“I think it is necessary to send Epaphroditus back to you”
The church in Philippi was one of the Apostle Paul’s favorites. It was the first congregation which
took hold in Europe and was made up primarily of gentiles. Being the primary city in Macedonia it
was strategically a potential stronghold for the Gospel. Unlike the tradition in which Paul was raised and
contrary also to Greek tradition, this Roman colony was inclusive concerning women to the
extent where women commonly served in places of authority within the church. Two such women in the
Philippian church were Euodia and Syntyche who were likely deacons or similar. In Paul’s letter
of appreciation to the Philippian church he addresses a dispute between these two women and tells them to
get their act together and resolve their differences. By way of introduction to Epaphroditus
I mention this because their conflict overshadows the upbeat tone of Paul’s letter to the congregation as
Paul was aware of the disruption an unchecked argument could inflict upon a group of believers
and asked them to try to not only get along but to do it “in the Lord” - in other words: in a loving Christian
manner. That dark cloud was hovering during the time when Paul wrote to his favorite church because it was
unresolved and it was the last thing he needed to deal with in light of the Epaphroditus situation.
It was probably that very thing which forced Paul’s decision to send Epaphroditus back to them.
As a solid member of the congregation, meaning a highly spiritual man as well as a physically able one,
Epaphroditus was sent from the Philippian church to bring letters and general news to Paul probably in
addition to money and whatever he else he could transport which might make Paul’s life
as a prisoner a little easier. He had to travel across the ocean and who knows how long it took or
how many difficulties he endured? It wouldn’t haven’t have been an easy journey. Simply put, the
guy had faith and conviction and there’s no question that by the time he reached Paul they were
both pretty happy to see each other. Young Timothy was already there with Paul so for a time things were
going fairly well.
But then Epaphroditus fell deathly ill. In those days with neither the capability of curing most ailments nor the
availability of medicinal aids he had little chance of making it. But God took care of him and he recuperated
and soon was good to go again. But somehow the news of his near death experience had reached the
congregation at Philippi. Maybe someone connected with the prison mentioned it to someone who mentioned
it to someone else and it trickled all the way to Philippi. Let’s face it, gossip spreads, people live for it.
Goodness knows how much exaggeration the report accumulated along the way.
Paul became aware of all this disruptive stuff circulating on wagging tongues, first the hubbub around Euodia
and Syntyche and then the drama around Epaphroditus. He may have figured the only way to get things back
on track in Philippi was to send the now-healthy Epaphroditus back to his own congregation and maybe by
then the two women would have put their bickering behind them. Maybe. Just so you know, drama is not
unique to the contemporary church. So, Paul rejoiced in his letter with a glowing report about Epaphroditus
emphasizing that all’s well that ends well because they got their guy back in one piece. He may have looked a
hundred years older, but nonetheless they had something to get excited about. As Paul so eloquently stated,
“forget what is behind.....press on toward the goal.....win the prize.....Christ Jesus.”