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AN ANATOMY OF A LOVELY CHRISTIAN
Intro: As one reads the epistles of Paul the Apostle , it is easy to see that he crossed paths with many different individuals. Some of these individuals, it would seem, were a great hindrance to his work for the Lord, 2 Tim. 2:14; Phil. 1:16; 1 Tim. 1:19-20. However, most of the people Paul met were a great blessing to his life and ministry. Paul closes nearly everyone of his letters with a personal note to some of these very special people. In the last chapter of the book of Romans, Paul mentions at least 35 people by name! Contrary to the trend in our modern society, Paul was a man who made friends as he traveled through life. Too many in our day want to isolate and insulate themselves from others.
In our text this evening, Paul speaks about a man named Epaphroditus. This is a man about whom we know next to nothing! From his name, it would appear that he was a Greek and a Gentile. His name means “belonging to or favored by Aphrodite”. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love. She was also the goddess of gamblers. (That will be important to our study in a little while.) The name Epaphroditus eventually came to mean “lovely or charming”.
While we may not know much about brother Epaphroditus from history, the small amount of information Paul gives us, tells us much about this special man. His name means “lovely” and he was a man who lived up to his name. In these few, precious verses, we are given a glimpse of a man who possessed certain characteristics that should be possessed by every born again believer. Tonight, I want to take a look at these characteristics and preach to you for a while on this thought: An Anatomy Of A Lovely Christian. Why? Because what this man, Epaphroditus was, is what every one of us ought to be!
I. V. 25 A LOVELY CHRISTIAN IS A BALANCED CHRISTIAN
(Ill. It is easy for Christians to get out of balance. That is, we are prone to focus on one area of our Christian walk to the exclusion of other areas that are just as important. Some people get off balance in the area of fellowship, everything is about being with their “group” and having a good time. For others it is evangelism, everything revolves around bringing people to Jesus, but they ignore spiritual development and growth. For some it is legalism, they are so concerned with keeping things in line with their idea of how things ought to be that they set themselves up as spiritual detectives who investigate and correct the motives and action of others. There are many other areas of life where this is true as well. But, when a Christian, or a church for that matter, gets out of balance, they bring reproach upon the cause of Christ. They are like a wobbly tire on an automobile. They throw everything else out of balance as well. Epaphroditus wasn’t like this! He was balanced in his walk with the lord and with others. Notice the three areas of his life that were balanced.)
A. He Is Balanced In His Walk As A Son - Paul calls him “my brother”. This term refers to those who are “members of the same family; to those who are united in the bonds of affection.” What Paul is saying is this: “I love old Epaphroditus and he loves me! We are brothers in Christ!” Epaphroditus walked with Paul, not against him!
(Note: Every believer ought to strive for balance in this area! We are in this thing together and we should love one another and stand together. There is no place in the Christian family for one brother to attack another. There is no place in the Christian family for division and strife. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we are duty bound to love one another, Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 3:11-18; 1 John 4:11-21. Love among the brethren is the calling card of the church - John 13:35! There must be love, mutual concern and unity among God’s children, Phil 1:27. When there isn’t, someone is out of balance in their walk as a son!)
B. He Is Balanced In His Work As A Servant - Epaphroditus was a “fellow worker” with Paul. In other words, he shouldered his portion of the load. He was not a loafer, who let others carry his part. He got in there and went to work for the glory of the Lord. Verse 25 tells us that he was a “messenger” and a “minister”. He was sent by the church at Philippi with a gift for Paul. He was their messenger. But, I think the greatest gift from Philippi was old Epaphroditus himself. Why? Because, when he arrived in Rome, Paul had somebody who was willing to do his part.
(Note: In his walk as a son, Epaphroditus was balanced. That refers to “the fellowship of the Gospel”. That is where many believers get out of balance. They love to be with the brethren and think that a little fellowship with their class or their friends at church is all they need to be complete. The fact is, God didn’t save us to fellowship only. He saved us to get to work for His glory, Eph. 2:10; James 2:18. It is a shame that 90% of the work in an average church is done by 10% of the people. There is plenty to do, but a shortage of people willing to do it! Epaphroditus loved to fellowship, but he didn’t mind rolling up his sleeves and getting involved in the physical work of the Lord either. We need some with that same attitude today. If you want something to do, let us know and we’ll find you something!)
C. He Is Balanced In His Warfare As A Soldier - When Paul calls this man a “fellowsoldier” he is talking about a man who is “an associate in the spiritual conflicts of the Christian life”. The term “fellowsoldier” tells us that Epaphroditus fought alongside of Paul and not against him! They were partners in a common struggle. They were shoulder to shoulder fighting the flesh, the world and the devil. They were as one in the dangers they faced, the enemies they encountered and the goals they shared.
(Note: There is a great need in this day for people who are willing to take a stand against evil in the world. We need believers who are not afraid to put on the whole armor of Christ and go with Him into battle. The devil is trying to tear down and take away many of the blessings we have as believers. We need some who will take a stand for the Bible, the church, for holiness and for the old time way! We need some battlers in this day!)
(Note: Far too many Christians get out of balance in this area. Some, when “contending for the faith”, are guilty of setting themselves up as judge and jury on what others around them should and shouldn’t be doing! Many believers loose sight of who the real enemy in this thing is. Your brother or sister in Christ is not the enemy and you are never justified in attacking another believer! Paul tells us clearly who our enemy is: Eph. 6:12. If we are going to fight, let us fight against the devil and his deeds, not against one another! Last time I checked, I was still a private and Jesus was still the General! Last time I checked, I was just a branch saved to bear fruit and not a fruit inspector! Let’s get it right and fight the real enemy!)
(Ill. Epaphroditus was a balanced believer. He was active in all these areas of the Christian life. He was balanced in his walk, in his work and in his warfare! Where do you stand in these areas tonight?)
II. V. 26-29 A LOVELY CHRISTIAN IS A BURDENED CHRISTIAN
(Note: What a lesson for the church! How many of us can see no farther than the end of our own noses? We are so caught up in what is happening to us that we are unable to see the needs of those around us. You know that you are maturing as a Christian when your first thought is not about how something affects you, but your primary concern is how it may affect someone else! Epaphroditus was a living, breathing commentary on Phil. 2:4. He was the essence of Gal. 6:2. He was what we all ought to be! There is nothing in this world more immature than a believer who thinks of his or her own needs first! Ill. What if Jesus had thought this way? What if Paul had adopted that attitude? What if God had thought like we do?
When we get the needs of others first, we will watch what we say to, what we do, where we go and how we react. We will be careful to ensure that others are edified and encouraged, before we take thought for ourselves!)
B. The Fruit Of This Burden - Because Epaphroditus was a people centered person, he brought joy to the lives of others, verses 28-29. Notice the worlds Paul uses: rejoice and gladness. The Philippians knew what a treasure they had in Epaphroditus. So does Paul. He was the kind of person who made you feel important and loved. He put you first and you knew it. He was an encourager! As a result, he was a joy to know and be around!
(Note: How do people react when they see you coming? Do they cringe as they wonder what criticism they are about to hear? Do they dread your coming because they know your attitude is going to be negative and self-centered? Do they avoid you because they are afraid you will give them an “organ recital” as you name off the afflictions and trouble you have? Or, do their faces light up when they see you, knowing that you come with a word of encouragement and blessing? I don’t know about you, but I want to be an encourager instead of a critical complainer. (Ill. Brother Kincaid ans Brother Price!) How about you?)
III. V. 30 A LOVELY CHRISTIAN IS A BRAVE CHRISTIAN
(Ill. We have already seen that this man was Balanced and that he was Burdened. This last verses also tells us that he was Brave.)
A. There Is Bravery In His Service - The first phrase of verse 30 seems to indicate that the sickness Epaphroditus endured was the result of his labors for the Lord Jesus. Ancient church tradition tells us that Epaphroditus was known for his work among the sick in Rome. It is said that he and others would try to help people that most others would not even dare go near. In other words, he put everything on the line for Jesus, in order to fulfill the Great Commission. For this man, nothing in this life was more important than doing the will of the Lord. Even if doing what God required cost him everything!
(Note: Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a team of people like Epaphroditus in our church? Men and women who knew no greater goal in life than to be obedient to the will of the Savior! Sadly, for many, service hinges on convenience! Even simple, easy things like going to church is too much for many people! Who among us has a heart like Epaphroditus? Who has a heart that beats in time with the Master’s heart? Who has a heart to see people saved and the work of God done in this world regardless of the personal cost? Few, very few! But, you and I can become that kind of believer, if we desire to! God has plenty of work available to those who will give Him all they have and are and trust Him to use them for His glory!)
B. There Is Bravery In His Sacrifice - When the Bible says “not regarding his life” it means literally that he “gambled his life”. That phrase means, “to throw aside, to throw down”. It speaks of “voluntarily hazarding one’s welfare and exposing oneself to danger”. It was a term used to describe “gamblers” who “threw their money down and exposed it to the danger of loss.” It could mean “to place everything on a roll of the dice!” In fact, many times as a gambler would throw the dice, he would say "Epaphroditus". He was asking Aphrodite to look favorably upon his wager. In other words, Epaphroditus willingly gambled his life for the cause of Christ! He put his life on the line to see Paul’s needs met and to see souls brought into the kingdom of God.
Pioneer missionary Jim Elliot, who gave his life for Christ trying to reach the Acua Indians of South America, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Epaphroditus knew this and lived by this motto! He put everything on the line for Jesus!
(Ill. In later years, groups of Christians know as “Parabolani” or “The Gamblers”, which comes from the same word translated “not regarding his life”, were known for their work among the diseased and dead. They would help those ravaged by the plague and they would bury the dead bodies of those taken by illness. Others would not do this, but these believers, inspired by the selfless sacrifice of Epaphroditus willing placed their lives on the line for Jesus!)
(Note: Where are the gamblers in our day? Where are the saints of God who will allow nothing, be it comfort, convenience or cost stand between them and doing the will of God? My, how we need some brave believers in this day! People who are willing to “deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus” is what the church needs today!
Friend, when you “throw down your life” for Jesus, you are not gambling your life away in a game of chance. No! Our God is a Sovereign God! He will take your sacrifice of love and service and He will bless it for His glory and your eternal good. He will give you treasure in Heaven, Matt. 6:19-21, Rom. 8:18, 2 Cor. 4:17. When you risk it all for Jesus, you can be certain that you will win every time! Are you a brave Christian? You can be! Put it all on the line for Jesus. Hold back no longer, but go full bore for Him and let Him worry about the consequences!)
Conc: Verse 29 tells the Philippian believers to hold Epaphroditus “in reputation”. This phrase means “to prize and consider precious”. Epaphroditus was to be prized and considered precious. Why? Because people like him are like fine gemstones. They are rare and of great value!
Do you know what Calvary Baptist Church needs? Not money, this is God’s boat and He knows how to keep it afloat! Not prestige in the community. You can look for many to disparage this church as the days move forward. Why? Because we are out of step with the world and we don’t intend to change! Not political influence. This world and all that is within it will burn one day. What we need is people who will commit themselves to be like Epaphroditus! We need men, women, boys and girls who will put everything on the line for Jesus, who will hold nothing back. We need a church filled with Christians who are Balanced in the walk; who are Burdened for others and who are Brave enough to give their lived for Christ. Give us that, just that, and God will use to touch our world for His glory!
Where does this message find you this evening? If the Lord has spoken to your heart about these matters, why not get before Him this evening and get that thing straightened out and settled today? Epaphroditus was a lovely Christian. He lived up to his name. We can be lovely Christians too, if we also live the kind of life he lived.