Two Fellow Servants
We sometimes forget that Paul was not alone. Indeed, he is constantly mentioning others in his letters, usually in his greetings but oftentimes elsewhere. These are the parts of Paul’s letters we often hurry through as they seem to lack doctrinal content, but they often tell us much else about Christian character and give us a window into Paul’s personal life.
Timothy was Paul’s most devoted “son” who had served with him in the ministry of the gospel. He intends to send him to the Philippians as he has “no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Remember that Paul was in prison for the gospel and so could not go to Philippi himself.) The trait that seems to distinguish Timothy from everyone else is that he seeks the interests of others while others seek their own interests. This should strike us as an essential feature of one who has come to saving faith. Believers are concerned for others, first that he or she comes to saving faith, and second for any other needs, spiritual, health, or otherwise, that person might have. There are so many suffering people out there, so many sheep without a shepherd. A Christian may be introverted and shy and even awkward around other people, but he still has an abiding concern for others and has their best interest in mind, ready and willing to render aid when given opportunity and that for Christ’s sake.
And then there is Epaphroditus. Apparently, the gift that the Philippian church sent to Paul was by his hands. But in the course of his journey, he fell sick and even close to death. We must remember that we live in a day of so many medical advances. And we are here speaking of ancient times! Death was an ever present reality for them with which we do not live—and I think to our detriment, which is why the Psalmist beseeches the Lord to “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (90:12). At any rate, Paul will send him forthwith as the Philippians had heard of his illness and were anxious to see him well again. And please note the distress that Paul himself felt while Epaphroditus was near death, fearing that he would die and Paul experience “sorrow upon sorrow.” What a tragedy it would have been had this man died doing a good deed and that for the sake of Paul, which had the poor Apostle so distressed. Paul suffered so many hardships and sorrows in his life, as do we. But this same man said that Christians grieve, though not as people who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Let us always remember that no matter what the circumstances, Christ has won the victory on our behalf. So brethren, rejoice in the Lord!