Scripture: Philippians 2:25-30
25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.
28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.
We have to remember that Luke wrote the book Acts which gives us many details of Paul’s missionary journeys but not all the details. For example: Luke never mentions himself. Paul was rarely if ever along. In his three journeys, he had 19 different traveling companions. The only time that Paul was alone was in Athens. He was escorted there and told to wait for Silas and Timothy to join him but there are the escorts who are not mentioned by name. Long story short, Paul was not a loner, he worked in the context of a team.
Epaphroditus is a leader from the church at Philippi. According to tradition, he will become their bishop or senior pastor. I don’t think he held this title when he takes a love gift in behalf of the church at Philippi to Paul in prison at Rome. Many advancements have been made since the days of Epaphroditus: Travel these days is far less dangerous and much quicker. Of course, the advancement in medical science is incomparable. Epaphroditus managed to get to Rome but somehow he became sick and almost died. Paul was worried that he would die and was extremely relieved when he pulled through.
Tonight, I want to speak to you about the character and person of Epaphroditus [Charming] but I want to make it a single point and then move on to some interesting things about Paul.
I. FIRST, NOTE PAUL’S COMMENDATION OF EPAPHRODITUS [Make no mistake, Paul is commending this man. There is not the lest tone of criticism in what Paul says. Epaphroditus is…
- A True Brother–there is no problem between he and Paul and not question concerning his loyalty to Christ.
- A Co-Worker–the Greek word is synergos from which we get synergy…it is two people working together to accomplish a common task.
- A Fellow-Soldier–This term suggest trust. You don’t go into battle with comrades you cannot trust because they have your back.
- A Messenger–The Philippian church made Epaphroditus their courier, messenger to get word and money to Paul. A trusted messenger is one who has no hidden agenda. This means Epaphroditus was a man of integrity.
- A Minister–The Philippian church sent him to minister to Paul’s need. The Greek word means to serve. NLT renders it ‘help.’ [all this is in verse 25-26 but there is more]
- Epaphroditus was an Honorable man [v.29]. Paul said, “When he arrives, you celebrate and honor him because he deserves to be honored.
- Epaphroditus was a Courageous Man–He was willing to risk his life for the work of Christ [v.30]
So Paul who is not careless with praise, praises Epaphroditus lavishly. But there are a couple of things about Paul that I want to point out because I think they will encourage. We usually think of Paul as super human but he was just a man, an extraordinary man but never the less a man.
II. NOTE PAUL’S SYMPATHY FOR EPAPHRODITUS–Three times Paul says, “I am sending him back to you.” [25, 26, 28]. Why did Paul go to so much trouble explaining Epaphroditus returning home.
- Paul said Epaphroditus was longing for home [v.26]. In other words, he was homesick.
- Do you remember what Paul did when John Mark got homesick on the first Missionary Journey? This is a complete 180 from that experience. Paul had no sympathy for John Mark but here he is filled with sympathy for Epaphroditus.
- Paul repeats “I am sending him,” to let the people in Philippi know that Epaphroditus had not quit: Paul had re-assigned him. Paul saw that Epaphroditus was homesick and distressed and Paul believed that he would be more help at Philippi than in Rome.
- You can see the process of sanctification working in the great Apostle’s life, he is growing kinder and more gentle.
- I also believe that Paul is concerned with Epaphroditus health and he thinks it is best for everyone that Epaphroditus return home.
III. THIRD, I WANT YOU TO NOTE PAUL’S HUMANITY
- This is the same man who says, “Death, where is your sting?” and “For me to live is Christ but to die is gain.” In this passage he says….I am all the more anxious to send him back….then I will not be so worried.
- Anxiety and worry are things we deal with daily but sometimes we live under the illusion that the great saints like Paul had no anxiety and never worried. This passage indicates that Paul was a lot like us when it comes to stress and anxiety.
- I don’t think Paul was afraid to die but death was a source of sorrow for him. He said, But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.
I don’t think dying was that big of a deal for Paul but having his team members depart before him was a big deal. No one knows how they will react to bad news but there are things worse than our personal departure. When our friends, family and young people precede us, it can be a source of grief and sorrow. This story reveals Paul’s humanity…Physical death is a stresser but the good news is in verse 27…”God had mercy,” because He is Merciful.
STORY–SHREK THE SHEEP
Shrek was Merino Sheep from Tarras, New Zealand, who gained international fame in 2004 after he avoided being caught and shorn for six years. Merinos are normally shorn annually, but Shrek apparently hid in caves, avoiding muster. He was given the name Shrek after a character in books and films who loathed cleanliness.
After being caught on 15 April 2004, Shrek was shorn on National television in New Zealand by a professional in 20 minutes on 28 April. His fleece contained enough wool to make 20 large men’s suits, weighing 60 pounds — His fleece was so heavy that he had to be carried to safety. He could not walk more than a few feet. Had he not been found, he would have surely perished.
Isaiah 53:6 comes to mind….All of us, like sheep, have strayed away We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him [Jesus] the sins of us all. We are sheep in need of a merciful shepherd.