But 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.
In verses 25-30 we meet Epaphroditus. Here is a man of different temperament from Timothy. Epaphroditus is the one who brought the gift from Philippi and the one who bore this wonderful letter back to the Philippian church. His popularity is evident from the fact that he was chosen by the church for this difficult task. We can gather from this letter that he was probably one of those affable, courteous, well-liked men whose natural disposition makes him popular and prominent in any group.
Paul says the quality he most appreciates in Epaphroditus is helpfulness. Notice he says, I am sending back to you … my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my need. All of this is spelling out a helpful disposition. Brother again speaks of that family life, a mutual source of life in Christ. My co-worker is a revelation of how they labored together in full fellowship and with a common interest. Fellow soldier is one who shares a common loyalty and adherence to the same cause as the apostle. He is the messenger of the Philippians. The word really is apostle. He is an ambassador, a representative of someone else.
All these wonderful titles add up to one who is a marvelous helper, one given to faithful laborer with other people, selfless concern that is the distinctive mark of the believer in Jesus Christ. Verse 26 says, For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Word had gotten back to Philippi that this man had been terribly sick, and Epaphroditus is concerned that they be over-anxious about him. He is stressed because they heard he was ill.
I couldn’t help contrasting that with so many today who become distressed because we have not heard they were ill. I meet people like that occasionally. Now and then I will greet someone and notice there is a bit of coolness. Finally it comes out and they will say, Didn’t you hear that I was sick? I say, No, I didn’t hear that. Then Well, I expected I would have a visit, but no one came. I have to wonder just how people expect to have a visit on that basis. It’s interesting that when people are sick they will call a doctor, or call a lawyer for problems that occur, but they expect the pastor or their Christian friends to get it by osmosis, and then get distressed because word hadn’t arrived.
Well, there was no such self pity in Epaphroditus. Evidently he had learned to count self-interest and self-seeking as the unprofitable thing that it is, and he has learned to reckon on the indwelling self-giving love of Christ. His concern is not one of self pity because he was so desperately sick, but of anxiety lest they be over-wrought in their worry for him. Even in the midst of his own personal distress of a most serious nature, he has learned to manifest the selfless concern for others. What a beautiful picture. He has learned to labor with others and to be concerned for others. You can see the character of Christ in him.
Lord, I am captured by that spirit of helpfulness. I know it doesn’t come by any fervor of the flesh, a passionate flinging away of myself in some cause of my own making, but rather by that quiet dependence upon you, and a readiness in little things to be expendable for your sake.
‘Random acts of kindness’ can be self-satisfying, even self-promoting. What is the contrasting source of a life characterized by helpful, un-selfconcious caring for others?