“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; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” -Philippians 2:25–30
What a name, right?
It was actually a very common name among the Greeks. The name Epaphroditus was derived from the name Aphrodites, who was the goddess of love, beauty and sexual pleasure. Now I’ve heard of some fairly bizarre names in my time, but I’m not sure I would like to explain this one away to my own child named this.
Since Epaphroditus was Greek, we can probably gather that he came from a prominent educational background and before he came to Christ was likely a very prideful individual, as most Greeks were. But now, through the amazing transformation of Christ, we discover from Paul’s own words that Epaphroditus was a humble man with a proven character.
What I find to be perhaps the most interesting observation about Epaphroditus is that he is a “one hit wonder” in the Bible. The book of Philippians is the only place he shows up. It’s likely Epaphroditus was only really known to the church of Philippi. He wasn’t a Christian superstar like Paul or Timothy. He was just a simple man who had incredible qualities and a proven character and he did it with all his heart in a very small context.
I find that to be radically encouraging.
I believe one the greatest lies the enemy of our souls is spreading around the church today is that each and everyone one of our ministries needs to be known beyond our small communities. “You gotta get yourself out there and make an impression. Take over the city, the state and the country with it”
It sounds admirable, right?
Maybe. Don’t get me wrong. Paul had an international ministry in some respects. But I think the church at large is caught up comparing Twitter followers (in the words of Andy Mineo) and trying to build an empire rather than being content to work and minister faithfully in a small context -like Epaphroditus.
Either way, no matter whether the context is big or small, you don’t need to be a famous individual to have the humility of a proven character.
We all may not be able to be a Paul, but we can all be an Epaphroditus.
Let’s take a look more closely at the humble characteristics of Epaphroditus and draw some application for our lives.
First, we learn Epaphroditus was consider a brother in Christ.
“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother” -Philippians 2:25
I love this. The first thing among everything that Paul praises Epaphroditus for was his brotherhood. Paul doesn’t praise him first for his preaching or evangelism skills, but for the simplicity of being close like a brother.
I would say, among all other characteristics, that being identified as a brother or sister in Christ to other believers is the most important. There are so many Christians who come to church but few can call them a brother or sister because they’re in and they’re out. No one knows about their lives, their needs, their wants, their hurts or their joys.
Real humility is allowing yourself to become part of the family of God and letting your spiritual siblings surround you and be a part of your life.
The Christian life was never meant to be walked alone. It was meant to be shared with a church family.
Second, we learn Epaphroditus was considered a fellow worker.
““Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker…” -Philippians 2:25
Think about the significance of this statement for a moment. On the one side we have Paul, a world renowned apostle who also was a Scripture writing, church planting, gospel preaching ninja. On the other side we have Epaphroditus, a small town, local pastor.
Yet, as far apart as these two may seem in their realm of influence, Paul calls Epaphroditus a “fellow worker”. I love this! There was no hierarchy in Paul’s mind, and there is no hierarchy in the church. No one person is more important than the other.
We are all fellow workers in the kingdom of God.
We are all saved by the same grace.
We are all working toward the same prize.
We are all destined for the same eternal shores of glory.
Let that sink in. It is both humbling and up-lifting. A true humble character recognizes his brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow workers.
Third, we learn Epaphroditus was considered a fellow soldier.
“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier” -Philippians 2:25
I love it when Paul likens our Christian faith in military terms. We are indeed soldiers for the gospel! We are fighting a real spiritual war, with real spiritual enemies in real spiritual realms -AND we are all fellow soldiers in this war.
Do I have to remind us of Paul’s words in Ephesians 6?
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” -Ephesians 6:11–13
A true character of humility recognizes the battle -he recognizes the spiritual war around him, and takes the position of Christian soldier seriously.
Fourth, we learn Epaphroditus was considered a messenger.
“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger ” -Philippians 2:25
Interestingly, the word “messenger” used here in the Greek is “apostolos” which is more commonly translated as “apostle”. Of course, Epaphroditus was not one of the 12 Apostles, but what Paul is communicating is that Epaphroditus very much played the role as an apostle to the Philippian Church.
Epaphroditus pastored them; taught them; prayed for them and served them. He tended to their needs and exercised the proper authority where needed. He was, in all practical purposes, an apostle of the Philippian church.
We get the impression here that Epaphroditus was just one of those guys that people naturally followed because of his humble leadership and meek authority. Through tender love and humble affection, the church listened to him closely and seriously.
That right there is a humble character at work.
Fifth, and last of all, we learn Epaphroditus was a servant.
“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
Can one truly be humble and not be a servant? No.
Epaphroditus, as gifted as he probably was to lead, teach and pastor was still doing the work of a servant. He went out of his way to care for Paul in prison. That was no small task. He not only had to travel a dangerous amount of miles by foot, but had to enter into the disease stricken dungeon where was Paul bound and expose himself. He then would clean Paul’s infected wounds and do some of the most filthy and disgusting work we could think of.
We learn that Epaphroditus even almost lost his life doing this, as Paul says in verse 30- “because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.” -Philippians 2:30
Wow. This is humility.
A truly humble person will serve anyone anywhere, no matter how prominent they may be in others’ eyes, just as Epaphroditus did.
There is one simple response we ought to have for such a man like Epaphroditus.
“Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;” -Philippians 2:29
Let us strive to be like this man -this one hit wonder. Let us seek to be prominent only in humility and extreme servitude toward the body of Christ. Let’s be an example of good works and gospel driven purpose in any and every task we take on, with humility and grace.
I’ve created a cheat sheet of Bible Verses for you to enjoy on the topic of Humility. Download and share!
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