Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Epaphroditus and the Ordinary Means of Healing
In our midweek Bible study in Philippians last week, we read Paul’s commendation of Ephaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30. Paul calls Epaphroditus in v. 25 “my brother [adelphon], and companion in labour [synergon], and fellowsoldier [systratioten], but your messenger [apostolon].” The description of Ephaphroditus as an apostolos, shows the flexibility of this term, which sometimes refers specifically to one of The Twelve (which Epaphroditus was not) and sometimes to “a sent one,” a representative, or “messenger” (cf. Acts 14:4, 14). The early Particular Baptists took this term to refer to those sent to associational meetings. The passage does indeed show the “communion” enjoyed among the early believers and churches, as Epaphroditus had been sent to minister to the imprisoned Paul's needs.
I was also struck by Paul’s references to Epaphroditus’ grave illness, suffered while ministering to Paul’s needs. He was “sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him” (v. 27). Paul commends Epaphroditus to the Philippians, exhorting them to “hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death” (vv. 29-30). What I find striking is the rather ordinary way that Paul addresses this illness. Counter to the modern, charismatic “faith-healing” narrative, there is no mention of any attempt at or expectation of extra-ordinary healing. Epaphroditus might well have died, yet God, in his mercy, had providentially granted him recovery. God would have been no less just or powerful if Epaphroditus had not recovered. It is like Paul’s instruction to Timothy to take wine “for thy stomach’s sake and thine own infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23). An illness is met not with calls for extra-ordinary intervention but ordinary remedy.