Paul is writing to the Philippians and he says to them in Phil. 2:25-27, “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that you had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy unto him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” One of the things that is important to notice about these verses is the sickness of Epaphroditus. It is important to notice this because some people today falsely teach that you will never get sick if you serve God. They teach healing and freedom from sickness in a way that is misleading. No one could serve God more faithfully or honorably than Epaphroditus was doing. But he became sick and he was “sick nigh unto death.”
There are different reasons that a Christian may become sick. Sickness can be traced ultimately all the way back to the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Sickness is one of the sorrows and burdens that any of us on this planet may be called upon to bear. Life has its sorrows and burdens that can come to anyone, whether believer or unbeliever. You might become sick simply because it is one of the sufferings of life that can befall anyone at any time. Evidently this is what happened to Epaphroditus. One thing that can be sure of: if you trust in God, then you will recover if it is His will. Of course, you should find the best doctor possible and use all the means that modern medicine can give; but in doing so always pray and trust in the great God who can do anything. Doctors do not know everything. If you recover, it will not be because of the doctors. It will be because of the grace of God.
There is another reason that sickness can come into someone’s life: sin. Sin can lead to sickness, and in such cases repentance is part of the solution. The Bible says in James 5:14-16, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Another reason to avoid sin as much as possible is because one potential result of sin is physical affliction. If you want to be as healthy as possible, then avoid sin; and if you do fail then make sure that you pray and repent of your sins immediately. “Blessed is the man who confesses and forsakes his sins.” In this kind of a situation that is mentioned in James chapter five, healing from sickness is associated with the confession of sin. It’s also associated with prayer. As much as Paul loved Epaphroditus, undoubtedly Paul would have gotten the best possible medical attention for him; but he also prayed for him.
Death is the worst enemy of mankind. One of the many sorrows that death can bring is the separation of friends and family and loved ones. Paul recognized that one of the reasons that Epaphroditus was healed by God was that God was also thinking of Paul and Paul’s needs. Epaphroditus was such a great friend and help to Paul that Paul would have suffered greatly without him. Therefore, God had mercy on Paul as well as on Epaphroditus when God raised up Epaphroditus. God still had something on this earth for Epaphroditus to do, and that something was to be a helper to the Apostle Paul. We all live under that same circumstance. God has put each of us on the earth for a purpose. Once that purpose is fulfilled, God will take us off the earth.
It is no wonder that Paul loved and needed his friend, Epaphroditus. Notice the description that Paul gave of him. Paul called him a brother, a companion in labor, a fellow soldier, a messenger, and a minister. First of all he was called a brother. He was a brother in the Lord. “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” If you are a child of God, you will find that you can have no closer friend than a brother or sister in Christ. That’s what Paul found in Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus was a companion in labor. Paul was not only a man of letters, he was a man of action. He had many plans and many ideas that he wanted to put in place for Christ, but he could not do it alone. He could do some things himself, but he would see a lot more accomplished if there were others to work with him. Paul knew this, and he knew that he needed Epaphroditus to work with him.
Epaphroditus is called a fellow soldier. Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this. He saw Roman soldiers every day. But Paul knew that he and the other Christians who were involved with him were the real soldiers. They were soldiers for Christ in the greatest of all struggles and contests: the spiritual battle of good against evil. If you are a believer, hopefully you understand that you are waged in a great battle. You must have the discipline, the attitude, and the training of a soldier if you are to be effective in the battle. Paul loved and needed Epaphroditus because Epaphroditus was a soldier, a soldier for Christ. Would those who know you describe you as being a soldier? Are you prepared and involved in the spiritual battle of life? Later at the end of his life, the Apostle Paul would look back and say this about the life: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” One day you will be able to say the same thing about your life if you are a soldier for Christ.
Because Epaphroditus was a soldier, he was able to also be a messenger. That’s what the struggle is all about: the presentation of the gospel, the taking of the message to those who need it. This message is the message of the gospel to the lost and the message of increased faith to the saved. God wants you in some way to have a part in giving out His message, but the spiritual forces of evil want to keep you from having such a part. If you are not a soldier, you will fail in the great mission of spreading the message of salvation and faith. Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 6 that part of the armor of the Christian soldier was to have your “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
The last thing that Paul said of Epaphroditus was, “He ministered to my wants.” Most places in the New Testament that use the word “minister” have translated a Greek word that means to serve. To minister is to serve. But this word in this passage comes from a different Greek word that is only used a few times in the New Testament. It comes from a word that refers to a civil servant: someone who does a service for the government and usually at his own expense. It refers to volunteer service for the government. Of course, a Christian who is this kind of servant is serving the government of God: the kingdom of God.
Paul continued with the things that he had to say about Epaphroditus and the Bible says in Philippians 2:28-30, “I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when you see him again, you may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” Evidently Epaphroditus contracted the deadly sickness that he had as a result of something that he had done for Christ. Perhaps he was visiting the sick, and then he got sick. Perhaps he was doing something for Paul and was exposed to the elements such a cold rain and got sick from that. Remember that they lived in a day when to get sick often meant to die because there were so few known effective medicines. There were no antibiotics. The things that people have willingly suffered for the cause of Christ in days gone by! In the privileged generation in which we live, how much less we have accomplished than some of these Christians who had so much less. One thing is for sure: we will be able to accomplish more once we acquire the kind of Christian character that Epaphroditus had.
What a wonderful description of this man’s life, once it had been transformed by faith in Jesus Christ and by following the principles and teachings of Christ. Paul described Epaphroditus as being a brother, a fellow-laborer, a soldier, a messenger, and a servant. What is your true description as a Christian in the world?
The Bible says in Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” Paul had hardships and difficulties. He had already spoken about some of them in this letter to the Philippians. Paul was a prisoner. Paul had other preachers who were in opposition to him. Paul had a difficult time finding someone who was willing to be a messenger, and he had to send Timothy. Paul’s good friend and companion had been sick unto death, and Paul had sorrowed greatly because of it. Yet, listen to his conclusion to such things: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”
If you learn to “rejoice in the Lord,” you will always have something to rejoice about. It’s possible that you will lose everything in this life that is dear to you, but you will never lose the Lord. Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” There is a lot to rejoice about concerning the Lord. He is merciful and loving and forgiving. He has a wonderful future planned for us because of Jesus. He has given us gifts and opportunities. He has given us life, and He will safely protect us until it is His time for us to leave the earth. We have a lot to rejoice about concerning the Lord. Jesus came to earth and surrendered Himself to the horrible death of the cross so that we could repent and find eternal life. These are the things for which we will rejoice in Him throughout eternity. Surely we can remember and rejoice in Him now. No matter what happens to you, if you have spiritual wisdom, you will still say on any given day, “I can rejoice in the Lord.” In all of the situations of life Christians should be the happiest people in the world because they have the Lord.
Paul said that it is “safe” to rejoice in the Lord. The word that is translated “safe” means secure and firm. Life can be very unsteady and uncertain. If you do not want to lose your joy, make sure that what causes your joy is something that is firm and secure and reliable. There is nothing more firm than the great eternal God, and there will be no firmer foundation for your joy than to learn to always rejoice in the Lord. To write this to you is safe.
The Bible says in Philippians 3:2, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” Because this is a spiritual warfare that we are in, we have enemies. In order to not be over-taken by these enemies, we must be on the lookout for them. Paul tells us to beware or to lookout for 3 kinds of people. He said to “beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” There are two kinds of dogs. There is a pet that is somewhat a member of the family, and there is a scavenger that is a pest and a nuisance and does not belong when it comes into a neighborhood. Such a scavenger dog can bring disease and even death. That’s the symbolism of the word “dog” as used in this passage and some other Biblical passages. Revelation 22:14-15 says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in to the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Dogs are unsaved people who attempt to come into the congregation of the children of God when they should not. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” The wonderful truths of God’s Word should be given to those who want them, but do not waste your time on those who have already made their decision to turn away from God; and beware of them.
Beware of dogs, and beware of evil workers. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their works.” Some false teachers have become very polished and eloquent speakers. They are masters at seducing people with their words. Some believers have been tricked into giving their money and their time to false teachers, because they did not look closely enough at their works. If someone does not follow by their actions the teachings of Christ, they should not be supported by believers. Beware of false prophets. They are like wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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