This is the second in a series of posts exploring the roles ascribed to Christians by looking at the example of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-29.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he says to, “Keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17). In other words, act like those who act like the apostles. Earlier in his letter, Paul briefly speaks of two men who serve with him, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Now, Timothy is a fairly well-known character in the New Testament, with two letters written to him from Paul being recorded in the New Testament canon, in addition to Paul mentioning him in many of his other letters. Epaphroditus, however, is only mentioned in Philippians. But what little is said about him we can learn from and emulate just as Paul encouraged his readers to do.
Philippians was written as one of what is commonly called Paul’s prison epistles, which he penned while being held on house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16). It was during this time that Epaphroditus was sent from the church at Philippi to deliver gifts to Paul to support him in his ministry while he awaited trial (Philippians 4:18). As a result of his journey Epaphroditus became gravely ill and almost died, but was spared from death by God. Since word had gotten back to the Philippian church about his sickness, Epaphroditus was worried that they thought he had died and so Paul was eager to send him back “so that you may rejoice at seeing him again and that I may be less anxious.”
It is Paul’s introductory statement on Epaphroditus that I’d like to focus on. He says that Epaphroditus is his, “brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,” which is an apt description of the multifaceted roles of all Christians.
- As brothers, we are members of God’s family and heirs to the promises God made to Abraham and the nation of Israel.
- As workers, we have been assigned good works to complete while in this world in order to advance God’s kingdom and shine the light of Christ into the darkness.
- As soldiers, we do battle against the spiritual forces of evil who are at work in the “sons of disobedience,” meaning we are on both offense through prayer and evangelism and on defense through faith and what is called Christian apologetics.
- As messengers, we deliver the Gospel of God’s salvation which is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- As ministers, we are the means by which God reconciles the world to himself.
Through the course of this series, I would like to look at each of these roles in depth to see how Christians are to assume all these roles in living out their faith.