Epaphroditus is one of the lesser known characters in the NT but has some valuable lessons to teach us. For those of us who do not know him, he was a lay member of the Philippian Church and also their messenger to Paul (in Rome) through whom they sent their material offerings (Php 4:18). During the course of his stay with Paul, Epaphroditus fell dangerously ill and was almost to the point of death (v27). We get a glimpse of his Christ-like character in this trying situation in his life.
Firstly, Epaphroditus was very brave to have accepted the call for helping out Paul, who was accused of a capital crime. This reason itself would have been sufficient for most to stay away from Paul. However, he bravely faced this fact, traveled all the way from Philippi to Rome and went to be a helper to Paul (v25; Paul calls him minister to my need).
Secondly, even though Epaphroditus fell seriously ill he did not immediately return to Philippi (“he was ill”; not is; v27). This could have been a very justifiable pretext for leaving Paul but he did not. This shows that he took his call seriously and loved his fellow brother, Paul, unto death (John 15:13).
Third, focus on the titles which Paul bestows on Epaphroditus (v25). He calls him brother. Epaphroditus was indeed a true brother who did not desert Paul at his hour of need even though he himself was suffering. Paul then calls him a fellow worker. It is quite a surprising title. It may be that in addition to taking care of Paul’s needs he also probably helped in gospel work of some kind (KJV mentions “companionin labor”). He also called him a fellow soldier implying that he was ready for service even under severe and dangerous conditions – situation a soldier often finds himself in.
Lastly, Paul says Epaphroditus was longing (v 26) for his home church. This was not a longing driven out of nostalgia but out of a desire for genuine fellowship. This interpretation is confirmed by Paul’s testimony that Epaphroditus was himself distressed that his church came to know about his illness. Why? Because he did not want to evoke unnecessary sympathy and receive requests to return home; He did love them and longed to fellowship with them, but not before completing his mission.
Epaphroditus received high praise from Paul because he was willing to serve Christ even to the point of death.