This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Philippians 2:25-30 ‘But I counted in necessary to send to you Epaphrodit

This Week’s Focus Passage: Philippians 2:25-30

‘But I counted in necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother.’


We, once again, consult “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” Grand Rapids, Mich. 1947, with a query: who was this man named Epaphroditus? 

“EPAPHRODITUS, (Epaphroditus, “lovely”): Mentioned only in Phil. 2:25; 4:18. The name corresponds to the Latin Venustus (=handsome), and was very common in the Roman period. “The name appears very frequently in inscriptions both Greek and Latin, whether at full length Epaphroditus, or in its contracted form Epaphras.” (Lightfoot, Philippians, 123). Epaphroditus was the delegate of the Christian community at Philippi, sent with their gift to Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul calls him, “my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier.” The three words are arranged in an ascending scale: common sympathy, common work, common danger and toil and suffering” (Lightfoot, 1.c). On his arrival at Rome, Epaphroditus devoted himself to “the work of Christ,” both as Paul’s attendant and as his assistant in missionary work. So assiduously did he labor that he lost his health, and “was sick nigh unto death.” He recovered, however, and Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter to quiet the alarm of his friends, who had heard of his serious illness. Paul besought for him that the church should receive him with joy and hold him in honor.”

This relatively small amount of information does not tell us a great deal with regard to who Epaphroditus was, or even with details about his activities. Of course, God the Holy Spirit, inspiring the apostle to write has given us precisely what He knows that we require. Perhaps, unhappily, bishop Lightfoot has set before us still one more perplexity, when he has spoken of a contracted form of the name, Epaphroditus, namely, Epaphras. While we determine to learn something with regard to Epaphroditus, we may now be confronted with, not simply a contraction of his name to Epaphras, but when we search the Scriptures, we have set before our eyes, yet another individual by the name of Epaphras. And while Epaphroditus is found only twice in the Word of God, someone by the name of Ephaphras is found three times; twice in Paul’s epistle to the church at Collosae, and once in the letter written by Paul to an individual under the name of Philemon, whose name incidentally, is found only once, and that in the first verse of his letter from Paul. Is it not remarkable to discover the names of the saints of God recorded in His Word, on only one, or two, or three, occasions? But yet, there they are. We might suggest that, while their persons may be relatively inconspicuous, nevertheless, from what Paul has said of them, we will find their names recorded in the Lambs Book of Life.

    Returning to our ‘Encyclopedia,’ we learn of Epaphras, this contracted form of Epaphroditus, that, “he must not be confounded with the messenger of the Philippian community. He was with Paul during a part of his first Roman imprisonment, joining in Paul’s greetings to Philemon (Philemon, verse 23). Epaphras was the missionary by whose instrumentality the Colossians had been converted to Christianity (Col. 1:7), and probably the other churches of the Lycus had been founded by him. In sending his salutation to the Colossians Paul testified, “He hath much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hieropolis” (Colossians 4:13). Epaphras had brought to Paul good news of the progress of the gospel, of their ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ and of their love toward all the saints (Col. 1:4). Paul’s regard for him is shown by his designating him ‘our beloved fellow-servant,’ ‘a faithful minister of Christ.’ (Col. 1:7), and ‘a bondservant of Christ Jesus’ (Col 4:12). This last designation Paul uses several times of himself, but only once of another besides Epaphras (Phil. 1:1).” Paul has spoken well of him, often. 

    There are many other individuals whose names only appear in the Word on just one occasion. Individuals such as Malchus, whose right ear was wacked off by Peter, of whom we are simply told that he was a servant of the high priest. There is not one word about him beyond that he was a servant of the high priest. Does that mean that his name was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? No, it certainly does not. Yet, neither is there anything to suggest that it is so written. It is different with the men whose names are Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and Philemon. It is evident from the pen of the inspired apostle to the Genitiles, that these men were faithful believers.

It should be encouraging to many of ourselves, whose names are not likely recorded, as is the name of Moses, more than seven hundred times, or as is the name of the apostle Paul, about one hundred and fifty times. The only thing that matters is that our names are, as we believe that the names of Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and Philemon, and many others, in number even as the stars in the heavens; even as the number of grains of sand on the seashore, are indeed recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world. Those numbered are elect sinners chosen from before the foundation of the world. their names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world. We read in Revelation 21:22-27:

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof. And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  (From the foundation of the world!). Amen, and Amen!

We have concluded, from the Scriptures, that the names of Epaphroditus, Epaphras, and Philemon, among others, were written in that book from the foundation of the world. Paul closes his epistle, to the church at Philippi, with the following words: Yea, I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are written in the book of life.


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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