Delivered By
C. C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
November 6, 2016
Central Passage
Philippians 2:25-30
Attached Document
Open Document

“…I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.  For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died.  But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.  Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and may have less anxiety.  So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ.  He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give to me” (Philippians 2:25-2:30).

Epaphroditus.  How many of you know someone named Epaphroditus…or how many of you have ever thought about naming a son Epaphroditus?

I certainly don’t know anyone with that name…and I grew up in East Texas…where unusual names are the rule rather than the exception.  Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the only place I’ve seen this name…and, of course, I’ve seen it in books and commentaries referring to Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.

You might think the name of Epaphroditus is unimportant…but because he’s mentioned in inspired Scripture…he’s very important.  When a person is mentioned in Scripture…there’s a reason why…and it’s always very important.

Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother…his companion in laboring for Christ…and a fellow Christian soldier.  I think most of us would settle for that as an epitaph.

I always choose my text for a sermon through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit for direction.  But sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me through what some of you say or suggest.  I’m not so arrogant as to think that the Holy Spirit speaks only to me…so never hesitate to tell me when you think the Spirit is speaking to you.

So I must confess that I might never have gotten around to preaching this message about Epaphroditus if Matt Porter hadn’t mentioned today’s text to me.  And he told me the message conveyed by these verses in Philippians came to him in what most of us would consider an unlikely place.

But, of course, the Holy Spirit comes to us at unlikely times…and in unlikely places.  That’s because…as Scripture declares…God’s thoughts and actions are so much higher than ours.  In fact, we tend to spend a lot more time trying to explain God than we do in listening to Him.

So we’re looking at this particular text today because God ordained it.  He knew we were going to be looking at it on this particular day and time…even before Matt called it to my attention…and before I chose to use it as today’s sermon text.  He also knew who was going to suit up and show up today…and He knows who in this congregation needed to hear this message.  Obviously, I think everyone does…but we all understand that God often sends a message to one person in a crowd of thousands…and that person might be you.

We can all learn a great deal from these verses of Scripture.  But, then, we can learn a lot from any verse of Scripture…or from any word in Scripture.  In fact, Hebrews 4:12-13 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Paul tells us a lot about Epaphroditus in just a few words.  The written biographies of some lives are long and tedious reading…and often sleep inducing when we attempt to read them.  But when we look at the life of Epaphroditus…we’re simply looking at a few elements that are essential to each and every person who is born again.

For example, there’s a lot we can surmise from verse 25 of today’s text.  Obviously, Epaphroditus was a member and leader in the Philippian church.  He had been chosen…or had possibly volunteered…to deliver goods to Paul in Rome.  This was not like some of us delivering a meal to a bereaved or ill family in Granbury.  This was a dangerous assignment.  Christians were not looked on favorably by the political powers of Rome…or for that matter by Jewish religious powers.

In Paul’s day both government and organized religion were against Christianity…so in a sense we’re again living in Paul’s day.

Upon arriving in Rome…Epaphroditus became a great help to Paul…who was imprisoned at the time.  He comforted the apostle not only by his companionship…but also by his labor for the gospel.  Paul called him a brother…and he was a spiritual brother…just as all who are born again become spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ.  In fact, spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood is stronger than any biological relationship.

More important than being brothers and sisters in Christ…when we’re born again we become children of God.  Romans 8:15-16 tells us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

So it starts with being a son or daughter.  Until we’re born again…we aren’t considered to be a son or daughter of God.  Without the new birth none of the other elements of this message mean anything.

Epaphroditus was a servant…and a companion in Paul’s labor for the Gospel.  It’s wonderful to be considered as a son or daughter of God…but there’s more involved in the Christian life that being a son or daughter.  We must also be His servant.

Now if one of our kids came to us and said they wanted to be our servant…we might have the big one.  So when one of us truthfully tells God we want to be His servant…it’s probably a little shocking for Him, too.

Epaphroditus, obviously, had a servant role at the church of Philippi.  He brought things to Paul from the church there.  And then he became a servant to Paul while remaining with him in Rome.

We should thank God for the opportunity to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  But what does being a brother or sister in Christ mean?  Doesn’t that mean rolling up our sleeves and going to work?  Doesn’t it mean we’re to be servants to those in the church…to the lost people we encounter in the world…and most importantly to the Lord?

Moving deeper into the text…we find that Epaphroditus was not only a son and a servant…but also a soldier.  Paul perceived himself to be a soldier for Christ…and he perceived Epaphroditus in the same way.

That must have made Epaphroditus feel good…to have Paul lump him in the same jar of spiritual clay in which he had lumped himself…a soldier of the Cross.  He knew how Paul had fought for…and suffered for the Gospel.  People in all the churches knew about Paul…what he had endured…and what he was enduring.

Most early Christians were not wimps and weenies like some of the fearful in churches today.  They showed tremendous courage in the face of adversity.  They were not afraid to fight and to die for their beliefs.  They were not only servants of Christ…they were soldiers for Christ.  Of course, every soldier is also a servant.

Epaphroditus became Paul’s associate in Christian toil.  He was not only willing to work…he was willing to fight.  He was willing to be a good soldier.  When things got tough he didn’t run away from the fight for God’s truth…he ran toward it.

I know that I’m taking some license here…but I’m trying to make a point.  That point is that cowardice and God shouldn’t be used in the same sentence.  If you have Jesus…you have nothing to fear.  If you don’t have Jesus…you have everything to fear.

And I make no apology for saying that I’m sick and tired of people who claim they love Jesus…but who don’t have time to worship Him in a church house for an hour or two a week.  They can lie to me about how much they love Jesus…but they can’t lie to God.  Those who aren’t willing to fight for…and to support the church that Jesus died for…are gutless hypocrites.

We need people like Epaphroditus in our churches today…prayer warriors and soul winners…people of every ilk working together in service for Christ.  And not just working together but also willing to stand up and fight for the truth.  We had all better be willing to stand up and fight for the truth…because God’s word really doesn’t give true believers an option about that.

People may think there’s not much room for love when they’re fighting for the truth…but love is the foundation supporting this text and the truth for which we fight.

We all understand that love is one of the greatest attributes of a Christian…but also know that real love takes a special kind of courage  If you check out 1 John 4:8, you’ll find these words: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

That’s as plain as the nose on your face.  If you can’t love…you’re not a Christian…because God is love.

Paul doesn’t use the word love in our text…but he doesn’t have to.  It’s obvious.  The way he describes Epaphroditus and his concern for him shows what Christian love is all about.  It shows the church’s love for Epaphroditus…and it shows his love for the church…and for Paul.

Epaphroditus became very ill…even to the point of death…and he was homesick for his church.  In today’s world he would be considered a rare bird…because he actually missed being in his home church…and he didn’t want the people there to be worried about him.

Everyone in our text…Paul, Epaphroditus and the members of the church at Philippi…had a heaviness within them…which literally means that they were in distress about each other.  This shows how much they all loved each other…and it begs the question…do we have that kind of compassion for our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do we really care when they’re in agony?

Think about it in this way: if someone was writing your biography…would they describe you as compassionate?  Those of us who are Christians are supposed to be compassionate…but are we?  In 1 Peter 3:8-9, we find these words: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

In verse 28, Paul describes a consoling love.  He showed love and concern for the church at Philippi…and he showed love for Epaphroditus by sending him back to the church at Philippi.  He knew that by doing that the church members there would rejoice…because Epaphroditus…apparently…was a person who brightened the day for others by just being around them.

You know what I mean.  When some of our members with health issues show up for supper, Bible study or worship…we feel joy because they lift us up.  They may be experiencing unbearable pain…but their presence gives us joy.

Hopefully, you’re one of those people who make others feel better when they’re around you.  I think that’s the kind of person Epaphroditus was…a person with the kind of selfless love that lifted up everyone who was around him.  We should all strive for that kind of consoling love.

So in our text we find compassionate love…consoling love…and also committed love.  In verse 29 Paul wrote this about the love commitment of Epaphroditus: “So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him…”

Paul explained why the church at Philippi was to honor Epaphroditus with these words in verse 30: “…because he almost died for the work of Christ.  He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.”

That’s quite a testimony.  This man’s love and commitment to Christ was even greater than his love and commitment to his brothers and sisters in Christ…which Paul tells us is why he became sick to the point of death.  He gave up himself…his wants and his health…for the work of Christ.

This is one of the greatest examples of a devoted Christian that is found in the Word of God.   Each of us has to ask…”How does my life reflect the elements of this man’s testimony?”

Epaphroditus…selfless brother, servant and soldier…willing to give his life for the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Now that’s a testimony.

If the Holy Spirit is calling you to be an Epaphroditus…accept the challenge.  Don’t concern yourself with what the people around you are doing…do what God calls you to do.

It doesn’t matter how old you are…or how young you are…or what your health issues are.  Become a servant of God…and a soldier of one.  Receive the blessing that God wants to bestow upon you.  When you exit this life…leave the kind of legacy that Epaphroditus did.

You have that opportunity today…as we stand together and sing “Just as I Am.”

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