The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church while he was imprisoned in Rome. He wrote to encourage the church by allaying the fears they had concerning him and the gospel ministry. He wrote to assure them of his well-being and to tell them the gospel has been shared boldly throughout the prison system. The cool thing is that as guards and prisoners are coming to trust in Jesus, the churches in Rome are ramping up their boldness in preaching the gospel as well! Today we begin our study of verses 19-30, where Paul mentions two partners in the gospel, two brothers in Christ, Timothy and Epaphroditus, both of whom would be heading to Philippi soon.
In anticipation of his
He’s writing to let them know that as soon as the verdict comes down, he will send Timothy to them. He must have talked to several people about going to Philippi. None of them were willing to go. They each were looking out for their own interests. Paul boldly makes an example out of them, in contrast to these self-interested folk, Timothy stands out. Timothy is the one. All but Timothy said no, because they were too busy, too caught up in their own important things. It’s a familiar temptation, isn’t it? Let us be careful in how we respond to opportunities to serve God, so that we serve him rather than ourselves.
He’s writing to let them know that as soon as the verdict comes down, he will send Timothy to them. Out of all the possible people he could send, Timothy is the one. Others were looking out for their own interests. He must have talked to a few others about sending them to Philippi. All but Timothy said no, because they were too busy, too caught up in their own important things.
Timothy was well known to the Philippian church. They took a real interest in his life, and he in theirs. They knew that Timothy was a good and faithful servant of Christ Jesus. He had been tested by God and proved himself. He was like a son to Paul and a fellow servant in the work of the gospel. Paul wrote to let them know, through Timothy, as soon as he was set free, but also that he might not be able to go to them immediately, as he had other places to go as well. Timothy is the first messenger Paul mentions, Epaphroditus was the second.
Ephaphroditus was the pastor of the Philippian church. The church sent him with a gift for Paul. Additionally, Epaphroditus was a gift to Paul, he told Paul all about the things happening in Philippi, but he also counselled and encouraged Paul in ministry. One of the most important things in my ministry has been the encouragement and support I’ve received from my colleagues. Pastor Bodini, Pastor Tim Walker from Bradford Baptist Church have both blessed and encouraged me incredibly.
Like Timothy, Epaphroditus was a brother in Christ, a fellow worker, and a fellow soldier with Paul. he faced all kinds of opposing forces: legalists, Judaisers, Roman soldiers, emperor worshipers, sensualists, not to mention the principalities and powers of darkness.
We’re not told what caused Epaphroditus to become sick and nearly die. Perhaps it was from the strain of getting to Paul as quickly as possible. The journey from Philippi could be arduous at times. Perhaps he was attacked along the way, perhaps he caught a deadly disease. All we know for sure is that he nearly died.
We might well wonder why Paul didn’t simply heal him, as he’d healed others. In truth, all the apostles served at God’s pleasure. There isn’t a magic formula to healing, the Lord wills it or not. Only through prayer and petition can we bring our requests to God, which Paul did, and God, graciously healed Epaphroditus, sparing Paul the agony of witnessing his death.
In as much as Epaphroditus was a blessed gift from the Philippian church, Paul knew that the church needed him now, more than he did. Paul always sacrificed himself for the sake of the gospel. He willingly sent him back to his home church so that they would be blessed and encouraged in the faith, and would continue the gospel ministry God called them to do.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are all fellow workers in Christ. That is, if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ. If we have admitted our sin, believed in Jesus’ forgiveness of sins through his death on the cross and resurrection to life and have committed ourselves to Christ—if you have done that, you are a fellow worker in Christ. Very young or very old, able bodied or not, able to attend worship or home-bound, you are a partner in the gospel ministry.
Particularly, you, our brothers from Mexico. We have rejoiced to hear how Christ has worked in and through you! How you have blessed your homes and neighbourhoods with the gospel of Jesus Christ. How the gospel has spread throughout your communities, starting churches in your homes and continuing the work of Jesus—seeking to save the lost, the hurting, the hopeless.
Your work here is not limited to the fields, where you are also fellow workers. You are fellow workers in ministry. Gathering for worship, gathering for lunch, learning English, encouraging and blessing each other. You do it all even though it means leaving your families, friends and neighbours behind in Mexico, in order to bring back something great.
Work of Christ
Work of Christ
The greatest thing we have is not defined by the places we live, the vehicles we drive, the balances in our accounts. The greatest thing we have is in our hearts! We have Jesus Christ in us! Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit! Our purpose in this life, and in the life to come is to glorify God and enjoy him forever!
Paul encouraged the Philippian church to welcome Epaphroditus with great joy. Just as Paul received great joy from having Epaphroditus with him, he knew that having their pastor back with them would bless them and encourage them.
Brother workers, you will soon be heading home to be received with great joy and honour by your friends and families. They know the sacrifices you’ve made, the sacrifices they’ve made have been for their benefit, your benefit, and for our benefit. We could not do without you. Our ministry, our work for Christ would be much less without you.
Let us all commit to doing the work of Christ, seeking out and offering Christ to the lost, the lonely, those without hope. Let us sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, even as we’ve witnessed the sacrifice of these our brothers in Christ.
Thank you, everyone, for your work in the gospel ministry of Christ. Carry him with you wherever you go! Trust him to complete the good work he began in you. He is faithful, he will do it! Amen.