Elder Vernon Johnson

   
 

Philippians 2:25-30

25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me."

Several things were said of Epaphroditus besides him being sick.  First, Paul called him a brother.  We, as part of the household of faith, should consider ourselves to be brothers and sisters.  Our care and concern for one another should be as the care and concern that a brother would have for a brother.  Further, Paul called him "my brother."  This shows a personalizing of the relationship.  We should have personal relationships with each of the members of the church of our membership. 

Next, Paul referred to Epaphroditus as a companion in labour.  A companion is someone who works side by side with you.  Paul was laboring in the gospel of Jesus Christ and Ephaphroditus was laboring side by side with Paul in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Now, we are not told specifically that Ephaproditus was a gospel minister, yet it is implied that he is.  The lesson is for all of us, whether we preach the gospel or not, and that is that we are all to be fellowlaborers in the gospel kingdom.  We all have our labor given to us of the Lord and we should be laboring together for the welfare and the furtherance of the gospel kingdom.  We should be companions in labor. 

Moreover, Paul referred to Epaphroditus as a fellowsoldier.  Thus, they both were soldiers of the same order.  One was not above the other, but they were of the same rank, thus fellowsoldiers of Jesus Christ.  Soldiers have a battle to fight and are dependant on the support and actions of their fellowsoldiers on the battlefield.  We should consider ourselves as soldiers of Jesus Christ and fight the good fight of faith.  We are depending upon the same captain (Jesus Christ) and also depending upon the actions and support of one another in our fight on the battlefield. 

Next, Paul referred to Epaphroditus as a messenger.  A messenger bears a message.  He is carrying the message from the one who sent him to the people to whom he is being sent.  The message is the most important thing.  A messenger is to faithfully deliver the message.  Likewise, we are all messengers of Jesus Christ, whether we publicly preach the gospel or not.  We are to "sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh us the reason of the hope that is within us with meekness and fear."  Similarly, we may be sent of the Lord to give words of comfort to a fellow traveler.  There are many ways that God's disciples are messengers of the Lord besides the gospel ministers.   

Moreover, Epaphroditus was a minister to the needs of Paul.  We are not told what those needs were, but, apparently, Paul had needs and Epaphroditus ministered to those needs.  We are told not to shut up our bowels of compassion to the needs of our brethren: 1 John 3:17 "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"  Also, James 2:15 "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"  Additionally, James 1:27 "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."  The conclusion is that we are all to be ministers to the needs of others as we have ability to supply those needs. 

Epaphroditus had a loving longing for the fellowship of the brethren and sisters of the church at Philippi.  The scripture says, he longed after you all.  This should also be true of each of us that we have a longing for the fellowship of God's children in the church.  Often, I can hardly wait until Sunday comes so that I can once again see the dear saints of God and worship with them in spirit and in truth.  I long for their fellowship and for their company.  I would rather be where the saints gather together than at a family reunion.   

Epaphroditus had a great concern for the concerns of the brethren: and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.  His chief concern was not for his own sickness, but it made him heavy that the brethren were concerned for him in his sickness.  He was heavy hearted that they would worry too much about him.  He did not want them worrying too much about him.  This is a great show of love on the part of Epaphroditus. 

Now, we look at the sickness of Epaphroditus.  He was sick nigh unto death.  In other words, he almost died from his sickness.  While we are not told just what the sickness was, we know the reason for his sickness:  Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.  This tells us that Epaphroditus was willing to die to serve the Lord and almost died to perform that service.  Surely, Epaphroditus is an example for all of us to follow.  We should all be willing to die to perform the service of the Lord.   

Additionally, it was an act of mercy from the Lord that God delivered him from his sickness.  This mercy was not just toward Epaphroditus, but also toward Paul and toward the church at Philippi: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  As a side note, this shows that the apostolic sign gift was no longer present as Paul no longer had the ability to lay his hands upon the brother and deliver him from his sickness.  This is a proof text that the apostolic sign gifts were only for a relatively short period of time. 

Finally, we should hold in reputation those who are faithful to serve the Lord as Brother Epaphroditus was: Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: