Sermon

Timothy and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:19-30)

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The Philippians loved Paul. When they heard he was in prison, they sent one of their own members named Epaphroditus to deliver a gift to help meet his needs (4:18). Paul was greatly blessed by Epaphroditus and the Philippians’ kindness, so he decided to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians with this letter (Phil 2:25) to encourage them to live out a joyful faith in Christ. In this section of Paul’s letter, he mentioned two men—Timothy and Epaphroditus—and used them as examples of joyful, enduring faith. Let us learn more about these two Christian men. 

Timothy

We first encounter Timothy in Acts 16. He was a believer who lived in a city named Lystra (in modern day Turkey). His mother and grandmother were believers (2 Timothy 1:5) but his father was not. Timothy was brought up in the faith since his childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). It is important to notice that Timothy “was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2) before he even joined Paul. It was because of his faithfulness and reputation that Paul decided to take Timothy with him on his missionary journeys. 

What does Paul say about Timothy? Timothy is a Christian who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of others, especially the Philippians (2:20). He does not seek his own interests, but those of Jesus Christ (2:21). He has served faithfully (“proven worth”) with Paul in the gospel as a son with his father (2:22). We also know that he is dependable because Paul is confident that Timothy will fulfill his tasks (2:23). Paul hoped to send Timothy to them soon and even hopes to visit the church in Philippi himself, “as soon as I see how things go with me” (2:23). But in the meantime, Paul sent Epaphroditus with this letter.

Epaphroditus

Epaphroditus was a Christian who lived in Philippi. He was highly regarded by the church there. Little is known about Epaphroditus (much less than Timothy). Historians tell us that he had a very common name. Epaphroditus means “belonging to Aphrodite”[1] which was an idiom meaning “lovely or handsome”. Having this name means that he was most likely Greek and became a Christian as an adult. He was considered faithful so the church in Philippi sent him to help Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. Paul wrote, “I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent…” (Phil 4:18). Epaphroditus helped Paul during his imprisonment but while there became very sick and almost died (2:27). Paul expressed thankfulness that God caused him to fully recover. 

What does Paul say about Epaphroditus? Paul calls him “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier” (2:25). This speaks volumes about his character and service. He was the Philippian Church’s “messenger and minister” (2:25). He was concerned about others more than himself (2:26). In verse 26, we learn that Epaphroditus was homesick. He longed to see his family and friends back home in Philippi. He was also recently “sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him” (2:27). 

Epaphroditus was also distressed. Paul wrote that he “was distressed because you heard that he was sick” (2:26). Consider this man for a moment: he almost died and is now distressed because he believed that his sickness would cause a burden and sorrow for the church in Philippi. He desperately wanted to return to them to assure them that he was well and to alleviate their sorrow. Apparently, he was more concerned about the church in Philippi hearing that he was sick than being sick. Epaphroditus was a Christian servant, committed to exalting Christ. 

Worthy of Honor

Paul wrote “receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard” (2:29). Epaphroditus is a Christian who is worthy of honor because of his service and humility (2:29). Paul mentioned that he “came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life…” (2:30). Timothy, likewise, is to be received with joy and honored because of his service and humility. Why does Paul mention these two men? Because they are examples of everything he has just written. They are being honored because of their love for God and their love for others. In fact, it was their love for God that inspired their love for others. 

What was their motivation? Why were they doing it? It was not because they wanted their names in the book of Philippians. They served for the glory of God, the gospel of grace, and because of the coming judgment. They know God is a merciful God who will save regardless of how “good” or “bad” people live. They know God is a just God who will judge regardless of how “good” or “bad” people live. 

Who are your heroes? Who do you look up to and admire? Who do you appreciate? Who do you hold in high regard and why do you do so? The greatest among us are those who serve faithfully. Honor those who serve faithfully around you. Also, don’t try to be someone’s hero; rather, commit to being faithful to what God has called you to do.


[1] Aphrodite was thought by the Greeks to be the goddess of love and beauty.