“For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” Philippians 2:27-30 KJV
For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. Philippians 2:27-30 NASB
Epaphroditus has the distinction of having more descriptions linked with his name than any other of Paul’s companions. He was a brother, a companion in labor, a fellow-soldier, a messenger, and a servant who ministered to Paul (v 25). Five titles or descriptions are given in all. But he was also something else, something not directly mentioned by Paul but delightful to notice.
The Distance Traveled
Epaphroditus traveled perhaps 1,000 miles from Philippi to Rome depending on his route, in order to meet the needs of another. The Lord Jesus traveled from heights unmeasured to meet our needs. His journey was marked by selfless interest in the welfare of others.
The Devotion Displayed
For Epaphroditus, his devotion brought him to the point of death. Paul was moved with sorrow and the believers at home were sorrowing over his condition. But the Lord not only went to the point of death; He “tasted death” for us. Christ not only suffered, but He died. He died the death of the cross.
The Deliverance Known
God had mercy and delivered Epaphroditus from the point of death. The Lord Jesus was not delivered from death but was delivered out of death. He was raised by the mighty power and glory of God. Death could not hold Him. Epaphroditus would have been willing to die and apparently decided that if his service required it, he would be willing to die. But he was spared.
The Decision Made
Epaphroditus was more concerned about the believers at home in Philippi than about himself. Such selfless interest is rare. But the Lord Jesus esteemed our welfare ahead of His own to an even greater extent.
The Dignity Conferred
Epaphroditus was to be received back with honor. He had served the will of the saints in Philippi well and with distinction. He was to be received back with gladness. He was to be held in “reputation” or honor. How much more the joy that must have filled heaven when the Lord Jesus entered in with a body, a conquering Man. The proclamation of the Father must have been attended by wonder and worship of created beings in heaven: “Sit Thou at My right hand.” How great the dignity conferred upon the Son on His return to the celestial abode! Epaphroditus may not have been conscious of it, but he was a picture of the Lord Jesus.
Notice how Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus each reflected something of the ultimate and perfect Servant in their own service to the Lord (Phil 2:17-30).