“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. … 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel…25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. … 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him….” (Philippians 2:19-30)
2003 family photo
Paul wholeheartedly served and faithfully devoted his life to ministry - in evangelism, apologetic, church building or more. The passage above gives us an insight into the essence of his ministry.
In this passage, he mentioned two of his co-workers: one was Timothy who was discipled by Paul, and the other was Epaphroditus who was sent to Rome by the Philippian church to take care of Paul’s needs. Although Paul was in prison, he showed great concern about his partner in the work of the gospel - the Philippian Church. He eagerly wanted to have news about them and to know their circumstances.
Timothy has served as the connecting bridge between them. Timothy's stay with Paul was a source of comfort for Paul's body and soul, which was very important for him. However, Paul was willing to let go of his personal needs out for his care and love for the Philippian church.
At the same time, he cared about Epaphroditus who just recovered from a serious illness and was homesick. To alleviate the distress of the brothers and sisters in Philippi, Paul was willing to forsake his own interests and did what would be beneficial to his co-workers and partners at Philippi. Therefore he sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi, demonstrating his sacrificial love and service, prioritizing the needs of others over himself. This action transformed the blessing he would receive personally from Epaphroditus to become a blessing and comfort for others.
Timothy worked with Paul for many years and experienced much of God's grace and providence. He acquired a lot of spiritual wisdom and ministry knowledge under Paul’s guidance. However, in Paul's heart, this was not what he was most proud of. What he treasured most was the spiritual relationship between him and Timothy in the Lord - the father-son relationship that they had. Imagine the evolution of the relationship from that of co-worker and apprentice to that of father and son. What had they experienced to trigger such change? Wasn't that selfless love and care, as well as unconditional dedication to each other?
In Paul's mind, Epaphroditus was not just a temporary caretaker sent to look after him, but a servant sent by God. He cherished him, respected him, treated him like a brother, and invited him to join as a member of their ministry. Although he was in a foreign land, he could feel at home without the restraints and feelings of being an outsider.
Paul's mission was not limited to ministry work. He wanted to learn about the spiritual conditions of the Philippian church from Timothy’s visit, to care about their lives, expecting them to be blameless children of God, and showing God’s truth through their lives. The brothers and sisters in Philippi were Paul's co-workers: united in heart & soul to prosper the gospel, experiencing God’s blessing and grace together, and also endured suffering together. They were all partners in the Lord, serving the Lord together. Paul wanted to serve them in this regard.
Paul’s ministry was not only limited to the work itself, people were also an important focus. Through the way he mentioned Euodia and Syntyche to the Philippian church; also Paul’s plea for Onesimus in the book of Philemon, one can realize the importance of brothers and sisters in his ministry and in his mind.
2020 family photo
Serving people is not inferior to doing ministry work. How successful would ministry like evangelism be if there are no brothers and sisters who love the Lord faithfully, stand firm in truth, and live that out in their lives? Nowadays, many jobs or activities can be computerized or automated, but can they replace our ministry? I hope that while we value the ministry itself, we don’t lose sight of the even more important element of service to our brothers and sisters.This emphasis will create a strong foundation for our ministry.
Pastor Peter Mau
Senior Pastor during 1996-2012
Written on Oct 17,2020 for RCMBC 30th anniversary
Translated by Siong Ng