If Epaphroditus were around today, he might be in Texas or Florida with cleaning supplies and food to give away. Or maybe in Southeast Asia. Any place where people need help. There are many just like Epaphroditus, some who are reading this column today. He lived in the first century and you can read about him in the book of Philippians. Epaphroditus brought funds from the Philippian church that enabled Paul to survive in a Roman prison, which did not provide food, clothing or medical attention to inmates. I like what Paul said about this man, and suggest these are five qualities we all need. Paul called him a brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, messenger, and minister.
Brother: this is what we call a man in the church when we don’t remember his name. “Hey, brother, how are you doing?” But Paul uses the word to describe the relationship he had with Epaphroditus. That’s how we are eternally connected to one another, not by skin tone or language or nationality or race, but by blood. The blood of Jesus makes us brothers and sisters. It reminds me, with the racial tension in our nation right now, that I am much more closely related to the African-Americans in our church who are believers than I am to the closest relative I have that does not know Jesus. We are family. Period.
Fellow worker: this is important. Paul was the up front apostle who preached to thousands and planted churches and led the expansion of the gospel in the first century. Epaphroditus was part of the support team. And yet, they were equals.
Fellow soldier: There’s a spiritual battle raging in the world, one that will continue until Jesus returns. The most dangerous place in any battle is right next to the man who doesn’t realize he is in a battle. Or that doesn’t want to be in the battle. Or is not prepared and equipped to fight the battle. That guy can get you killed. This man, Epaphroditus, was no wilting flower. He was battle-tested and willing to risk his life to complete the mission that he had been given.
Messenger: Epaphroditus was entrusted to bring a gift to Paul. It would have been a large amount of money. Then he was entrusted by Paul to take the apostle’s letter back to the Philippians. In the scheme of things, which was worth more? The letter! But in each mission, the messenger was trustworthy.
Minister: this word carries the idea of priestly duties. Epaphroditus was there not just to give a gift to Paul, but to minister to his needs. I heard a man speak on Labor Day about work, and he asked this question: What percentage of what you did yesterday was sacred, and what percentage was secular? Think about that, and answer honestly. Do you think that maybe 20% of what you do in a normal day is sacred? Or even 50 percent? Listen, dear readers. There is no separation for the Christian between the sacred and the secular. Everything we do is sacred. That’s why Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Not only that, the truth is that we are each called into the ministry. Each of us is necessary for God’s glory to be realized in His church and to be seen in the world.
Brother (or sister), worker, soldier, messenger and minister. Wouldn’t that look good on your tombstone? Cindy and I joke about what will be on ours one day. I say her tombstone will say, “I just couldn’t get everything done.” I am afraid mine will say, “He was a jerk, but he was our jerk.” But I’m working hard to get “brother, worker, soldier, messenger, and minister” on there. Don’t call the guys at Askew & Peterson Monument just yet.