Summary: What are you willing to risk in order to advance the cause of Christ Jesus?

“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my 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.” [1]

Contemporary Christians often see the Faith as a safe refuge, until a Parabolanus appears. A Parabolanus? What is a Parabolanus? Do the churches of this day need Parabolani? The word may be unfamiliar, but the concept is essential to continued healthy growth of the Faith in this day so far removed from the New Testament.

The ancient churches were blessed with saints who were often referred to as Parabolani. These individuals, moved by the Holy Spirit, proved themselves to be a blessing to all mankind. The term Parabolani was given to Christians who risked their lives as nurses to dying people during times of contagion that often swept ancient societies. These saints, moved with the compassion of Christ, voluntarily undertook the care of the sick and provided for the burial of the dead despite knowing that such service could cause their own death. [2] They were held in esteem by the populace and honoured among the churches as examples for Christian service.

Though the term Parabolani was later employed in reference to an order under direction of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the term originally allowed for no such organised political or ecclesiastical action groups among the churches. What should be seen by the service of these saints are individuals motivated by the Spirit of God to dream great dreams and to perform great tasks that glorified the Master through fulfilling His call to service in His Name.

The concept of such risk taking for the cause of Christ is witnessed in the text before us today. A man named Epaphroditus is commended by the Apostle, especially because he was prepared to risk his life in order to serve the Master. Don’t attempt to turn Epaphroditus into some “super Christian” who is a cut above all other saints. Rather, see this godly man as one of the saints who saw a need and filled it to the glory of God. He was an insignificant Christian who risked everything for the cause; thus, he accomplished great things for Christ.

EPAPHRODITUS — All we know of Epaphroditus is revealed in the text chosen for today. However, the little we are able to learn from Paul’s Letter to the Christians of Philippi reveals that Epaphroditus made a great impact for the cause of Christ. Some have imagined that Epaphroditus and Epaphras (named in COLOSSIANS 1:7 and 4:12, and in PHILEMON 23) are the same person. However, there is little reason to draw such a conclusion. In the first place, both the name Epaphroditus and the shortened form, Epaphras, were common in the ancient world. The cities of Philippi and Colossae are not near enough to imagine that the churches interacted with one another all that much. Thus, there seems little likelihood that both churches employed the same messenger to communicate with the Apostle in his imprisonment.

Later in this missive to the Philippians, Paul again speaks of Epaphroditus. Paul writes in PHILIPPIANS 4:10-18, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

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