Brothers in Arms

I hope in the Lord to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.  I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.

…But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent o take care of my needs.

…Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.  Philippians 2:19, 20, 25, 29, 30.

Everything for Paul worked around to relationships and how they either worked or didn’t work.  The gospel doctrines weren’t an excuse to be holy for the fun of it but set the church on a course of healing the broken connection between God and man, which results in broken human relationships.  Even the law dealt more with correcting people’s thinking about relationships than it ever did on mere performance.  How can anyone read Deuteronomy 15 and get something other than the message that God values not only our relationship with Him as a species but those between our neighbors as well.

I must admit I fall down on this goal quite a bit; a problem I am currently doing my best to correct.  The toughest part of the Christian walk for me is maintaining and establishing deep connections with people.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to, but relationships on such a grand scale as the church requires energy I sometimes have already spent on other stuff I value.  The problem would be ever so much worse without a knowledge of what God expects out of us as family.

For instance, I love my son and I’m pretty certain I would even without the Word to instruct me to do so.  Yet I’m also sure that without the Word of truth to guide how I love him Jesse would get neglected for the sake of my own wants, perceived needs and desire for success as a musician.  The same could be said of relationships with my immediate and extended family.

Paul’s concern for the Philippians was palpable and real.  He was involved himself in their lives, nearly died for the sake the gospel and was in chains because of churches he poured his life and heart into.  He worked hard for the gospel’s sake not a position in the new church or the respect of his fellow apostles.  Other workers in the field did so in order to gain some sort of status now, while Paul pointedly ignored such goals, instead choosing to focus on spreading the news of Jesus’ mission to heal humanity.

Timothy and Epaphroditus served the mission right alongside Paul with a dedication and a will rarely seen in other such servants of the gospel.  Epaphroditus became ill to the point of nearly dying in order to meet his mentor’s needs.  Paul not only gives him friendship credit for this but missionary credit as well.  Look how he phrased it:  Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.  To Paul, the fact that this man came to minister to him while he languished in chains served the gospel mission and fulfilled the mandate of the great commission.  Epaphroditus might not have been preaching with the wisdom, knowledge or insight of his mentor, but he served the needs of the man who could do all these things and Paul recognized it as gospel work.

Timothy worked as Paul’s administrator and assistant in the actual preaching and teaching.  Both men served their supervisor with a will, ignoring their own goals for the sake of meeting their Master’s.  Each did what they were best suited for in order to make the work of Christ move forward.  To God those who grease the wheels of the gospel cart and those who use it to travel get equal credit.  The mechanics, service technicians and office workers who serve their Lord with their whole heart share in the reward of the apostles because they enabled them by setting them free from the detail work.

Timothy never wrote a book in his own name; for that matter neither did any of Paul’s other close associates besides Luke that we know about.  But these men received honor from God for their dedicated service alongside Paul.  I don’t know how God calculates who gets which rewards for service, and frankly, I don’t care because whatever He has in mind exceeds any expectations we could have for them.

The beauty of such men as Timothy and Epaphroditus (boy spelling that guy’s name gives my fingers a workout) is that, while they know to expect a reward, their performance is out of love rather than payment.  Paul commends both as truly caring for the people they serve in the church.  We may not be able to avoid the people who have selfish motives in their service of the church, but we also don’t have to despair because of them, since there are definitely people serving the church and taking the gospel to the world out of a fervent love for Christ.

In my humble opinion the church needs to honor those people in the background jobs and honor them when they serve from a heart full of love for God.  They are fellow soldiers, in the trenches or mess hall it doesn’t matter, they serve the gospel efforts.

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One Response to “Brothers in Arms”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Absolutely agree. Once a year during Pastor’s Appreciation month, we take each week and celebrate and honor those who make him look good, the elders, the Sunday School teachers, the small groups leaders, etc… Without them he couldn’t do his job without hinderance!

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