Q – Have you ever had to give a character reference for someone?
Q – If someone were to talk about you behind your back (and sometimes people do), do you think it is more often good or bad?
Q – What do you think your reputation is in your church? Among your friends? In your workplace? In your community?
Q – Among your circle of friends, who do you think most highly of? Why?
Beginning in Phil. 2:3,4, Paul speaks to selfless Christian living. Then he gives 4 examples of people who actually lived this way: Jesus, Paul himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus.
Paul had planted the church in Philippi on his 2nd Missionary Journey, but had now moved on. And was now writing this letter back to the church in Philippi while he was under house arrest.
The church in Philippi had heard of Paul’s imprisonment, and that news might have had special significance for them. They remembered Paul’s brief stay in their own city jail… when midnight singing concluded with an earthquake that cracked the prison doors open. So, the church in Philippi decided to send one of their own – Epaphroditus – to help Paul.
Epaphroditus arrived in Rome bringing gifts to Paul from the Philippian Church. Part of this was probably funding to allow Paul to continue to stay under more comfortable house arrest rather than in a cold, damp, dark prison cell.
But, soon after Epaphroditus got to Rome, he got very sick – possibly from the 800mile trip there – and almost died! Word got back to the church in Philippi about his sickness, and Epaphroditus was “distressed” that they would be worried about him. He felt he needed to hurry back to assure them he was okay. But, Epaphroditus felt his mission had failed; he hadn’t been able to be the encouragement to Paul he and his church wanted him to be. But, Paul saw things differently. Paul was very grateful for Paul’s visit and encouraged the church at Philippi to not think less of Epaphroditus… but more!
See Phil. 2:25-20; 4:14-19.
What we know of Epaphroditus, we know from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
His name comes from the Greek god, Aphrodite, and means ‘Favorite of Aphrodite’. So, he came from a pagan background, born to pagan parents, but was now a Christian, probably converted by Paul.
Paul considered Epaphroditus a “brother” – closer than a friend, a “fellow worker” – an equal to himself in ministry, and a “fellow soldier” – one who knew what it was like to battle through tough times.
Epaphroditus got sick, God healed him, and Paul was sending him back home for the sake of those back in Philippi. I’m sure Paul would have rather kept Epaphroditus with him, but he sent him back for their sake.
Why such a lengthy explanation as to why they should hold no ill will against Epaphroditus? After all, they obviously liked him… and trusted him. So, why might they have ill will against him? They collected the sizable offering for Paul, possibly had a going-away party for him, and sent him on his way with one task to fulfill… to be an encouragement to Paul. He would return home, not being able to do that one thing. So, Paul wrote a glowing testimony as to just how much Epaphroditus did and meant to Paul.
If your pastor had to write a testimony about you, what could he include? What kind of things could he write about you?
What kind of work are you doing for God? Do you think your work is significant or insignificant?
* There is NO insignificant work for God!
Our plans don’t always match God’s plans. Epaphroditus wasn’t able to do all he thought he should do or was supposed to do. But, his effort cheered Paul, who described what Epaphroditus had done as a “sweet-smelling aroma“.
* Faithful disciples allow God to determine how and when and even where they will serve.
In what ways have you proven yourself to be a reliable servant of God?
In what ways could you be a “sweet-smelling aroma” to someone else for Christ?
You can read the story of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:3,4,25-30; 4:14-19.