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. He put “the interests of others” before himself, and so modelled the mind of Christ.
Epaphroditus may not have been a very talented guy with extraordinary skills, but seems to me like a regular guy who served the Church with whatever capacity he had. He was in love with the Church, and the Church loved him, and when a need arose, he was chosen and approved. That makes him special.
To Paul, he was a “brother” (belonging to the same family), a “co-worker” (labouring toward the same goal), and a “fellow soldier” (sharing the same trials).
We can see the nature of Christ displayed in him, not just in his words but also in his actions towards one another. We can witness how much he has grown in his faith and is devoted to Christ, who is using him for his glory.
Last and the final observation about men like Epaphroditus was that they …
Are filled with zeal for the Kingdom of God
Paul was a spiritual father to the Church of Philippi; in fact, he was the one who planted the Church. During that period, God was using Paul in unusual ways, whether he was free or in prison. He was an asset to the Kingdom of God. Paul’s ministry was quite a crucial one, and his survival was essential to the Church.
Just like many other churches, the Church of Philippi was indebted to Paul and his service to them. When they heard about Paul’s imprisonment, they knew he needed his family to stand by him, support him and encourage him so that he can continue doing ministry. And to do that they decided to send him a care package and lots of love through Epaphroditus.
I believe when Epapharaditus was chosen for the task, he knew what his actions would mean to the Church and Paul. He knew the significance of the moment and the impact his actions would make in the expansion of the Kingdom.
And even thought it was a risky operation where he could lose his life he still threw himself in it… because of his zeal for the Kingdom of God and for missions. In v30 Paul writes “for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”
He could have stayed back and decided to continue with whatever career or business he was pursuing, he could have stayed back to be with his family and look after them. But at the right time, when the Church called him out, he chose a more significant task.
Epaphroditus was not just fully transformed by the Gospel and served in the Church in big and small ways, he was zealous for the Kingdom of God, was aware of the lostness around him and knew that he had to play his role in supporting and serving Paul as he was reaching out to the gentiles with the Gospel of Christ.
As a Christians, the very reason for which Christ came to this earth, died for our sins, redeemed us from sin and satan is for Kingdom extension. So that through our transformed lives, He would continue to reach out to the lost in the world.
He did not save us just to be good people who go to Church every Sunday, get filled with a head knowledge, get married, bring up children, make lots of money and accumulate wealth and possession.
He called us out to be used for his glory and extension of his Kingdom. Epaphroditus knew that and had dedicated his life for the task and had given himself to Christ and his mission.
Brothers & sisters, we may not be like Paul, Peter and other disciples & leaders, we may not be a gifted evangelist or a preacher or a teacher, but we all can become men like Ephaphraditus, men who are fully transformed by the power of the Gospel, men who are in love with Jesus, men who are committed, loved and approved by other fellow believers and men who are zealous for the Kingdom of God. As we continue to yield to Christ, he will continue to grow us and use us in ways beyond our imagination.
We may look like the lowliest of people doing the lowliest of jobs for the Kingdom, but it is the least among us who are considered as greatest in the Kingdom.
And as Paul mentioned, we ought to rejoice over such men and honour them for their love, commitment & service for the Kingdom.
Epaphroditus is a perfect example of what God can do in and through the lives of simple people like us. And that is why we celebrate the Gospel, celebrate what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross of Calvary.