After commending Timothy to the Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul then writes at length about another faithful work and friend - Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus also provides an example of kingdom-life in the Messiah. Paul writes the following about him:
"I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of the Messiah, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me" (Philippians 2:25-30).
Later in this letter, we discover that Epaphroditus had brought a gift of money and some news from the Philippian congregation to the apostle Paul. Paul explains,
"I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18).
Clearly, Epaphroditus' return to Philippi was greatly delayed, and the Philippians began to be concerned as to what might have happened to him. Regardless of what they may have begun to conclude about him, Paul wants to make it quite clear that sickness was the reason for his delay. It was not just that he go sick with something like the common cold, but he was so sick that he almost died. However, God compassionately kept him from death, so that the apostle would not have even more coals of pain heaped upon his heart. God's mercy and grace shine brightly in this passage!
Please note that even Paul's anxiety was not like some kill switch (v. 28), but it was something he had to work at in his own life (compare Philippians 4:6-7). It is also interesting that Paul starts by setting forth all of the roles/characteristics of Epaphroditus, a man they all knew well. May we all follow his example in being willing to risk our lives for our fellow-workers and for the sake of the Messiah!
For His infinite worth,