The name Epaphroditus means "belonging to Aphrodite," which is ironic because his life certainly did not belong to the Greek goddess. His name appears twice in the Bible (Philippians 2:25; 4:18). Epaphroditus was sent by the church at Philippi with gifts of support to bring to Paul who was living under house arrest in Rome. He later returned to the Philippian believers with a letter from Paul, which we know as the New Testament book of Philippians. Paul referred to Epaphroditus as "my brother and fellow worker and fellow solider, and your messenger and minister to my need" (Philippians 2:25).
Epaphroditus may have had only a small role in Paul's missions, but he was extremely important in supporting him. His "short-term missions trip", as Epaphroditus' travel might be called, encouraged Paul and his ministry and allowed for more personal contact between Paul and the church of Philippi. Because of Epaphroditus, Paul was able to receive the funds he needed and the Philippian church was able to serve God. Paul wrote, "I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18).
Epaphroditus was much loved by both Paul and the people in the Philippian church. This is evident in the way Paul writes about him: "I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to me need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me" (Philippians 2:25–30).
Epaphroditus was a faithful man willing to work for the spread of the gospel even if it meant losing his life. His friendship and partnership in ministry meant so much to Paul that Paul considered it God's mercy on himself that Epaphroditus recovered from his illness. Paul not only calls him a brother, but also "fellow worker" and "fellow soldier." Epaphroditus was able to serve God in a way that other believers were not, and he was apparently unafraid to do so.
Epaphroditus was an example of what Paul wrote about in the preceding paragraphs of Philippians. He led a life worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27); he lived in unity with Paul and the Philippian church (Philippians 2:1–2); he humbly considered others more highly than himself (Philippians 2:3–4); he had the mindset of Christ, being willing to suffer in order to bring life to others (Philippians 2:5–11); and he did all of this without grumbling or complaining (Philippians 2:14–15). While this list can often seem impossible to live out, Epaphroditus' example shows us that it can be lived out joyfully. Epaphroditus lived in a culture so engrossed in idol worship and false religion that his name gave honor to a false god, and yet his life was lived for the glory of the only true God and furtherance of the gospel.
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