VERSES 25-30:  Our Brother Epaphroditus

“Yet I suppose 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.”

“Yet I suppose it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus,”
Literally:  “But I thought it needful to send to you Epaphroditus.” 
 Epaphroditus is nowhere else mentioned but in this epistle, see 4:18. All that is known of him, therefore, is what is mentioned here.

We do know that he was from Philippi, and was a member of the church there. He had been employed by the Philippians to carry their offerings of relief to Paul when he was in Rome, (4:18), and while in Rome he was taken dangerously sick. News of this had been conveyed to Philippi, and again intelligence had been brought to him that they had heard of his sickness, and that they were much affected by it. On his recovery, Paul thought it best that he should return at once to Philippi, and doubtless sent this epistle by him. He is much commended by Paul for his faithfulness and zeal.

           I SUPPOSE: (Gr.-hēgesamen)—I thought it necessary.

           EPAPHRODITUS:  (Gr.-Epaphroditon)–Here is a very high character of this minister of Christ; he was,
1.      A brother—one of the Christian family; a thorough convert to God, without which he could not have been a preacher of the Gospel.
2.      He was a companion in labor
         He labored in union with Paul in this great work.
3.      He was a fellow soldier.
        The work was a work of difficulty and danger, they were obliged to maintain a continual warfare, fighting against the world, the devil, and the flesh.

4.      He was an affectionate friend to Paul.
         He knew his soul in adversity, acknowledged him in prison, and contributed to his comfort and support.

When the Philippians first heard that Paul was in prison, they sent a gift to him via Epaphroditus.  What they could not do personally, they delegated to Epaphroditus to do for them.  Not only did they intend him to be the bearer of their gift, they also intended him to stay there in Rome and be Paul’s personal servant and attendant. 

“my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier,”
Literally:  “The brother, and fellow-worker, and my fellow-soldier.”  While Epaphroditus was in Rome, he became ill, possibly from the fever that was common there in Rome as a result of the swampy areas around Rome, particularly from the Pontine Marshes. 

A century before this, Julius Caesar had even made plans to drain this marsh.  Paul knew it was time to send Epaphroditus home, and he probably was the bearer of this epistle.   So Paul here is giving him a big testimonial so people would not think him a “quitter”  from the task they had sent him to Rome to do.

        MY BROTHER: (Gr.-ton adelphon)—Literally:  “the brother.”   In the gospel; or brother Christian. These expressions of affectionate regard must have been highly gratifying to the Philippians.

        COMPANION IN LABOR:  (Gr.-sunergon)—Literally:  “fellow-worker.”  It is not impossible that he may have labored with Paul in the gospel at Philippi; but more probably the sense is, that he regarded him as engaged in the same great work that he was. It is not probable that he assisted Paul much in Rome, as he appears to have been sick during a considerable part of the time he was there.

       AND FELLOW-SOLDIER: (Gr.-kai sustratiōtēn)—Literally:  “and fellow-soldier.”  

Christians and Christian ministers are compared with soldiers, (1:2; Eph. 6:10-17; II Tim.  2:3-4), because of the nature of the service in which they are engaged. The Christian life is a warfare; there are many foes to be overcome; the period which they are to serve is fixed by the Great Captain of salvation, and they will soon be permitted to enjoy the triumphs of victory. Paul regarded himself as enlisted to make war on all the spiritual enemies of the Redeemer, and he esteemed Epaphroditus as one who had shown that he was worthy to be engaged in so good a cause.

“but your messenger”
Literally:  “And your messenger.”–Sent to convey supplies to Paul, Philippians 4:18. The Greek wording is literally, “your apostle,” and some have proposed to take this literally, meaning that he was the apostle of the church at Philippi, or that he was their bishop.

The advocates for Episcopacy have been the rather inclined to this, because in Philippians 1:1, there are but two orders of ministers mentioned—“bishops and deacons”—from which they have supposed that “the bishop” might have been absent, and that overseer, “the bishop,” was probably this Epaphroditus. But against this supposition the objections are obvious.

           MESSENGER:  (Gr.-apostolon)–The same word for “apostle.”  This word is a combination of apo, meaning, out”  and stellō,  mean, to send.” 
1.      The word apostolon means, properly, “one sent forth, a messenger,” and it is uniformly used in this sense unless there is something in the connection to limit it to an apostle, technically so called.  
2.      The supposition that it here means a messenger meets all the circumstances of the case, and describes exactly what Epaphroditus did. He was, in fact, sent as a messenger to Paul, (see 4:18).
3.      He was NOT an apostle, in the proper sense of the term.
         The true apostles had been chosen to be witnesses of the life, the teachings, the death, and the resurrection of the Savior (See Acts 1:22. I Cor. 9:1).

MINISTER:  (Gr.-leitourgon)–It is interesting that Paul uses this Greek word,

In secular Greek, this was a great word.  In the cities of ancient Greece, there were men who, because they loved their city so much, that at their own expense they would undertake certain civic duties.  It might be to pay the costs of a delegation, or the cost of putting on one of the dramas of the great poets, or of training the athletes who would represent the city in the games, or even of fitting out a warship and paying a crew to serve in the navy of the city sate.  These men were the supreme benefactors of the state, and they were known as the leitourgoi.  Paul has taken the Christian word apostolos and the Greek word, leitourgos, and applied them both to Epaphroditus, thereby giving great honor to the man, and making it easy for him to go home.

“For he longed for you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye have heard that he had been sick.”

“For he longed for you all,”
Literally:  “Since he was longing for you all.”–He desired to see you all, and to relieve your anxiety in regard to his safety.   The concern that Epaphroditus had for the Philippian believers is seen by the word translated as “longing” and “full of heaviness.”

        FOR:  (Gr.-epeidē)–Literally:  “inasmuch. Reason for thinking it "necessary to send" "Epaphroditus.  Translate from the Greek, "Inasmuch as he was longing after you all."

        LONGING: (Gr.-epipothōn)—An intense word for longing or desire

        AND FULL OF HEAVINESS:  (Gr.-kai adēmonōn)—Literally:  “And being troubled.”  Because he supposed you would be troubled at hearing that he was sick. He wished to see you all, and to relieve your anxiety in regard to his safety.

The Greek expresses the idea of being worn out and overpowered with heavy grief.  This Greek word is a form of adēmoneō, which means “to be anxious,” or “be distressed; excessively concerned”  So it seems that Epaphroditus was more than concerned about the Philippians; he was intensely burdened about them.

“because that ye have heard that he had been sick.”
Literally:   “Because you heard that he was sick.”–This tells why Epaphroditus was burdened for the Philippians. 

Perhaps he feels badly that they had sent him as their messenger and minister to Paul, and yet he had not been able to fulfill his tasks.  In addition, he had even been a burden to the Philippian believers because they were so concerned about him. He felt how exceedingly saddened you would be in hearing it; and he now is hastening to relieve your minds of the anxiety.

“For indeed he was sick nigh unto death:  but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”

“For indeed he was sick nigh unto death:”
Literally:  “For indeed he was sick, near to death.”–Perhaps the concern of the Philippian believers about Epaphroditus was justified.

Paul explains; “for indeed he was sick near to death.”  He was so ill that he nearly died.  In light of the emphasis today in some theological circles on miraculous healing, it is interesting to observe that Epaphroditus was in the presence of the Apostle Paul, and yet there is no indication that Paul did anything miraculous on his behalf.  On the contrary, Paul indicates that it was God who had mercy on both Epaphroditus and himself.  As Epaphroditus was at the point of death, and there was apparently no human hope for him, God spared him.           The sickness of Epaphro-ditus proves that the apostles did not ordinarily have the permanent gift of miracles, any more than of inspiration.  Both gifts were given to them only for each particular occasion, as the Spirit thought fit.

“but God had mercy on him;”– By restoring him to health, evidently not by miracle, but by the use of ordinary means.  

         “but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
         Literally:  “But also on me, that I may not have grief on grief.”–Namely, the sorrow of losing him by death, in addition to the sorrow of my imprisonment.

It is only here that occurs anything of a sorrowful tone in this Epistle, which otherwise is generally joyous in nature,  Paul is referring to the sorrow of the death of his friend Epaphroditus, added to the sorrow he endured on account of his sickness; or else Paul may refer to his own state of affliction, being imprisoned and maltreated.  The sources of his sorrow, had Epaphroditus died, would have been such as these:
1.      He would have lost a valued friend, and one whom he esteemed as a brother and worthy fellow-laborer.

2.      He would have felt that the church at Philippi had lost a valuable member.
3.      His grief might have been aggravated from the consideration that his life had been lost in endeavoring to do him good.
         He would have felt that he was the occasion, though innocent, of his exposure to danger.

SORROW UPON SORROW: (Gr.-lupen epi lupei)—Sorrow coming upon sorrow, like wave after wave.

“I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.”

“I sent him therefore the more carefully,”
Literally:  “Therefore I sent him more eagerly.”  That is, I was the more earnest and anxious to send him.  With more diligence, or speed; I was the more ready to send him.

        MORE CAREFULLY: (Gr.-spoudaioteros)—Or, speedily, as the Greek word spoudaioteros here more properly signifies.  This could have been better translated as, “the more eagerly,”  or “the more diligently.”  Obviously, the decision to send Epaphroditus was not a last minute decision, but grew out of the deep concern of both men for that church.  Perhaps “again” is better taken with the following clause; "that when ye see him, ye may again rejoice."

Paul was returning Epaphroditus to the Philippians sooner than he might have done otherwise.  If he had been in good health, and the Philippians had not been so concerned about him, there would have been no need to send him back to them so soon.  Also, since Epaphroditus so desperately wanted to return to Philippi (v. 26), it was good for both parties for him to go on.    

“that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice,”
Literally: “That seeing him again you may rejoice.”– Paul gives the reason why he was so careful to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians  Seeing him in a state of health, you may rejoice.  He knew the Philippian believers would be delighted when they saw Epaphroditus, especially when they saw how well he had recovered from his recent illness.. 

“and that I may be the less sorrowful.”
Literally:  “And I may be less grieved.”  That Paul would also be relieved to know that Epaphroditus was back home where he could be properly cared for.  

“Receive him therefore in [the] Lord with all gladness, and hold such in reputation.”

“Receive him therefore in the Lord.”
Literally:  “Then receive him in {the} Lord;”  or “for the Lord.”  Paul now instructs the Philippians as to how they should welcome Epaphroditus: i.e., for the Lord's sake receive him, and as the Lord's servant. There seems to be something behind respecting him. There seems to be some hidden meaning to Paul’s exhortation. If extreme affection had been the sole ground of his “heaviness,” no such exhortation would have been needed.

He tells them that they should hold such an one as the servant of the Lord, or as now restored to you by the Lord, and therefore to be regarded as a fresh gift from God. Our friends, restored to us after a long absence, we should receive as the gift of God, and as a proof of his mercy. 

        RECEIVE:  (Gr.-prosdechesthe)–The word is from the basic Greek word  (dechomai),  which has the emphasis of “welcome” in it.   This is the same word used in Acts 17:11 in referring to the Bereans who “received,” (welcomed) the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily.

        THEREFORE:   (Gr.-oun)–As the consequence of my sending him. The whole verse supports the suggestion that the internal friction among the Philippians had somehow made Epaphroditus unacceptable to some. See above on (see v. 26).

         “with all gladness,”
          Literally:   “With all joy.”

           GLADNESS:  (Gr.-chara)—meaning, “joy.”  Paul did not want them to hold back any expression of joy as they welcomed Epaphroditus home.  Notice the constant repetition of the word "joy,” that seems  characteristic of this Epistle.

“and hold such in reputation.”
Literally:  “And hold such one in honor.” This is a high commendation of Epaphroditus, and, at the same time, it enjoins an important duty in regard to the proper treatment of those who sustain such a character. It is a Christian duty to honor those who ought to be honored, to respect the virtuous and the pious, and especially to honor those who evince fidelity in the work of the Lord.

           REPUTATION:  (Gr.-entimous)—The word occurs in Luke 7:2 of the centurion’s “highly-valued slave”; and I Pet. 2:4, 6 of the “precious stone.”—It is implied that there, and  was a slight risk that such unobtrusive and devoted holders of, and workers for, the Gospel (such as Epaphroditus) could fall out of favor at Philippi.

“Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding is life, to supply you lack of service toward me.”

“Because for the work of Christ”
Literally:  “That through the work of Christ.”–That is, either by exposing himself in his journey to see Paul in Rome, or by his labors there. Preaching the Gospel, and ministering to the distressed. 

         The sense seems to be, “having hazarded his life;” literally, having gambled with his life, not merely having staked it, but staked it recklessly. It is possible that there may be allusion to the caution money, staked in a cause to show that it was not frivolous and vexatious, and forfeited in case of loss; and that Epaphroditus, risking his life through over-exertion in the cause of Paul, as a prisoner awaiting trial, is therefore may have gambled with his life. This would give a special appropriateness to the allusion.
         Whether the extent of his service and devotion overextended him and resulted in his illness, or the climate in and around Rome itself, or whether it was simply incident to his trip to Rome, is not clear.  The implication seems that if he had not come to Rome, he would not have become sick.  However, the next phrase implies that having become ill, he continued in his service to Paul to the point of endangering is life.

“not regarding his life”
Literally:  “His life having been exposed.” There is a difference in the Mss. here, so great that it is impossible now to determine which is the true reading, though the sense is not materially affected.

           NOT REGARDING HIS LIFE: (Gr.-parabouleusamenos); literally, “misconsulting, not consulting carefully, not taking pains.”  Another reading is, “exposing one's self to danger, regardless of life.” This reading suits the connection, and is generally regarded as the correct one.

         The Greek word  (paraboleusamenos) , here translated as “not regarding his life,” may perhaps be better rendered as “hazarding his life,”  or even as, “having gambled with his life.” The implication seems to be that Epaphroditus had known ahead of time that there was risk involved in coming to Rome, but he willingly did so to be of help to Paul, and, in a broader sense, to further the work of Christ.  It is no wonder that Paul wanted the Philippian believers to welcome him home with joy and to hold him in high honor!
        The verb form of the word,  (paraboleustha),   was a gamblers word in the ancient Greek world, and it means to stake everything on a throw of the dice.  Paul is really saying that, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Epaphroditus gambled his life.  Going along with this possible explanation is the fact that in the days of the early church, there was an association of men and women called the parabolani (the gamblers). 
      It was their purpose to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases.  In AD 252, a great plague broke out in Carthage.  During this plague the people of that city threw out the bodies of their dead and fled in terror.  Cyprian, the Christian pastor there, gathered his congregation and put them to work burying the dead and nursing the sick in that plague-stricken city, and at the risk of their own lives, they saved the city from destruction and ruin.  There should be an almost reckless courage in all Christians which makes them ready to gamble their very lives to serve Christ and other people.  This is what Epaphroditus did there in Rome for Paul.

“to supply your lack of service toward me.”
Literally:  “That he may fill up your lack of service toward me.”– To do what you could not do in person. 

         He came and rendered to him the service which they could not do in person; and what the church would have done, if Paul had been among them, he performed in their name and on their behalf. Paul is not implying that they lacked the will: what they “lacked” was the opportunity by which to send their accustomed bounty (4:10). “That which ye would have done if you could (but which you could not through absence), he did for you; therefore receive him with all joy.”   Paul does not imply that they had failed; but rather, because they were not present, Epaphroditus stepped into the gap as their representative and did what they would have done.  His overexertion, which complicated his illness, was, in effect, his expression of the love of the Philippian church for Paul.