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Timothy and Epaphroditus August 22, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Philippians 2:19-30.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Philippians that he – as a Christian – intends to send Timothy to them shortly, that he may be comforted when he hears of their circumstances. Indeed, none of Paul’s current companions in Rome share Timothy’s level of concern for them; he is Paul’s son in Christ. Also, the Philippians recognize that Timothy has an approved character; Paul testifies to this fact. Paul trusts that he will be able to see them in person shortly.

Paul notes that in the meantime, he will send Epaphroditus, who:

  • has a common sympathy, work, danger and suffering with him
  • had been sent by the Philippians with their monetary contribution to him

back to them. Epaphroditus had been in a confused and restless state since the Philippians had heard of his illness. As he has now recovered, Paul will send him to them with this letter – that they may receive their cheerfulness and that Paul’s sorrow may be lessened. He exhorts them to welcome Epaphroditus joyfully. Paul concludes by noting that they should act in this way, as Epaphroditus gambled with his life in working to spread the Gospel – supplying what the Philippians could not provide Paul.

Thoughts: In the first part of this passage, Paul commends Timothy to the Philippians. Lightfoot offers some thoughts on this in his commentary on verse 20:

Timothy was neither an illegitimate nor an adopted son, but, as St. Paul calls him elsewhere, “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2; compare Titus 1:4). He recognized this filial relationship (“as a son with his father,” verse 22); he inherited all the interests and affections of his spiritual father.

Some day I hope to chat with Paul and Timothy about their strong relationship, which spawned two of the Pauline epistles. What aspects of Paul’s character commended him to Timothy? Conversely, what aspects of Timothy’s character commended him to Paul? Assuming that they engaged in the occasional dispute, how did they overcome those valleys in their relationship? How did Timothy react to the news of Paul’s execution in Rome? Did Timothy have the opportunity to mentor a younger Christian, just as Paul had mentored him?

In the second part of this passage, Paul tells the Philippians that he will be sending Epaphroditus back to them with this letter. Lightfoot offers some insights on this in his commentary on verse 25:

Epaphroditus is not mentioned except in this letter. The name was extremely common in the Roman period. It was assumed by the dictator Sylla himself in writing to the Greeks. It was borne by a freedman of Augustus; by a favorite of Nero, likewise a freedman; by a grammarian of Chaeroneia residing at Rome during this last emperor’s reign; by a patron of literature who encouraged Josephus. The name occurs very frequently in inscriptions both Greek and Latin, whether at full length Epaphroditus or in its contracted form Epaphras.

I am definitely looking forward to the time when I can meet Epaphroditus and learn more about his earthy life. How did he come to hear and believe the Gospel message? Ostensibly his life was turned upside down after his conversion, as he almost worked himself to death while assisting Paul in his labors in Rome. What drove him to exert himself so forcefully for the Gospel message? How did he respond to God’s grace in guiding him through his near-death experience? How did the Philippians respond to Paul’s letter when he brought it to them?

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