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The word Epaphroditus is a common Greek and Latin name meaning “lovely,” “fascinating,” “charming.” It comes from the name of the Greek goddess Aphroditē. This name is found only twice in the book of Philippians, in the New Testament.
Some have identified the man Epaphroditus with the Epaphras of Colossians 1:7; 4:12 and Philemon 23. But although Epaphras is only a contracted form of the longer name, it seems doubtful that it points to the same individual. Epaphroditus came from Philippi in Macedonia, whereas Epaphras served as a minister in Colassae in Asia Minor, and perhaps he was a resident of that location.
Co-Worker With Paul
Paul wrote, “I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
And he added, “Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me” (Philippians 2:25–30).
The apostle Paul labeled Epaphroditus as his brother and partner in faith, in labor, and in trials. Epaphroditus had joined Paul in the ministry of the gospel. Since he was free and not a prisoner, he was able to reach and preach to the believers instead of Paul. He may have, thus, encountered trials as a faithful “soldier” (1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:3, 4).
During that time of ministry, Epaphroditus got very sick. There is no indication of the reason or the type of the sickness. The Philippian Church was saddened by news of their representative’s dangerous illness. But the Lord healed His faithful servant. It is possible that it was one of Paul’s miracles of healings. For the apostle had performed many healings before that incident (Acts 19:11, 12; 28:8, 9).
Paul’s commendation of Epaphroditus teaches an essential duty concerning the right treatment of those who have God-like character. It is a Christian privilege to respect the honest ministers, and especially to honor those who have been zealous in their ministry.
Epaphroditus had originally been sent from the church at Philippi with a special commission of delivering gifts in the form of supplies to Paul, who was under house arrest in Rome. Paul wrote, “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
These presents were a free-will offerings, in grateful love to God and man (Hebrews 13:16). Paul had received the gifts as made, not to himself, but to the God whose representative he was. In gratitude, Paul blessed the Philippians, “God will accept your offerings as made to Him. You have supplied my need; He will supply every need of yours” (Philippians 4:19). Whether the need be spiritual or physical, the Lord will not withhold any good thing from the saints (Psalms 84:11).
Epaphroditus was a faithful servant to the Lord. He was a fellow laborer with Paul. And for his zealous ministry, He will receive a great blessing at the day of Judgement. Until then, he will remain a good example of godliness and dedication to Christians today.
In His service,