Epaphroditus. What a name, eh? Not exactly topping the charts of the most favored name for baby boys in our culture ! If you read your Bible you’ve heard of him, he was a friend of Paul and a very godly one at that. His name means “lovely” but there is no effeminate connotation here for his name (common then) was derived from Aphrodite, the “goddess of love”. We find Paul talking about his friend in the book of Philippians where he uses five separate descriptions of this great manly man in verse 25 of chapter 2.
First, Paul says he’s “my brother” and he meant that in the spiritual sense. Epaphroditus (hereafter referred to as “E” to save me from carpal tunnel) was saved and now in the family of God despite his pagan namesake. Could you be called a brother or sister of Paul ? Have you made SURE your eternal destiny? Does your life show to others “E’s” family likeness?
Second, he was a “companion in labor” so he “E” was not only dedicated to the gospel by accepting it, he was dedicated to God’s work doing whatever needed to be done ! Last night a man came up to me after church saying he’d noticed the “mowing schedule” and said “You can put me on it ! I’ll work for God !!” That’s the spirit of a companion in labor, do you have it or do you wait for others to do the job thinking “somebody will step forward to help”? Most of us pastors are anxiously awaiting the arrival into their churches of Mr & Mrs Somebody !
Next, “E” is dubbed a “fellowsoldier”. The word depicts a person who is willing to associate himself in a conflict with other soldiers. Some nations force their citizens into the army, we don’t unless a draft is called. Typically we want to run from conflict but any good victory means a conflict must be engaged in beforehand. Israel wouldn’t have enjoyed the Promised Land had they not conquered Canaan under Joshua’s godly leadership. So “E” could see more than the conflict, he could see a potential victory and more godliness to be gained through the conflicts of life. Do you see that?
The fourth tag Paul places on his friend is “your messenger”. This is the Greek word from which we get “apostle” a person who is sent with a commission or orders. He has a vital mission and has the backing of his commander to do so. Some think by this that “E” was the pastor of the Philippians but either way he saw dispensing the Word to others as a very important and sacred trust. Each day, if you are spiritually sensitive, you will notice opportunities God gives to you as well to speak as an “ambassador for Christ”. This message from God is what people NEED and you, my friend, carry it in your heart as a loving, Epaphroditical (no you won’t find that in your dictionary !) help to those struggling around YOU !
Last, he simply speaks of “E” as a “minister”. This is not a verb but a noun in the Greek New Testament. Grammar students (about as many as people named Epaphroditus today !) know that verbs speak of action usually but its not that “E” wasn’t a man of action, not that he did not minister but Paul simply uses the moniker “minister” as a term of lofty respect though it is often a lowly, tedious and oft overlooked function amongst God’s people. Do you see and then move to meet the real needs of others God places in your sphere of influence, that little “slice of life” near you? Who would YOU have been in the account of the Good Samaritan? Would you walk by rationalizing that you’re just too busy today or you don’t know the guy and can’t get INVOLVED right now? (Some people work hard at being lazy !) Or would you drop everything to “minister”? We know what “E” would’ve done ! Yes “E’s” name is rare these days, so are his traits here but in his name lies the key to being what he was: LOVE God !! When you strive by God’s grace to make these attributes yours, you like “E” become a rare gem in your church !