Those in a Roman prison usually had to provide their own necessities. Paul was a stranger in Rome without family and few friends. He relied upon the Churches in the area and beyond to meet his need. In Romans 16 is a fasciating list of such people who probably stepped in to help this outstanding servant of Christ. Epaphroditus steps into this scene as he brought Paul invaluable help, both physical and spiritual from the fellowship at Philippi, (Philippians 4:18). This was to the prisoner in home detention a sweet smelling savour, a sacrifice well pleasing to God.
Individually and as a Church we probably don’t have a conscious appreciation of the benefits our actions have upon others. Nor do we necessarily see it is as a sacrifice well pleasing to God. In many ways that is how it should be. As we do our daily rounds in our workplace, community and homes we should be a fragrance to others. The Lord will use your perfume to influence friends and family plus others to appreciate the Body of Christ and our Lord.
This man from Asia risked his life to serve. Was his sickness a result of whatever happened on his journey? Was it something which infected his wellbeing from the city of Rome? For his home church to have had news of his condition means he suffered for a considerable period of time. I wonder who cared for him. So much is unknown, tantalizing and yet exciting as we reflect upon it. I imagine it would be the Christians in Rome who took him under their wing. Whilst our culture is different there is still a need for us to care for each other, especially within a team ministry setting.
Paul had a sense of the worth of those who serve with him or ministered to him on behalf of the Lord and the Church. Epaphroditus is called ‘brother (in Christ)’, Fellow worker, (yet he was a delivery man) and a fellow soldier (each of us have enlisted in a moral and spiritual warfare). Two other terms are applied by Paul to this man. ‘Messenger’ is actually apostle. He is on a mission. He is a sent one. This term doesn’t denote power or authority over others. Rather it speaks of mission. The other term is minister and comes from the Greek ‘Leitourgos.’ This defined a man who discharged a public office at his own expense. It was also applied to service to a god. The Church used this word to highlight the work of Jesus (Hebrews 8:2) Paul (Romans 15:16) and service to God by His people (Acts 13:2).
We may see Epaphroditus simply as a messenger, Paul, described what Epaphroditus did as a priestly function. Whatever we do in Christ’s name and for Him is a priestly act. In many ways it would have cost this man money, time, absence from family and employment to mention a few things. Ministry in any shape will cost you and me in someway. However, when you consider what you are doing and why as well as to whom recall this to mind, it is ‘leitourgos’ a priestly function.
Epaphroditus' name means 'agreeable, lovely' in Greek and handsome in Latin. It is rather fitting that Christ had filled out these meaning within his heart, relationship and service. When Epaphroditus returned to the Church at Philippi imagine the stories he could share. The trip to and from Rome and God's safe keeping on the road, Paul's ministry to the Praetorium Guards, the care received with gratitude, Epaphroditus's own sense of being prayed for and looked after. Along with that, meeting other believers and fellow servants of Christ associated with Paul and the ministry in which they shared.
By the grace of God we have the privilege of being called 'Leitourgos' even though we might think our role is unremarkable. When we give thegift of a cup of water in the Lord's name we express the aroma of Christ. We are unconscious of it, but the recipient is alert to it!
Reading: Philippians 2:25-30
Ray Hawkins Sept 6th 2016.