Epaphroditus: A Man of Great Courage
Text: Phil. 2:25-30
1. Illustration: There's an old story of a rich guy who threw a party at his mansion. One of his pride and joys was his new saltwater pool in which he had the ability to let swim in various specious of ocean fish. He had the party assemble along the edge of the pool as he proudly released into the pool his new collection of Great White Sharks. As the sharks swam back and forth in the pool the rich man offered 1 Million to anyone brave enough to swim across. Suddenly there was a splash and someone started swimming across at a speed never seen even in the Olympics. A man bounded out of the pool on the opposite side completely out of breath. The rich man ran to him and began to congratulate him on his courage. The tired swimmer said, ‘I only have one question… WHO PUSHED ME?’
2. In this text we meet Epaphroditus; a man of great courage.
a. Who Was Epaphroditus?
b. People Of Faith
c. Put It All On The Line
3. Let's stand as we read together Phil. 2:25-30
Proposition: People of courage are people who put their complete trust in Jesus.
Transition: First let's consider the question...
I. Who Was Epaphroditus? (25).
A. True Brother, Co-Worker, And Fellow Soldier
1. Paul begins this section by again giving a recommendation of a friend.
2. He says, "Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need."
a. In referring to Epaphroditus, Paul uses the imagery of a wounded solider who is being sent back home for rest.
b. Since he was certainly present during the dictation of this letter these words are spoken as much for his sake as for the Philippians sake.
c. He was sent there to minister to Paul's needs because, in this culture prisoners were not cared for by the state but by friends and relatives (Fee, 276).
d. Paul used some very complimentary titles for this man.
e. In addition to calling him a "messenger," he also was a "true brother," a "companion" or "fellow worker" (NIV), and a "fellow soldier," a person in active combat against the enemy (Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., The Complete Biblical Library – Galatians-Philemon, 207-209).
3. However, again this begs the question: who is Epaphroditus?
a. Epaphroditus had been the Philippians’ messenger, bringing their gift to Paul in prison; he no doubt carried Paul’s letter back to them.
b. Travel conditions were dangerous and harsh, especially at sea in late fall and early spring, and these conditions decreased one’s resistance to antiquity’s many diseases.
c. Because “Epaphroditus” is a common name, no conclusions about his origin may be drawn from it, but the context suggests that he was from Philippi (Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).
d. The Philippian church had heard that Paul was in prison, and that he was having an extremely difficult time.
e. Their hearts went out to him, so they decided to do two things: to take up an offering to meet Paul's material needs and to send a dedicated layman who could remain with him and help him.
f. Such a man would have to be savagely brave, for by attaching himself to a man facing a capital crime, he would be leaving himself open to the charge of being an accomplice. By helping Paul the man would be risking his own life.
g. The man chosen was Epaphroditus. While in Rome, Epaphroditus fell seriously ill and came close to death.
h. News of his illness reached Philippi. And in turn, news returned to Epaphroditus that his home church was worried over his welfare. He in turn began to worry over them.
i. But God spared him, and after gaining his strength, Paul felt for some reason (perhaps to keep this illness from recurring or to eliminate the possibility of his being arrested) that Epaphroditus should return to Philippi.
j. What can plainly be seen about this man was that he possessed great courage.
1. Illustration: Courage is fear that has said its prayers – Karl Barth
2. True courage comes from God.
a. Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
b. Courage comes from God.
c. Discourage, which means to cause someone to lose confidence or enthusiasm, comes from the devil.
d. Think about it! Who wants you to lose confidence or enthusiasm about God or the things of God? THE DEVIL!
e. Who doesn't want you to lose confidence or enthusiasm? God!
f. We need to stop listening to the devil and start listening to God and his Word.
g. We need to put our faith and trust in God and his Word, and start telling the devil he is a liar!
h. God will never leave us or forsake us.
i. He has never let us down in the past, and he won't let us down in the future.
j. If you need courage put your faith, confidence, and trust in God.
Transition: People of courage, like Epaphroditus, are...
II. People Of Faith (26-27).
A. But God Had Mercy On Him
1. There is no more difficult time to be a person of courage then when you are greatly ill. That's what Paul says had been the situation with Epaphroditus.
2. He says, "I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill."
a. The reason that Paul was sending him is because of his own desire to see them.
b. He eagerness to see them was partly because of his affection for them, and partly because he knew they had been very concerned since they heard he was sick.
c. Although there are several scenarios in which Epaphroditus became sick, the most likely one is that he fell ill on his way to Rome, while one of his traveling companions returned to Philippi with the news of his illness (Fee, 278).
d. Communication happens so quickly in our world, but Epaphroditus couldn’t just pick up the phone or send an e-mail saying all was well.
e. The Philippians had heard that Epaphroditus was ill, and word of their concern about him had gotten back to Rome (again, weeks elapsed as the news traveled the forty-day journey between the two cities).
f. When he recovered, Epaphroditus was longing to see his friends and family in Philippi so they would know he was well.
g. So Paul figured the best way to do that would be to send him home again (Barton 854).
3. Paul then verifies the fact that his friend had been very sick by saying, "And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another."
a. With an emphatic "and he certainly was ill," Paul verifies the severity of Epaphroditus's illness, and also to the deepness of God's mercy.
b. We don't know what exact illness he had, however, Paul tells us of the severity of the illness that it brought Epaphroditus to point of death.
c. On the other hand, Paul testifies to the mercy of God, which we might not take as seriously as we should since we are used to the availability of modern medicine.
d. In the ancient world very few people survived being on death's door. In saying that God had mercy on him, what Paul is really saying is that God healed him (Fee, 279).
e. In describing the healing of his friend on this occasion, the apostle used a common Greek word (eleeō) for "mercy." It stems from God's love (agapē) for people.
f. In this miracle of healing the Lord showed mercy not only to Epaphroditus but to Paul as well.
g. His explanation of it showed how tenderhearted he was (The Complete Biblical Library – Galatians-Philemon, 209).
h. Epaphroditus recovered because God had mercy on him as well as on Paul, who would have faced unbearable sorrow at the death of his friend.
i. God had mercy on both his servants—on Epaphroditus by healing him and returning him to ministry; on Paul by not adding the sorrow of bereaving a friend’s death on top of other sorrows rendered by his imprisonment (Barton 854).
j. What gets lost on both men is a key ingredient to being healed - faith!
k. Jesus eluded several times when healing people that "it is your faith that has healed you."
l. It took great faith on both Paul, Epaphroditus, and the believers in Philippi as they prayed for the healing to take place.
m. People of courage are people of faith!
1. Illustration: Henry Blackaby in "Experiencing God" words it this way: An encounter with God requires faith. Encounters with God are God-sized. What you do in response to God's revelation (invitation to the task) reveals what you believe about God. True faith requires action (page 135).
2. Courage is the by-product of faith.
a. Hebrews 11:33-34 (NLT)
33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,
34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.
b. We can have courage because we know that God is in control.
c. We can have courage because we trust the promises of God's word.
d. We can have courage because we have experienced the power and might of God.
e. We can stand in the faith of opposition because of faith.
f. We can step out and believe the unbelievable because of faith.
g. We can do the impossible because of faith.
h. People of courage are people who believe.
Transition: People of courage are people willing to...
III. Put It All On The Line (28-30).
A. For He Risked His Life
1. Paul prepares the Philippians to receive him back by saying, "So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you."
a. Having gone through this experience certainly made Epaphroditus more capable of glorifying the Lord.
b. Whether or not a Christian receives lasting spiritual benefits from the trials of life depends to a great extent on the person's own attitude.
c. No doubt Paul was able to help Epaphroditus maintain a proper attitude through this total experience. As a result both lives benefited spiritually.
d. Evidently Paul also wanted the entire assembly in Philippi to benefit from the experience.
e. Therefore, the fact that God had healed Epaphroditus brought joy to himself, to Paul, and ultimately to the entire assembly at Philippi.
f. The Bible makes it clear that physical healing is not an end in itself.
g. God performs these acts of mercy so that as a result people will turn to Him.
h. God was glorified through the healing of Epaphroditus (The Complete Biblical Library – Galatians-Philemon, 209).
i. With Epaphroditus’s unexpected return, the church might think that his mission to minister to Paul had failed.
j. They might be concerned that Epaphroditus was leaving Paul alone in Paul’s most desperate time of need.
k. Instead, Paul took full responsibility for Epaphroditus’s return to Philippi and encouraged the believers to rejoice that he had come back to them (Barton, 854).
2. Rather than them thinking he had failed, Paul tells them to "Welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve."
a. Since it was Paul's idea for Epaphroditus to return to Philippi he encourages them to welcome him home with Christian love and great joy.
b. He encourages them to treat him as a conquering hero.
c. This verse contains another example of the way Paul loved to honor other people who deserved it.
d. He certainly was an unselfish man who felt no compulsion to put down other people in order to elevate himself.
e. He encouraged the Philippian assembly to welcome this man with open arms and honor him for his work for Christ (The Complete Biblical Library – Galatians-Philemon, 209).
3. Paul then gets to the heart of why Epaphroditus was a man of courage when he says, "For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away."
a. Paul let the Philippians know that Epaphroditus had not failed in his mission, and that he should be given great honor. Epaphroditus had risked his life for the work of Christ by helping Paul on behalf of the Philippian church.
b. The phrase "he risked his life" was a gambling word, that it means to gamble one's life; to stake everything; to chance everything; to recklessly gamble. Epaphroditus staked his life for the ministry of Christ. He courageously risked his life(Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol.4, p.449.)
c. Paul needed personal encouragement; the church couldn’t give it because they were far away.
d. But Epaphroditus had taken that responsibility and had risked his life to help the apostle in his time of need.
e. Epaphroditus had done his work so well that he could report back to Philippi and bring Paul’s letter of thanks and encouragement along with him (Barton 854-855).
f. He demonstrated that he was both a man of courage and faith by putting it all on the line.
B. Risk Takers
1. Illustration: "When Hitler began interfering with the churches and humiliating the German Jews, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a loyal German himself, began to resist and protest. He refused to participate in the state churches, which bowed down to the fuehrer’s demands. Several of Bonhoeffer’s friends urged him to bend. They argued that they would lose the opportunity to preach altogether if they followed Bonhoeffer’s example. He replied, "One act of obedience is better than a thousand sermons." He eventually paid with his life for holding that conviction" (Herb Miller. Actions Speak Louder Than Verbs, 38).
2. People of courage, like people of faith, are risk takers.
a. Hebrews 11:8 (NLT)
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.
b. People of courage are willing to take risks because of their faith.
c. They are willing to step out into the unknown and go where they have never been.
d. They are willing to do something they have never done before.
e. They are willing risk their comfort.
f. They are willing to risk their reputation.
g. They are willing to risk their finances.
h. They are willing to risk future.
i. They are willing to risk their lives.
j. All because they believe God!
1. In this text we met Epaphroditus; a man of great courage.
a. Who Was Epaphroditus?
b. People Of Faith
c. Put It All On The Line
2. People of courage are people who put their complete trust in Jesus.
3. Are you a person of courage?