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Epaphroditus, Unsung Hero of the Faith - 12

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
June 12, 2022 7:00 pm

Epaphroditus, Unsung Hero of the Faith - 12

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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June 12, 2022 7:00 pm

In this message from Philippians 2, we learn of Epaphroditus, a striking example of Christian commitment. Pastor Greg Barkman continues his systematic exposition in Philippians.

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Well, as we have made our way almost to the end of Philippians chapter 2 week by week, we have seen in this chapter several examples of committed service to others, beginning with the perfect example of Jesus Christ. As Paul tells us, let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And then going on from that perfect example, we find three more examples in the chapter of men, who though not perfect, and therefore could not be followed in every detail of their lives, set before us an example of how fallen sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ are enabled to serve the Lord Jesus Christ with joy and with effective fruitfulness, and we would do well to emulate their example. And so before us in chapter 2 is the example of Paul himself, even now in Roman prison for the cause of Christ. There is the example of Timothy, a faithful ministry partner to the apostle Paul. And now finally, number three in our section for today, the example of Epaphroditus, who is not very well known.

Epaphroditus. Now chronologically, the section we're looking at today should actually precede the one that we looked at last Sunday, because there are three individuals that are traveling from or will travel from Rome to Philippi. And the order of their traveling and arrival are, number one, Epaphroditus, who is being sent immediately in order to calm the concerns that the church at Philippi has for his welfare. And then whenever the trial has reached its verdict, and presumably a favorable verdict is given to the apostle Paul, Timothy will immediately be dispatched to Philippi in order to minister to their spiritual welfare.

And then after Paul has been able to wrap up a few other details, he plans to come to Philippi as well and to be with them there. So that's the chronological order. But in the way that it's set before us in the passage, Epaphroditus, traveler number one is dealt with last. He is example number three. Who is Epaphroditus? We don't know much about him. Paul, we know a great deal about. Timothy, we know a great deal about. Epaphroditus, we don't know much about because this is the only place in the Bible where his name and information about him is to be found.

But what great truths are found here and we need to learn from them. And so in order to do that, I'm going to ask and attempt to answer four questions about Epaphroditus. Number one, who is Epaphroditus? Two, why did he come to Rome?

Three, why did he return to Philippi? And number four, why did Paul commend him? Number one, who is Epaphroditus? Paul says in verse 24, I was five, 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, who was Epaphroditus. The name Epaphroditus means charming or lovely. That name of course was given to him by his parents.

They had no way of knowing if he would turn out to be that way. It appears that he did, by the grace of God, but many people have been named with optimistic names that didn't turn out to reflect their character very, very accurately. But his name means charming or lovely and he turned out to be exactly that kind of person as God saved him and pressed him into Christian service. He is not to be confused with the Epaphras, similar name, in the book of Colossians. Some have thought that Epaphras is probably a shortened form of the name Epaphroditus, and though that's probably true, there's more than one Epaphroditus in the Bible, or at least in the Roman world at this time, and these are not the same.

They come from different cities, they come from different churches, they come from different continents. So Epaphroditus is not the same as Epaphras. But we can understand who he is primarily number one, by his relationship to Paul, and number two, by his relationship to the church at Philippi. Paul gives a threefold description of the relationship of Epaphroditus to himself. Paul tells us that he is a brother, my brother, he is number two, a fellow worker, and he is number three, a fellow soldier.

All of this in verse 25. He is, Paul says, my brother. That means he is a Christian. He is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a brother in the community of saints.

All who are saved are brothers and sisters in that relationship which we have in Christ Jesus. And so we learn, first of all, that he is a believer in Christ. Secondly, he is designated a fellow worker. As many people as brother does, brother as any and all true born again Christians, a fellow worker, though a common designation, is used by Paul to describe those who are actively involved in the work of the gospel in some obvious and significant way. Not necessarily a preacher, for he describes others by this same term, but definitely those who are very involved in the advancement of the cause of Christ.

In this world, and Epaphroditus was such a person. But number three, he is described as a fellow soldier. And that's a term that Paul uses a small handful of times.

He uses that much more sparingly than the term fellow worker. It speaks of those who serve the Lord in places of danger. Those who are involved in both offensive labor and defensive labor. That is defending the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ against heresies and various attacks upon it. It involves those who in most cases, as far as we can tell, are fellow preachers in the gospel. They are the ones that are generally described as fellow soldiers with the apostle Paul.

And they are often those who become wounded in the fray. They are going to be sent home as a soldier of Jesus Christ for a period of R&R. He needs some rest and recreation, or whatever that R&R stands for in the military setting, in order to be restored after a period of very dangerous and harmful labor for the Lord. There are also two words that describe his relationship to the church at Philippi. He is first of all their messenger, and secondly a minister. Your messenger, we're told in verse 25, and the one who ministered to my need. The word translated messenger in my Bible is literally in the Greek apostle, apostolos, your apostle. But the word apostle means a sent one, a commissioned one.

This is a good time to remind us that many were apostles, but only 12 or 13 were apostles of Christ. Epaphroditus was not an apostle of Christ in the sense that Paul was an apostle of Christ, having been called and commissioned into the work, the special work of an apostle of Christ alongside Peter and John and the others. But he was an apostle of the church at Philippi. He was sent by the church. He was commissioned by the church. He was designated as an authorized representative of the church at Philippi to go and carry out an assignment which they gave to him to fulfill in the city of Rome. And so this will help us when we read the word apostle sometimes in the Bible of names that are not among the 12 apostles and we scratch our heads and say, well, now how many apostles of Christ were there? 12 or 13, but not innumerable apostles of Christ, but yes, innumerable apostles of churches.

They had delegates that were commissioned and sent out and Epaphroditus was one of those. That tells us something about him, that he was a mature Christian, qualified for service, proven and tested in the work of the Lord in the context of the local church at Philippi, trusted by that church with a very serious assignment and in all likelihood, though we can't be certain because the Bible doesn't say, but in all likelihood was one of the elders in the church at Philippi. When Paul opens this epistle, he addresses it to the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi with the bishops and deacons. Bishops is not as common as the word elder, but it means the same thing. Pastors are designated by three different terms in the New Testament.

The term pastor or under shepherd, the term elder and the term bishop, which means overseer. And so there were clearly a plurality of elders in Philippi and it's very likely, though not certain, but very likely that Epaphroditus was one of several elders in the city of Philippi, one in the church at Philippi who was asked to take this assignment to go to Rome and to minister to Paul on behalf of the church. That's question number one, who was Epaphroditus. Question number two, why did he come to Rome?

And there are two overlapping answers to that question. Number one, he came to Rome because he was sent by the church of Philippi to Rome. And number two, he came to Rome because he had a personal desire to serve the apostle Paul. But number one, he was sent by the church at Philippi and that is indicated by the term that we've already looked at in verse 25. He is your messenger, your sent one, your apostle, the one that you have sent and commissioned from your church to come to Rome.

And the question is, what exactly was he assigned to do? What was this commission for Epaphroditus to go to Rome? And that answer is found partly in our text for today and then partly in chapter four and I'll read that section in chapter four that explains beginning at verse 15. Now you Philippians know that in the beginning of the gospel when I, Paul, departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid, that is financial aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Indeed I have all and abound and am full having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet smelling aroma and acceptable sacrifice while pleasing to God. So why did the church send Epaphroditus to Rome? They sent him to carry, to communicate, to transport a financial gift. We presume a rather sizable financial gift in order to help Paul in his time of confinement and his time of need in the city of Rome where he was under house arrest. In these days as in most of history prisoners were not fed at the expense of the state that imprisoned them.

If they weren't fed by their friends they starved to death in confinement. So Paul needed help, he needed food, he needed to be able to buy groceries and do other things because he did continue to carry out a ministry from his confinement in Rome. And so the church at Philippi said we want to help with that and they sent Epaphroditus to carry that financial gift which he wasn't. Of course they had no checks, they had no credit cards, they had no wire transfers, money had to be carried by hand and because it was in the form of gold and silver coins it was a pretty substantial load. So therefore Epaphroditus undoubtedly had traveling companions with him.

Number one, it was too dangerous for one person to carry this size of a gift by himself. He would never make it to Rome without being robbed, he needed some people to help guard him. But number two, he needed some people to help just with the physical aspects of carrying this gold and silver, whatever it was. So he was commissioned by the church to carry that financial gift. But number two, as it makes clear in our passage before us, especially verses 25 and 30, he was commissioned to provide assistance to Paul in Rome to help him any way he could. He apparently went for an extended assignment to be an assistant to the apostle Paul to help him carry out ministry, gospel ministry from his confinement in Rome through assistance who could travel freely and could carry out his directions.

So Epaphroditus was sent by the church for these purposes. But he was not only sent by the church of Philippi but he had a personal desire to assist Paul that comes through loud and clear in the passage. He considered it a privilege to serve an apostle of Jesus Christ and he wanted to do that. He considered it a great honor to be able to in some way assist the founder of the church at Philippi, the one, humanly speaking, without which there would be no church in Philippi of which he was a member and probably an elder. He wanted to return something by way of gratitude to the one who had been responsible for his own conversion. Whether Epaphroditus came to Christ under the preaching of Paul, which is likely, or under the ministry of the church at Philippi when Paul was absent, either way it traces back to Paul there would have been no gospel preaching in Philippi if it had not been for Paul.

And here is Epaphroditus who is a result of that and he recognizes the great privilege which he has received and he sees an opportunity to return something by way of gratitude in this assignment. He had a desire to assist Paul, one who himself, Paul, had sacrificed so much for the cause of Christ. And he was now in a position of special need in his confinement in Rome and furthermore was in a location where he could be helped.

It's clear that there were times when the church at Philippi sent finances to Paul and his journeys as he was traveling around as a missionary apostle. And there were other times when they couldn't send him anything because they couldn't find him. They didn't know where he was. He was moving around. But now they knew where he was and he would still be there when Epaphroditus arrived, the journey from Philippi to Rome which would have been by foot and by ship.

It would have taken several weeks altogether but they could be pretty confident that he wasn't going to disappear and go to another location. So he was in a location where he could be helped, where help could be offered by one, namely Epaphroditus, who evidently was able and willing to offer the assistance that was needed. I'm struck in this description by the fact that the church's desire to send Epaphroditus and Epaphroditus's desire to be of assistance to Paul, those two desires merged beautifully. And that's really the way it should be.

We should recognize in that a general principle. When it comes to serving Christ, we're not to be lone rangers just launching out on our own according to our own desires. The Lord told me to do this and the Lord led me to do that well and good.

And if indeed he did, that will be confirmed by the church recognizing that and encouraging and sanctioning and helping you with that desire. But if the church doesn't recognize what you think is God's leading in your life, then you should put it on hold until the church does. Not everybody understands that. Not everybody's willing to do that.

But that's very important. We see that principle throughout the New Testament and we see it here with Epaphroditus and the church at Philippi. But now we come to question three. Question one, who is Epaphroditus? We have answered. Question two, why did he come to Rome?

We have now answered. Question number three, why did he return to Philippi? He came to Rome. Why is he going back to Philippi? And I have six statements to answer that question.

Let's take them up quickly one by one. Why did he return to Philippi? Number one, because he was sent back by Paul. That's what we read in verse 25.

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus. He returned to Philippi because Paul sent him back to Philippi. Number two, because he had a desire to return. This sort of seems like a repeat of what we just said in the last point.

But here it is again. Verse 26, since he was longing for you all, Epaphroditus desired to return, had a strong desire to return to Philippi. And Paul, who was now his spiritual overseer, sanctioned that desire. He recognized it as a profitable and God honoring desire.

And he said, yes, I will endorse that. I will send you back to Philippi, which is your desire to do. Why did he return to Philippi? Number three, because he was distressed by the Philippian church's distress. The last part of verse 26, since he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.

Now, there are things said there that are sufficient for us to get a glimpse of what's going on, though a few more details would be helpful, but the Holy Spirit didn't supply them all. But he was distressed because he heard that they were distressed. Why were they distressed?

Well, we'll get to that in a moment. But he was distressed, a word that means deeply troubled. That's the very same word that is used for the distress of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he was agonizing in his soul over his upcoming crucifixion, his separation from the Father and so forth, and sweat great drops of blood.

This is a very strong word. Epaphroditus was extremely distressed because he was concerned about their distress. They were distressed about him. And so that made him distressed about them.

So that brings us number four. Why did he return to Philippi? Because he had been severely ill. This is why the church at Philippi was distressed.

They heard he was sick. Verse 27. Well, verse 26, he was distressed because you, Philippian Christians, had heard that he was sick. Verse 27, for indeed he was sick almost unto death, but God had mercy upon him, and not only on him, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

He had been severely ill. Several commentators are of the opinion that he first fell sick on his way to Rome, on that journey, before he even arrived, and yet probably was advised by his traveling companions to go on back home now, and he refused. No, I haven't completed my assignment. I'm going to go on until my job is done. I can't stop now. I've got to go to Rome. I've got to communicate this offering to the church. I've got to minister to the Apostle Paul. Well, Epaphroditus, we can do that for you. No, I was commissioned to do that, and I won't stop until I have, is the idea that it lurks around the edges of the text.

It's not explicit in the text. So his illness may have begun on his journey to Rome, but probably did not become acutely critical until sometime after his arrival. He got sick, wasn't feeling well, but not sick enough to stop him, and so he kept traveling, continued to serve, but sometime after his arrival in Rome, and after some time for him to deliver the gift and to spend some time ministering to Paul, because Paul says the one that you sent who has ministered to my needs, he doesn't say the one who had every intention to minister to my needs but was cut short and not able to do so, but he says this one who came and ministered to my needs, I'm now sending back. And so he became sick. His illness probably began on the journey to Rome. It became critical sometime after his arrival. His traveling companions who traveled with him all the way to Rome and made sure that he was there safely and everything was okay would then have no doubt returned to Philippi, and they probably communicated the message that Paphroditus is sick and he seems to be getting worse.

He's not getting better. And that distressed the church at Philippi. But as Paul tells us, God mercifully healed him. He was sick. He was sick enough to die. He was sick with an illness that looked like he was going to die.

Some predicted that he's only going to last a few more days. All of us have heard that at times, and then people went on and on and on, sometimes a long time, and then died and sometimes miraculously recovered. In this case, Paphroditus miraculously recovered. He wasn't expected to live, and lo and behold, by God's mercy, he did. God healed him. God had mercy upon him, Paul says in verse 27. But note, there's no mention of Paul exercising his apostolic gift of healing on a Paphroditus. Does that mean he didn't? Is it impossible that he did?

No, it's possible, but not likely. Paul didn't say, but I, through the gifts of an apostle that were given to me, and exercising the gift of healing that I've been able to exercise on many other occasions, and Paul had healed many people, I laid hands upon him, and by the mercy of God, God healed him. There's nothing like that. God healed him, apparently, without any apostolic input, apostolic operation, apostolic healing work. And there are a number of people in the lives of Paul, life of Paul, who fall into that same category. They were sick, and Paul did not exercise his gift of healing to heal them. That's important. We'll get to that eventually. But in the meantime, he was sick, getting sicker, that message reached Philippi, and now he's well, and the church at Philippi hasn't got that message yet.

They can't pick up their cell phone, they can't send an email, there's no quick way to let them know. Somebody's going to have to travel to Philippi and let them know that Paphroditus has gotten well, he's over his illness, he's not going to die, he's going to live, and their distress, therefore, will be alleviated when they hear this news, because so far they haven't heard it. So Paul says, I'm sending him back to you, because he's distressed because of your distress. Why did he return to Philippi? Number five, because the church needed to see him personally. Verse 28, Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again, you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. They needed to see him personally to certify the healing that took place. They needed to see him personally in order to be filled with joy and praise and thanksgiving to God, which is honoring to God and greatly worships him. They needed to see him again personally in order that the Apostle Paul might also be filled with joy, and one of his sorrows might now be taken from him. It's interesting that Paul mentions his sorrows and doesn't tell us what all of them are, but one of them was the situation with Epaphroditus. It not only weighed upon Epaphroditus that the church at Philippi was distressed because they'd heard about his illness, but it also weighed upon Paul that Epaphroditus was distressed and that the church at Philippi was also distressed. Paul was burdened down by all of this as well. And so the return of Epaphroditus to Philippi will relieve Paul of additional sorrow that came about because of the healing of Epaphroditus.

And the Philippians' joy at the healing of Epaphroditus would lessen Paul's sorrow. What are his other sorrows? It doesn't say it'll take away my sorrow. It says I'll be less sorrowful. Still sorrowful, but less sorrowful. Well, what other sorrows are you dealing with, Paul? Well, I'm in prison.

That's one. I'd rather be free. Paul is in prison and is himself somewhat fearful and anxious about the outcome. The trial hasn't been conducted. He expects the verdict to be not guilty, but he doesn't know that with certainty, so there's a burden that weighs upon him, a sorrow. What else? Well, he's already made mention to ministry workers who were ministering with impure motives, and that weighed upon him. We dealt with that. And elsewhere Paul tells us that all of the time he carried with him what he calls the care of all the churches, the burden for the welfare of all the churches that he had established, which by now are quite a few, and he carried the weight of their welfare on his shoulders at all times. Yes, he's got his sorrows, but if the church at Philippi can rejoice in the healing of Epaphroditus, that'll take one sorrow off the shoulders of the Apostle Paul. But one final reason why he had to return to Philippi, and this is pretty much in the arena of speculation, but he may have had to return because someone was attempting to usurp his position, and that's assuming that we're correct that he was an elder, and that might more than anything explain why he needed to return personally. If the message of his sickness had brought on this distress to the Philippian church, why wouldn't a messenger communicating his healing take care of the need? Couldn't they be just as joyful at the news of his recovery as they had been distressed at the news of his sickness? Why did it actually require his physical presence? It's commentator John Eadie who suggests this, but it's possible that someone was attempting to usurp his position, was using the report of his illness and the likelihood of his death as an opportunity to maneuver into the position which he held in the church, which from the distress of the church at his illness, he must have been highly esteemed, highly honored, highly loved in the church. They would have felt themselves very robbed of blessing if God took away one of their beloved pastors, this one in particular.

But there are always those who are looking for the opportunity to move in to a position of authority and honor when a vacancy is created for whatever reason, sometimes they themselves try to create the vacancy and sometimes they pounce upon what looks like a good opportunity that in this case is created by his illness. You say, well, if that's the case, why isn't it mentioned? And I can't answer that because this is all speculation, but would Paul be likely to write that in an epistle that is going to be sent back by Epaphroditus, the courier of the epistle, and read publicly to the church? Would he likely have mentioned that that's what is going on? Probably not. So that doesn't prove it one way or another, but it's worthy of consideration that the only thing that would meet the need was for Epaphroditus to show up personally and say, here I am, I'm well, and I'm still perfectly capable of carrying out the responsibilities of an elder in this church. Thank you.

Maybe. But I can't help but notice how throughout this passage, both joy and sorrow are mingled together. Nearly everybody knows that Philippians is the book of joy. Paul mentions joy and rejoicing, I forget how many times I told you earlier, but I've already forgotten, 17 or 19 times, something like that.

Everybody likes that, yay, we want to rejoice, we want the joy. That's true, it's not that it's not there, but have you overlooked all the references to sorrow? That's just as much a part of what was going on with Paul as the joy, and just as much a part of the normal Christian life as joy. It is a terrible distortion of the scripture to communicate the idea to people that if you're living for the Lord, your life should be all one of joy and not one of any burden or sorrow. Well, tell that to the Apostle Paul, tell that to Peter, tell that to John, tell that to many faithful Christians who are burdened down with sorrows.

That is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we are given joy unspeakable and full of glory. We are given joy that is impossible to fully explain or describe, but on the other hand that comes alongside and intermingled with sorrow. It all goes together. And Paul on the one hand was rejoicing in the healing of Epaphroditus, and on the other hand was still burdened down with many sorrows. And dear friends, hunker down. That's the Christian life until we get to heaven.

Don't expect anything different or you're going to be sadly disappointed and disillusioned. That's the way it is, that's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it was for Paul and for most of God's people. But finally question number four, why did Paul commend him? He commended him because, as he tells us in verses 29 and 30, he was worthy of honor. 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. Why did Paul commend him? Number one, because he was worthy of honor. Receive him in the Lord, that is in a manner that is honoring to Christ. Receive him with gladness, that is not with suspicion.

You say, why would anybody receive him with suspicion? Well, because the people in that day by nature were no different from the people of our day. The Christians in that day were by nature no different from the Christians today. And any time something like this happens, when a missionary returns prematurely from the mission field, somebody says, did they really have to come home? Were they really that sick? Was this really necessary?

Did they not fulfill their assignment? Is this another case of John Mark who bailed out prematurely on the Apostle Paul, which of course none of those things are true, but there are always some wagging tongues who are talking this way, and so Paul says, receive him with honor, receive him with esteem, receive him as one who is due great honor. He's worthy of honor, no gossip, no innuendo, no murky questions that are raised. He's an honorable man who served the Lord faithfully and at great sacrifice. And you should hold men like that, not only him, but any others like that in great esteem, those who are faithful, those who are sacrificial because, and here's the second reason Paul commended him, because he risked his life for Christ. Because, verse 30, for the work of Christ, he came close to death, not regarding his life.

For the work of Christ, not because of carelessness, not because of homesickness, but for the work of Christ. He did not regard his life. He completed his mission at great cost. It almost killed him to do it.

Most people would have bailed out earlier and felt that it was more important to protect their health than to go on with this assignment, but not Epaphroditus. He literally gambled with his life, if you take the original Greek. He took a calculated risk. He was willing, if necessary, to die to fulfill his commissioned assignment. God in his mercy raised him up so that he didn't die, but you honor people like that.

You don't raise suspicions about them. We think about people like Trevor Johnson who, knowing the risk, went to Papua New Guinea to one of the most remote areas in the world and labored for the cause of Christ and broke his health, but left behind a thriving church, a growing church, churches, a work that's going on. Or Paul Snyder, likewise, in the same location. David Edens, who did that in the Sahara Desert, lived there for years in a climate that he knew was detrimental to his health, and it did. It broke his health and his wife Donna's health, but he leaves behind an amazing, an amazing gospel work that's just going on and on and on and on and on. He gambled. They gambled their lives.

They took a calculated risk. They just honored such people. So Paul commended him, number one, because he's worthy of honor, number two, because he risked his life for Christ, number three, because he honored the apostle Paul. For the work of Christ, he came close to death, not regarding his life to supply, the last part of verse 30, what was lacking in your service toward me.

Now, I'll address that in a moment. That's a rather misleading phrase in my translation. But he came to serve Paul. He was committed to Christ by his commitment to the apostle Paul.

And isn't that the way that it is really? How do we serve Christ? By serving others.

How else do you do it? You do it by serving others. And in this case, by serving one whom Christ had appointed and empowered, he counted it a real honor to be an assistant.

He didn't think himself too big for that. Well, I'm a pastor. I won't lower myself to becoming an assistant to the apostle Paul.

He thought that was one of the greatest honors in all the world, to be able to serve one who had been commissioned by Christ and empowered for such fruitful service. Now, he did this, says Paul, and I'll take up this last phrase, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. What does that mean? Sounds like a polite rebuke. You failed in some way. But that's not what Paul is saying.

What is he saying? Well, let me give you the translation in the NIV, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. Why not? Because of the miles that separate us. You're in Philippi.

I'm in Rome. That's why. It's the only reason why. Gordon Fee expands this thought to say, so that he might make up for your absence and thus minister to my needs as you have not had opportunity to do recently. And William Hendrickson, another commentator, expands it even a little bit further when he says, Your favors shown to me are deeply appreciated. If there is anything lacking in your kindness toward me, you have certainly made up for it by sending me Epaphroditus. That's more in the spirit of what Paul is communicating here.

Two lessons in closing. Number one, regarding divine healing. God heals illnesses today in answer to prayer. God heals illnesses today in answer to prayer. And God is certainly able to heal with or without medical treatment, but he generally does use medical treatment. But it's not always God's will to heal. What about divine healers today?

I don't see any need for them, frankly. Epaphroditus didn't need one, and he was ministering alongside an apostle who exercised that gift on scores, if not hundreds of occasions. But that's not how God healed in this case from all the evidence we have. So don't go looking for someone who claims to have the gift of healing. I think that was an apostolic gift that disappeared with the apostolic era.

It disappeared with the disappearance of the original apostles of Christ. But the power of God is the same. He can exercise it in different ways.

Just learn how he does exercise it. And he often exercises it in answer to the fervent, believing prayers of his people. And it's wonderful when he does.

And when he doesn't, he's got a higher and greater and more gracious purpose in that as well. Lesson number two. What do we learn here about some of the characteristics of effective Christian service? And I pick up three characteristics from all of the examples in this chapter.

And what are they? They are, number one, humility, number two, obedience, and number three, sacrifice. To be an effective, fruitful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be humbled. We must learn humility. We must recognize our need for humility. We must recognize pride as our greatest enemy. We must ask God to suppress our pride at every turn. We must, like Christ, become humble. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

Humility. Number two, obedience. We talk about being servants of Christ, sometimes even bond servants, which means a slave. What's the number one characteristic of a servant? It's one who obeys their master. That's what makes them a good servant. Obedience makes them a good servant. And failure to obey makes them an unfaithful servant.

It's as simple as that. What makes one a good servant of Jesus Christ? Obedience to Christ. Obedience to his word. That doesn't come easily.

It doesn't come naturally. We pray, not my will but thine be done, and then we go out and say, not thy will but mine be done. No, if we're going to be a good servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, we've got to learn obedience. And number three, sacrifice, willingness to sacrifice. Our instinct, our human instinct, is to protect ourselves, preserve ourselves, preserve our life, preserve the things that God has given us. Preserve, preserve, that's our human instinct. But do we recognize that as an Adamic instinct, not an instinct that comes with the new birth? With the new birth we learn to give, to give, to give, to give. Sacrifice. And therefore we should pray every day, Lord, free me from self-centeredness and make me a humble and effective servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Shall we pray? Father, teach us thy ways and show us thy paths. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-06 01:03:57 / 2023-04-06 01:18:55 / 15

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