In this chapter Paul has emphasized unity and its necessary prerequisite – humility. Epaphroditus is an exemplary role model for his brethren. In fact, he is listed among other great examples, like Jesus Christ (vv. 5-11), the apostle Paul (vv. 12-18), and Timothy (vv. 19-24).
Later on in the letter Paul writes, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18).
The clause “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied” is lit., “but I have [in full] all things and abound; I am full.” The verb apéchō, according to J. J. Müller, “is a word generally used in connection with a receipt or settlement of payment. The obligation has been honored, the debt has been settled …” (Philippians 150 n. 8). T. L. Constable calls this Paul’s “written receipt for their donation, as well as a ‘thank-you note’” (Notes 85).
Epaphroditus, as the official messenger of the Philippi church (2:25-30), has delivered to Paul “the gifts” – the ESV translation of the plural article tá, lit. “the [things]” – inclusive of the monetary “gift” (v. 17) and perhaps other items. Generally the Roman government did not provide for their prisoners beyond basic needs, so help from family and friends was necessary.
Paul considers the generosity of his brethren “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” The imagery here is drawn from the OT sacrificial system descriptive of what was pleasing to God.4 Under the new covenant, what pleases him are the consequences of his Son’s sacrifice and the offerings we give and the spiritual sacrifices we make (Eph. 5:2; Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15-16).
Epaphroditus is mentioned by name only twice in the biblical record, and nowhere outside the Philippian correspondence. While there is no record of any sermon he may have preached or souls he may have led to Christ, he played a crucial role in the Lord’s church. He was a faithful brother, a loyal worker, a brave soldier, a dependable messenger, and a humble servant. We welcome Paul’s directive to “honor such men.”
--Kevin L. Moore
1 The name Epaphras (Col. 1:7; 4:12; Philem. 23) is an abbreviated version of the same name but probably not worn by the same person.
2 Cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor 2:15; Rom. 16:23; 1 Thess. 3:2; 2 Cor. 8:18 f., 23; 9:3, 5; 11:9; 12:18; 1 Cor. 16:10 ff.; also 1 Cor. 16:19 f.; Eph. 6:23; Phil. 1:14; 4:21 f.; Col. 4:15; Gal. 1:2.
3 H. C. G. Moule suggests, “Epaphroditus was perhaps a little undervalued at Philippi, in proportion to St Paul’s estimate of him” (Philippians 164).
4 Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:18, 25; Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2; Ezek. 20:41; cp. Lev. 26:31.