“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.”
Paul, The Apostle Of Grace
In the previous post on Philippians, we learned about Paul wanting to send Timothy to take care of the needs of the Philippian church family. In this post, we learn about the Philippian church family sending Epaphroditus to take care of the needs of PauI.
I can’t emphasize enough that Jesus, after he ascended into heaven, taught Paul the truths of grace and sent him into the world of the Gentiles to share the good news of grace with them and start grace-based churches in their cities for the purpose of spreading the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:23-24; 26:16-18; Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 3:1-6). Of one these cities, as we have learned, was Philippi.
The church in Philippi was started when the Lord opened Lydia’s eyes to the good news of grace as spoken by Paul (Acts 16:11-15). From that point, the church grew in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. They came to embrace all that God had freely, fully, and forever done for them in Jesus. One of those impacted by Paul’s message of grace was Epaphroditus.
When the church in Philippi heard of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, they sent Epaphroditus to Rome to serve Paul. Epaphroditus took with him financial contributions from the church to give to Paul (Philippians 4:18). Epaphroditus must have been a source of great encouragement and assistance to Paul.
While Epaphroditus was in Rome assisting Paul, risking his life to do so, Epaphroditus became sick, nearly to the point of death. Word of Epaphroditus' sickness, and near death experience, made its way back to Philippi. The people worried greatly about him. This concerned Epaphroditus. He longed to go back to Philippi and be united with his fellow grace believers. Paul encouraged the Philippian people to welcome him back with great celebration and to honor him, and others like him, for his willingness to sacrifice his life in doing the work of Christ in serving Paul.
Paul thought highly of Epaphroditus, calling him “my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier”. Obviously, Epaphroditus had been greatly impacted by grace. He became a grace-brother of Paul and one who joined with Paul in spreading the good news of grace. In referring to Epaphroditus as a “fellow soldier”, Paul was expressing the difficulties teachers of grace face from those who are enemies of grace.
Paul, just before he died at the hands of Nero, said he had “fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7). By this, he meant he had gone into battle against the religious opponents of grace in order for the good news of grace to be shared and grace-churches to be started. Epaphroditus was one of the soldiers of grace who went into battle with him.
The Philippian church was very fond of Paul and extremely appreciative to him for teaching them about grace. Together with Paul, they enjoyed God’s grace. (Philippians 1:5,7). They now were very concerned their teacher of grace was suffering in a Roman prison. So much so, they sent Epaphroditus to take care of his needs.
Just as the Philippian people were eager to take care of Paul, their grace teacher, it is very important for people of grace today to take care of grace teachers. Grace teachers are under tremendous attack from the religious, legalistic wing of Christianity. They are under full assault. They are being slandered terribly. They are losing their positions in churches and ministries where they serve.
I had one pastor tell me, “Brad, I would love to teach what you teach, the biblical truths of grace, but if I do, I will lose my church and my position as pastor.”
By teaching on grace, this pastor would lose all of his income and ability to provide for his family. Unfortunately, he chose to opt out of the battle of grace. He surrendered his position as a soldier of grace, deciding to avoid the attacks and assaults of legalism and to join forces with the legalists. He now comfortably rests in the company of legalists, preaching to please them rather rather God (Galatians 1:10-11).
We need our grace teachers, preachers, and missionaries on the battlefield of grace. We need them advancing God's grace around the globe. We can’t afford to lose them to the attacks and assaults of legalism. Surround your grace teachers, preachers, and missionaries and their families. Let them know you stand with them. Support them financially. Pray for them regularly. Encourage them verbally. Thank them genuinely. Help them consistently. They are under tremendous pressure. Take care of your grace preacher...take care of your grace missionary...take care of your grace teacher, just as the Philippian church and Epaphroditus took care of Paul, their teacher of grace.