Philippians 2:29–30, “29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”
Epaphroditus, whose work we read about in Philippians 2:25–30, was certainly a man of worthy character and a valuable member of the early church. He is described as Paul’s “fellow worker” and “fellow soldier,” indicating his willingness to suffer alongside the Apostle, and his love for his home church in Philippi is demonstrated in that he was more concerned about the Philippians’ worry over his condition than getting over his illness (vv. 25–26). Philippians 2:29–30 tells us even more about the worth of this fine man of God, for Paul tells us that Epaphroditus “nearly died for the work of Christ” (v. 30).
From this comment and its elaboration that Epaphroditus risked his life to complete what was “lacking” in the Philippians’ service to Paul (v. 30), we may surmise that Epaphroditus saw the delivery of the Philippians’ gift to Paul as his utmost concern (4:18). Nothing would have stopped him from giving the Apostle the support that he desperately needed to survive while in prison. Epaphroditus, an ambassador of the church at Philippi who wanted to serve Paul on his church’s behalf, was willing to forfeit his own life if necessary to help sustain Paul’s gospel ministry. Apparently, there came a point on his journey to see Paul in Rome where it was very possible, if not likely, that Epaphroditus’ illness would bring about his death unless he was willing to stop or postpone his travel. Given a choice to stop and survive or to keep going and die, Epaphroditus chose gospel ministry over his own physical well-being. In this he was much like the Apostle Paul, who willingly endured “afflictions, hardships, calamities,” and so forth to preach the gospel to all nations (2 Cor. 6:3–10).
John Calvin comments that “assuredly there is nothing in which we can better serve God, than when we help his servants who labor for the truth of the gospel.” This is precisely the view of Paul, for the Apostle wanted the Philippian church to receive Epaphroditus back “in the Lord with all joy” and to honor men who acted similarly (Phil. 2:29). We should, therefore, learn from this that we are to give respect to those who work in full-time Christian ministry, particularly when they have labored for the Lord over many decades. Let us honor those who honor Christ.
Those who minister to the people of God full time should be paid the utmost respect and honor. Such respect and honor involve several things, such as taking their input and opinions sincerely and carefully, providing for their material needs, praying for them daily, speaking well about them to others, and much more. May we do our best to honor those who have honored Christ with a lifetime of service in full-time ministry.