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Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 2:25-30




We are continuing our study in the book of Philippians.   In our last lesson we examined Timothy, Paul’s fellow worker in the gospel. He was one that Paul could count on to do whatever was needed.   Likely, a protégé of Paul.     In our text tonight, we find another person who Paul addresses – Epaphroditus. What can we learn from him? That is our lesson.

  1.   Who was Epaphroditus?
    1. Epaphroditus – we only read about him in this letter.   Mentioned twice. Here and in Philippians 4:18 – where we find he was the messenger bringing a gift to Paul while imprisoned (in Rome)
    2. He was the messenger of the Philippians (vs. 25) – the word messenger, is the word we find for apostle.     We know that the apostles were a specific office appointed by Jesus for His direct messengers (cf. Ephesians 4:11, Luke 6:12-14, Acts 1:21-26, etc.).
      BUT, the word can also have a more generalized meaning – a messenger (perhaps officially chosen) for some task.   The Greek word ἀπόστολος (Apostolos) is found 80 times in the NKJV Greek NT including 2 Corinthians 8:23 – messengers of the churches; Galatians 1:19 – possibly James, the Lord’s brother; Hebrews 3:1 – used of Jesus as “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…”.   Then there are the false apostles (Revelation 2:2, 2 Corinthians 11:5, etc.).
      The point is, Epaphroditus was a trusted messenger sent from Philippi to help Paul.   In Philippians 4, we find that Paul was supported by the brethren at Philippi (including the occasion we are now discussing that prompted Paul to write this letter) and commended for it.   Philippians 4:18 mentions Epaphroditus bringing this gift.   It is likely that Philippi was one of the churches Paul was speaking of in 2 Corinthians 11:8 whom he “robbed” so that he would not take support from the church in Corinth.   Philippians 4:14-15 notes there were other occasions when they had supported Paul in his preaching (More on that when we get to that text).
    3. He was Paul’s “brother” – indicating relationship in God’s family.   We are brethren. Here is a text that highlights how special that bond ought to be.
    4. Fellow worker – Epaphroditus was working for the cause of Christ.   While this is the only occasion we have recorded, you can rest assured he did much more for Christ’s sake
    5. Fellow soldier – a sub category of being a fellow worker.   In this case, we are reminded of the spiritual warfare we are engaged in. We are FIGHTING for the truth of the gospel.   1 Timothy 6:12 – fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…
    6. A minister – as in one, who aided Paul with his needs.   This is NOT the word for deacon, but a different word for one who renders service often at his own expense (e.g. sacrificing for a good work or others). At times it is associated with service to God (Hebrews 8:2, Romans 15:16, etc.)
      The word is used in Romans 13:6 to describe how the government is God’s minister (serving Him).
    7. Our text – the work Epaphroditus did
      1. Paul is returning him to these brethren (25). We find out why in a couple of verses.
      2. He was longing for his brethren and was distressed because they heard he was sick (26). The brethren at Philippi had great concern for him and vise-versa.
      3. He had become sick (27) – the nature of this illness we do not know – it could have been persecutions or an illness.   Whatever it was, it was life-threatening.   We find this emphasized more in vs. 30.
      4. But he survived (27)– of which Paul attributes that to the mercy of God.   Paul appreciated the mercy of God in so many ways.   Consider 2 Corinthians 4:1, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
        JUST another reminder to be grateful for our blessings in Him.
      5. And not only on him, but on me also (27) – Paul appreciated what others did for him.
      6. Paul sent him back home (28) that they may rejoice, and in so doing he would be less sorrowful.   We see in this, once again, the unselfish attitude of Paul.  He was more concerned about the well being of others and rejoiced in their fortune.
        Consider 2 Corinthians 11:28 after describing the many things he had endured up to that point (he wasn’t done because 2nd Corinthians would have been written years before Philippians), Paul descried his daily deep concern for all the churches.
        Are we more concerned about others than ourselves? (Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Corinthians 13:5)
      7. Vs. 29, Paul challenges them to receive him back in the Lord with gladness AND to hold such men in high esteem.   More on this in a moment.
      8. Vs. 30 – whatever his sickness, it was for the work of Christ that he came close to death, not regarding his life.   Epaphroditus was like Paul in that he sacrificed himself (his own wellbeing) for Paul (others).
        He completed the “mission” he was on, even at tremendous personal cost.
  2.   Lessons to learn
    1. Little things are a big deal – sometimes “insignificant people”(Are they???) do little things that make
      all the difference. Jesus spoke of a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42) being remembered by God.
      Words of kindness, a thank you, holding a door open, helping someone with a small task, etc. may seem meaningless in the grand scheme, but they make all the difference in the lives of those who take time to notice (DO WE TAKE TIME TO NOTICE?).
      And continued little things have a way of adding up.   You may think they go unnoticed, but in time they may become obvious.
    2. He did not let obstacles keep him from accomplishing his task – we have emphasized how life is not always easy.   It is filled with obstacles.   In fact, the more devoted to God you are, the more likely you are to face obstacles at the hand of Satan.
      But how do we handle them? Do we quit or do we work through them?   We must keep pressing toward the goal (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul’s life was filled with obstacles, but he didn’t quit.   Even his “thorn in the flesh” did not stop him   (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
      We see Epaphroditus and we should ask, WHAT does it take for me to give up? Or slow down?   Just realize that you can’t as long as there is breath in you.
      You may need to rest, but don’t quit!   Revelation 14:13.
    3. An example of sacrifice for others.   We are continually reminded as Christians, that it is not just about us.   We have already been mentioning the sacrifices of Paul and Epaphroditus. He is an example of what sacrifice might involve.
      How much are we really willing to sacrifice for God and for one another as brethren?
    4. He realized his work was “the work of Christ” – whatever we do, it must be with the Lord in mind.   That needs to be our perspective.   Colossians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:31
      Something similar was said of Timothy in 1 Corinthians 16:10.
      Paul will deal more with this in Philippians 3:7-8 – he counted all things loss for Christ.
      this is a good reminder for each of us – God is watching and He knows what and how we are doing whatever it is.   When you get discouraged, remind yourself that what you do is “the work of Christ” and God.
    5. Do we hold “such men” in high esteem.   In a church, there are men and women who do what is needed to be done. Hebrews 13:7, 17 deals with elders and how they are to be recognized; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 speaks of those laboring among you – more inclusive.
      We NEED to be reminded to recognize leaders among us for the work they do. This is an uncomfortable subject to them as they are NOT doing their work for praise (cf. 1 Peter 5:2-3) but because it is needed.   They deserve to be recognized and honored.
      Personal note: Some, especially leaders – elders, teachers, the preacher, etc. – may be doing many things that the brethren simply do not know about. They just work, not only in the forefront, but also behind the scenes.   Quite often, they are underappreciated, and some highly so.   Quite often, all they hear about are complaints and what’s wrong.   That wears on anyone, especially after extended lengths of time.   That is NOT RIGHT!
      Understand, they are not seeking glory or recognition, but quite honestly a sincere thank you every once in a while, AND a little bit of levity before passing judgment in a given situation is needed.     The Bible calls for us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:1-2) and there are some who are doing some very heavy lifting.   But we must NOT forget the other side of that – are we unduly taking advantage of someone because we will not step up and do our fair share? Galatians 5:13, 6:5.

Epaphroditus is a great example for us to learn from.   He was a faithful servant of God.   Much of what he did is simply not know to us (but God knows).   But what we do have recorded is worthy of consideration and application. In each of our lives, there are things that we do, some great and some little.   You may not be recognized or think that you are not appreciated, but understand that GOD KNOWS what you are doing and He won’t forget it.   Let us consider these things from Epaphroditus.   Think about it.