Philippians 2:25 - The Kind of People a Church Should Honor

Steve Viars September 16, 1995 Philippians 2:25-30

- these last verses in chapter 2 are about a man named Epaphroditus
   - we're going to see as we study that Epaphroditus was a man the
      Philippians had sent to deliver the financial gift they had raised
      for him
         - and to minister to Paul during his imprisonment and trial.

- we're calling these verses:
    "The Kind of People a Church Should Honor"

- we're taking that from verse 29 -- READ
    - NIV - "Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like
               him."

    - There are a lot of different ways a church honors people.

       1) Being elected to church offices is a form of honor.
       2) Being asked to take various responsibilities is a form of
            honor.
       3) Sometimes the honor is "formal" in the sense of a public
            ordination service, or a special award or anniversary.
       4) Sometimes the honor is "informal" as in
            - who you choose as friends
            - who you go to for counsel
            - who you'd consider as a role model (as they model Christ)
            - who's opinion caries more "weight" in a discussion.


- but a church, by its very nature
    - because offices have to be filled
    - because responsibilities have to be assigned
    - because decisions have to be made
        - a church is in a position where -- in a right and proper sense
            -- honor will be given.

- and by the way, that’s true of most groups of people
    - officers have to be selected
    - responsibilities are given
    - decisions are made
    - awards are passed out.


- But the fact that that is true in a church ought to sober us
   some...here's why:
     - because we live in a world where the things that are used to
       determine a person's value, or right to be honored, are terribly
       out of line.

         - INPUT - ways that’s true?

                 - sports stars being paid millions of dollars per year
                 - jobs being given to people because of physical looks
                 - politicians chosen on the basis of charisma instead of
                     character
                 - entertainers' political views being carefully heeded
                      because their last movie was a hit.
                 - person is honored because he's funny, or a "good ole
                      boy"

- now, let me ask you this question:
   - Could those tendencies ever affect a church?

        - ...where people were honored (in the ways we discussed a moment
              ago) for unbiblical reasons?

- INPUT - if that happened, what would be the long range effect on the
           church?

        - DEVELOP


- if the thought of that puts a little fear in your bones (and it
   should), then this passage is very helpful because it talks about a
   man who Paul says -- ought to be honored.

- read Phil. 2:25-30

- one of the interesting things about these verses is that Epaphroditus
    is viewed from several different perspectives.
- and from whatever perspective you view him, the view looks good.

- so, we're going to organize our outline around that idea:

  I. Epaphroditus...from Paul's Perspective
II. Epaphroditus...from the Philippian's Perspective
III. Epaphroditus...from His Own (Epaphroditus') Perspective
IV. Epaphroditus...from God's Perspective
  V. Epaphroditus...from God's Perspective


- this is probably as good a place as any to do a little "reading behind
   the lines."
    - we obviously need to be very careful here, but a good question to
       at least consider is:
         - why is Paul making this emphasis to the Philippians church

    - many Bible students believe that part of the disunity in the
       Philippians church had erupted into criticism of Epaphroditus.
      1) we know the church sent him to deliver their gift to Paul, and
         to minister to Paul during his imprisonment and trial.
      2) we also know that he had gotten very sick, and almost died.
      3) thirdly, we know that he (Epaphroditus) was planning (or at
           least) wanted to return to Philippi before Paul's trial.

- now, all of that is very innocent
   - but if you've ever been around divisive people, you know that they
      often look to "make something out of nothing."
   - they often try to start a controversy when one doesn't exist.
   - they often put the "worst possible spin/interpretation" to a series
      of events.
   - they often like to sit back while someone else serves---but are very
      quick to criticize the service that is rendered.

- many Bible students believe that that’s what was happening here.
   - when people heard that Epaphroditus had gotten sick, and was
     therefore unable to care for Paul the way they had originally
     planned
        - and they heard that he was going to come back early...

    - the divisive people in the church used that as an opportunity to
        criticize Epaphroditus...
         - and were armed and ready to "slice and dice him" as soon as he
            hit town.

- if that’s true, it just explains all the more why Paul would be making
   the statements he was making.
- regardless, his overall point is -- here's a man who's worthy of honor:

I. Epaphroditus...from Paul's Perspective

    - Paul describes Epaphroditus in three ways in verse 25
    - INPUT - What are they?

    A. My brother

        - its interesting to note that Paul uses this word over and over
           in this book.

        - Paul refers to these various co-workers (and the Philippians
           themselves) over and over as his brothers (and sisters)
        - for example, look at Phil. 4:1 -- READ

        - so Paul reminds this church that Epaphroditus is one of
           the brothers.

        - cf. greeting one another with a holy kiss
               - we don't do that today because what it would communicate
                  culturally today is quite a bit different

               - I wonder, though, if we have that same sense of "family"
                  as we come to the house of God?

    B. My fellow worker

        - Epaphroditus didn't go to Rome on a "church paid vacation."

        - he was there functioning as one of Paul's co-workers.

            - just because he was "out of sight" of the church that sent
               him didn't mean he stopped working for Christ.

        - cf. traveling with Pastor and Doc
             - mobile office
               - Doc on the Laptop
               - Pastor working the phone
               - what do we need to talk about///get done on this trip?

        - Epaphroditus was a worker

    C. My fellow soldier

        - part of the ministry involves battling

        - if that wasn't true, Paul would be writing this letter from a
           rocking chair instead of a prison cell.

        - this man Epaphroditus was courageous enough to stand up for
           what he believed.

             - not talking about being a redneck
                 - or mean-spirited
                 - or divisive
                 - picking a fight where there is no reason

             - but on the other hand -- he wasn't the fair-haired boy
             - he realized he was in a battle, and if it called for
                  confrontation---he was willing.

       - he was one of Paul's fellow-soldiers.

           (interesting parallel - Nehemiah 4:10-23 -- trowel in one hand
             and a sword in the other)

- this is the kind of man who should be honored.

- let's push this one step further from the second half of verse 25:

II. Epaphroditus...from the Philippian's Perspective

    - when viewed from the church's perspective, what does the end of
        verse 25 tell us about this man?

    A. Your messenger

    B. The one you sent to care for my (Paul's) needs

        - INPUT - what does the fact that Epaphroditus was the one who
            was chosen for this task tell us about him?
            1) someone who could be trusted
            2) someone who was willing to go

        - cf. NANC - challenge of growing organization, who should be
           used in different ways (Bulkley) -- must be people of PROVEN
           character.
- now, let's push one more step and then we'll stop and make some
   personal applications:

III. Epaphroditus...from His (Epaphroditus') Perspective

    - INPUT - what do verses 26 and 27 tell us about this man?

    A. He longs for you

        - he wants to be with his friends (brothers/sisters) in the
           church

        - that tells us something about the kind of people who ought to
            be honored.
              - they are people who love the brethren

              - cf. Heb. 10:25, I John 2

    B. He's distressed because he you heard he was ill.

       - in other words, he's worried because you're worried!

       - the word "distressed" in that verse is extremely strong
          - in fact, its the same word that is used in the gospels to
             speak about our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemanea
               - cf. Matt. 26:37-38, Mark 14:33

       - the point is that Epaphroditus was the kind of man, who when he
         was ill, was more concerned about how that news might affect
         someone else, than how sick he was
          - I don't know about you, but that’s not the first thing I think
             about when I'm sick!

- let's take the information from these first three points and try to
    make some applications:

    1) INPUT - What questions can we be asking ourselves to help us
                identify ways we should grow?


    2) INPUT - How do these verses help us know the kind of leaders we
         should choose, and the kind of people who should be given
         ministry responsibility?

         DEVELOP

- we've looked at this man from three perspectives...now let's look at
    him:


IV. Epaphroditus...from God's Perspective

    - read verse 27

    - Paul says, its true that this man was ill...in fact he almost died.
    - But...

    A. God had mercy on Epaphroditus.

        - the Scriptures tell us over and over that God is God of mercy.

        - Lamentations 3:22-23 - It is because of the Lord's mercies that
           we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  they
           are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness.
- interestingly enough, Paul also said:

    B. God had mercy on Paul

        - in what sense was Epaphroditus' coming back to health an
            example of God being merciful to Paul?

        - it was so that Paul would not have sorrow on top of sorrow.

             - Paul's situation was difficult, but he believed the words
               he wrote to the Corinthians..."There hath no temptation
               taken you..."

- in these last verses, Paul gives them "the plan"


V. Epaphroditus...from the Future's Perspective

    A. Paul is sending him back

        1) so they'll be glad

        2) so he'll (Paul) have less anxiety

           - these words tell us something about Paul's heart for people

           - "Easing the minds of his beloved Philippians and imparting
              to them gladness of heart meant more to him than any
              personal service he might be able to derive from
              Epaphroditus." (Hendrikson)

    B. Welcome him.

    C. Honor him.

       - let the divisive people beware.
           - this was not another situation in which they could raise a
              fuss.

           - they needed to be working out the solution to their problems
               of disunity with fear and trembling.
           - they needed to be following the example of Christ that Paul
               has already spoken of.

               - this man Epaphroditus has been a faithful example of
                 these same principles--regardless of what the critics
                 and gossips might have said

               - therefore, Paul said -- this is the kind of man who
                 should be welcomed, and this is the kind of man who
                 should be honored.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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