by David McArdle
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In Philippians 2.19-30 there are three Christian men mentioned by name, two very well known and one, possibly unknown by the majority of Christendom. They were, Paul, the apostle, Timothy, his tested and approved assistant, and Epaphroditus of whom we know very little, except what is mentioned here.
However, in [2.25 Amplified] Paul described him thus, “[He has been] my brother and companion in labour and my fellow soldier, as well as [having come as] your special messenger (apostle) and minister to my need.” Why was he in Rome? Epaphroditus was responsible for carrying the gift from the church at Philippi to Paul, and if required, to provide whatever assistance he might need.
As well as being unwell, Epaphroditus’ faithful service to Paul may have been misinterpreted by the Roman authorities, and inadvertently, he may have exposed himself to possible persecution, and yet, there was no reduction in the quality of Epaphroditus’ service.
We have all, at one time or another, desired to know just what God really wants from us. This sense of meaning, purpose and ultimate destiny can be, and maybe has even been, overpowering.
Let us learn here from Epaphroditus’ spiritual and seemingly reckless behaviour, how we can be propelled from relative obscurity and end up being numbered among those who are commended for spiritual services, by the Great Apostle of the Church.
I believe the clue to our ultimate fulfillment is dependedent upon the meaning of Epaphroditus’ name, which was, handsome or charming. Now we may not be one or the other, but we sure can be charming. Without intending to be controversial, this worthwhile quality is not often mentioned in spiritual circles.
Nevertheless, what will a charming person’s character be like? Aagreeableness, allurement, appeal, attentiveness, charisma, compassion, empathy, engaging and enchantment.
Now, if we were to meet or even to be such a person, our effectiveness in all matters related to spirituality and worthwhile relationships, would be considerably increased.
For example, in today’s churches, there are believers who minister unintentional offence, and there are some who harbour offence in their hearts for a long time. The charming person’s attitude, approachability and aptitude would be markedly different from the norm.
If we are currently numbered among those who hold grudges, those who spread bitterness, or those who have a degree in judgemental matters, how then can we be different? How is this miraculous alteration possible?
To assist us in our quest, N Pembroke has helpfully added, “A charming person … is one who lives in and through a unity of agape and Eros. Agape is expressed through an act of self-denial in which one's own needs and desires are temporarily suspended in order to attend to the other person. Eros produces a passion for life, for others, for God. It is a physical and spiritual energy that animates a person and renders them attractive and engaging.”
But, in Paul’s day and maybe even in ours, the reality was different, for “ … all sought after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” [2.21] Paul could not find one Christian at Rome who was willing to go to Philippi. When we put God and His interests first, we are automatically excluding everything else and concentrating wholly on the Lord.
2:30 Epaphroditus was almost killed with grief. That is, his unselfish response to the current situation had had an adverse effect on his health, while, at the same time, his over-exerting labour more than compensated for the notable absence of his Philippian brethren (Phil, 4:14-18].
Do you feel that your spiritual back is breaking from the weight, which you alone seem to be carrying?
Among many weaknesses, I was also a semi-professional gambler before I was converted. I often chose, wrongly sometimes, what I thought what was the best path possible?
The phrase “risking his life” in 2.30 is a gambling term. In this context, Harrington Lees has very helpfully added, “Epaphroditus gambled with his life, but won, because God was there and had mercy on him."
He has now gone down in history as a charming man who was asked to give his all, even to the very point of death, and this, when the majority of the other believers were not even on the distant horizon.
We, regardless of our situation, cannot give less. Divine commendation is awaiting such people. [David McArdle]
Pembroke, N. ‘Charm in Human Service’ in Working Relationships: Spirituality in Human Service and Organisational Life (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers,
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