Philippians 2:25-30 [Excerpt from The Message] But for right now, I’m dispatching Epaphroditus, my good friend and companion… You sent him to help me out; now I’m sending him to help you out… When you see him again, hale and hearty, how you’ll rejoice and how relieved I’ll be. Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace! People like him deserve the best you can give.
Even if you have perfect attendance at Bible study, you probably don’t know who Epaphroditus is, much less how to pronounce his name. He turns up once, in five verses in Philippians, then fades back into the biblical woodwork. But Paul says he was quite a guy—loyal, eager, selfless, a treasured companion who ministered to Paul while he was in prison. The affection Paul feels for him jumps off the page. Epaphroditus is someone you’d like to get to know better.
The good news is that we know more about him than we think, because every church has at least one Epaphroditus. These are the folks who lend themselves gladly to the mission without demanding the limelight. They’re ready and willing whenever the Spirit is looking for someone to send. They can pivot on a spiritual dime. When they’re around, the joy thermometer spikes. When they’re away, you really miss them. And if, like Paul’s Epaphroditus, they should get really sick and nearly die, the whole church feels a sorrow almost too hard to bear: ‘one huge grief piled on top of all the others,’ as Paul says so poignantly. These folks are the real deal, solid as rock.
Their names won’t go down in history, but that doesn’t mean they don’t merit a shout-out in the church. So if there’s an Epaphroditus in your congregation, praise God and pass the affirmation. Tell them today and every day what a gift they are. Don’t be stingy with your thanks, because, as Paul knew, people like Epaphroditus will never ask for or expect any. They are authentic treasures. They ‘deserve the best you can give.’
Gracious God, it’s a little hard to pronounce, but you know who we mean when we thank you wholeheartedly for every Epaphroditus we know. Help us remember to honor them as you do, with thanks, blessing, and a joyful embrace.
Epaphroditus was the delegate of the community at Philippi sent to bring material assistance to Paul during his imprisonment at either Rome or Ephesus. Nothing more is known of him except for this mention he gets in the letter to the Philippians (2:25-29) announcing his return, but tradition honors him as the first bishop of that church. Saint Epaphroditus is commemorated liturgically in the West on March 22, and in the East on March 30.