Saturday, 21 January 2017
Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; Philippians 2:25
Paul has noted that he would send Timothy when the time was right to carry the message about his status to the churches. Before that time, and probably also carrying this epistle back to them, he was sending Epaphroditus. The name is often associated with Epaphras who is mentioned in Colossians and Philemon, but this is not likely. Epaphras was a shortened form of the name, but it was also a very common name. Based on the context of those passages, the two are probably not the same person. Whether the same or not, however, the name is derived from Aphrodite, or Venus. It means “Charming.”
This Epaphroditus was being sent back by necessity which will be explained in the coming verses. For now, we are just given the following three descriptions of him. He was, according to Paul –
- My brother. This is not to be taken literally, but as a brother in Christ. It is an affectionate term which is still commonly shared among believers today.
- Fellow worker. He obviously worked alongside Paul as will be seen, especially in verse 30. They may have worked together in Philippi, or it may be that he was simply sent to work with Paul while he was imprisoned. Either way, he is given the credit for being a fellow worker with him.
- Fellow soldier. This is not the only time that Christians are considered as soldiers, carrying out military style work. Paul notes the same idea in Philemon 1:2, and in 2 Timothy 2:3, 4. Further, Paul notes that we are in a spiritual battle in Ephesians 6:10-20. If we are in a battle, we are then soldiers. These and other examples confirm and explain the term.
Next he says about Epaphroditus, “…but your messenger.” He labored with Paul, but he was sent from Philippi to do so. The word used is apostolos, and it is the same word used to speak of the designated apostles of Christ. Care needs to be taken with this word. The term simply means a messenger, or “someone sent.” In the case of Epaphroditus, he was sent by the church at Philippi, and thus he is an apostle of Philippi. The term is not to then be carried over to mean that he is an apostle of Christ.
Christ sent certain men who are known as His apostles. Others sent certain men who are known as their apostles. There are no “apostles” of Christ today who carry the authority of Christ. A church can send someone and call him an apostle, but there is no need for such a title. Whatever word is common to that church’s language would be better suited than confusing the term “apostle” with that found in the Bible when speaking of the “apostles” or “sent ones” of Jesus.
Such titles are unnecessary and often only lead to a false impression of the status and authority of the person given that title. The “apostolic era” ended with the death of the last apostle who was given that title by Christ. They had to meet certain criteria which are laid out elsewhere in Scripture, chief among which is having personally seen the Lord Jesus and been directly commissioned by him.
Having said this, Epaphroditus is called “your messenger and the one who ministered to my need.” He was the messenger from Philippi to Paul, and he was the minister of Philippi to tend to Paul’s need.
Life application: Use caution not to be swayed by fancy titles which people either grant, or which they may even claim for themselves. In the church, there are designated positions, and there are people which fill those positions, but high and lofty titles often produce unhealthy levels of adoration. We are to adore Christ alone. Pastors, preachers, missionaries, priests, bishops, deacons, popes, elders, etc. are all just folks who are not to be elevated above others, with the noted exceptions found in Scripture concerning granting certain workers “double honor” (See 1 Timothy 5:17). But this honor is for the work they do, not for who they are as individuals.
Lord God, thank You for those faithful missionaries who sacrifice their own lives in order to bring the message of Christ to the people of the world. They often go without the comforts that those who send them enjoy. They have times of loneliness, sorrow, and the like, and yet they continue their work for the sake of bringing others to know You. Be with our missionaries, confirm Your presence is with them, and comfort them in their lives and in their work. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.