25. Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
25. Porro necessarium existimavi Epaphroditum, fratrem et cooperarium, et commilitonem meum, Apostolum autem vestrum, et ministrum necessitatis meae mittere ad vos.
26. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
26. Quandoquidem desiderabat vos omnes, et erat anxius animi, propterea quod audieratis ipsum infirmatum fuisse.
27. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
27. Et certe infirmatus fuit, ut esset morti vicinus, sed Deus misertus est illius: neque illius solum, sed etiam mei; ut ne tristitiam super tristitiam haberem.
28. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
28. Studiosius itaque misi illum, ut eo viso rursus gaudeatis, et ego magis vacem dolore.
29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
29. Excipite ergo illum in Domino cum omni gaudio: et qui tales sunt, in pretio habete:
30. Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
30. Quia propter opus Christi usque ad mortem accessit, exponens periculo animam, ut sufficeret quod deerat vestro erga me ministerio, (vel, officio.)
25 I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus. After having encouraged them by the promise of his own coming and that of Timothy, he fortifies them also for the present, by sending previously Epaphroditus, that in the mean time, while he waited the issue of his own affairs, (for this was the cause of his delay,) they might not be in want of a pastor who should take care that matters were properly managed. Now, he recommends Epaphroditus by many distinctions -- that he is his brother, and helper in the affairs of the gospel -- that he is his fellow-soldier, by which term he intimates what is the condition of the ministers of the gospel; that they are engaged in an incessant warfare, for Satan will not allow them to promote the gospel without maintaining a conflict. Let those, then, who prepare themselves for edifying the Church, know that war is denounced against them, and prepared. This, indeed, is common to all Christians -- to be soldiers in the camp of Christ, for Satan is the enemy of all. It is, however, more particularly applicable to the ministers of the word, who go before the army and bear the standard. Paul, however, more especially might boast of his military service, inasmuch as he was exercised to a very miracle in every kind of contest. He accordingly commends Epaphroditus, because he had been a companion to him in his conflicts.
The term Apostle here, as in many other passages, is taken generally to mean any evangelist, unless any one prefers to understand it as meaning an ambassador sent by the Philippians, so that it may be understood as conjoining these two things -- an ambassador to afford service to Paul. The former signification, however, is in my opinion more suitable. He mentions also, among other things, to his praise, that he had ministered to him in prison -- a matter which will be treated of more fully ere long.
26. He longed after you. It is a sign of a true pastor, that while he was at a great distance, and was willingly detained by a pious engagement, he was nevertheless affected with concern for his flock, and a longing after them; and on learning that his sheep were distressed on his account, he was concerned as to their grief. On the other hand, the anxiety of the Philippians for their pastor is here discovered.
27 But God had mercy on him. He had expressed the severity of the disease -- that Epaphroditus had been sick, so that life was despaired of, in order that the goodness of God might shine forth more clearly in his restored health. It is, however, surprising that he should ascribe it to the mercy of God that Epaphroditus had had his period of life prolonged, while he had previously declared that he desired death in preference to life. (Philippians 1:23.) And what were better for us than that we should remove hence to the kingdom of God, delivered from the many miseries of this world, and more especially, rescued from that bondage of sin in which he elsewhere exclaims that he is wretched, (Romans 7:24,) to attain the full enjoyment of that liberty of the Spirit, by which we become connected with the Son of God? It were tedious to enumerate all the things which tend to make death better than life to believers, and more to be desired. Where, then, is there any token of the mercy of God, when it does nothing but lengthen out our miseries? I answer, that all these things do not prevent this life from being, nevertheless, considered in itself, an excellent gift of God. More especially those who live to Christ are happily exercised here in hope of heavenly glory; and accordingly, as we have had occasion to see a little ago, life is gain to them. Besides, there is another thing, too, that is to be considered -- that it is no small honor that is conferred upon us, when God glorifies himself in us; for it becomes us to look not so much to life itself, as to the end for which we live.
But on me also, lest I should have sorrow. Paul acknowledges that the death of Epaphroditus would have been bitterly painful to him, and he recognises it as an instance of God's sparing mercy toward himself, that he had been restored to health. He does not, therefore, make it his boast that he has the apathy (apatheian) of the Stoics, as if he were a man of iron, and exempt from human affections. |What then!| some one will say, |where is that unconquerable magnanimity? -- where is that indefatigable perseverance?| I answer, that Christian patience differs widely from philosophical obstinacy, and still more from the stubborn and fierce sterness of the Stoics. For what excellence were there in patiently enduring the cross, if there were in it no feeling of pain and bitterness? But when the consolation of God overcomes that feeling, so that we do not resist, but, on the contrary, give our back to the endurance of the rod, (Isaiah 50:5,) we in that case present to God a sacrifice of obedience that is acceptable to him. Thus Paul acknowledges that he felt some uneasiness and pain from his bonds, but that he nevertheless cheerfully endured these same bonds for the sake of Christ. He acknowledges that he would have felt the death of Epaphroditus an event hard to be endured, but he would at length have brought his temper of mind into accordance with the will of God, although all reluctance was not yet fully removed; for we give proof of our obedience, only when we bridle our depraved affections, and do not give way to the infirmity of the flesh.
Two things, therefore, are to be observed: in the first place, that the dispositions which God originally implanted in our nature are not evil in themselves, because they do not arise from the fault of corrupt nature, but come forth from God as their Author; of this nature is the grief that is felt on occasion of the death of friends: in the second place, that Paul had many other reasons for regret in connection with the death of Epaphroditus, and that these were not merely excusable, but altogether necessary. This, in the first place, is invariable in the case of all believers, that, on occasion of the death of any one, they are reminded of the anger of God against sin; but Paul was the more affected with the loss sustained by the Church, which he saw would be deprived of a singularly good pastor at a time when the good were so few in number. Those who would have dispositions of this kind altogether subdued and eradicated, do not picture to themselves merely men of flint, but men that are fierce and savage. In the depravity of our nature, however, everything in us is so perverted, that in whatever direction our minds are bent, they always go beyond bounds. Hence it is that there is nothing that is so pure or right in itself, as not to bring with it some contagion. Nay more, Paul, as being a man, would, I do not deny, have experienced in his grief something of human error, for he was subject to infirmity, and required to be tried with temptations, in order that he might have occasion of victory by striving and resisting.
28 I have sent him the more carefully. The presence of Epaphroditus was no small consolation to him; yet to such a degree did he prefer the welfare of the Philippians to his own advantage, that he says that he rejoices on occasion of his departure, because it grieved him that, on his account, he was taken away from the flock that was intrusted to him, and was reluctant to avail himself of his services, though otherwise agreeable to him, when it was at the expense of loss to them. Hence he says, that he will feel more happiness in the joy of the Philippians.
29 Receive him with all joy. He employs the word all to mean sincere and abundant. He also recommends him again to the Philippians; so intent is he upon this, that all that approve themselves as good and faithful pastors may be held in the highest estimation: for he does not speak merely of one, but exhorts that all such should be held in estimation; for they are precious pearls from God's treasuries, and the rarer they are, they are so much the more worthy of esteem. Nor can it be doubted that God often punishes our ingratitude and proud disdain, by depriving us of good pastors, when he sees that the most eminent that are given by him are ordinarily despised. Let every one, then, who is desirous that the Church should be fortified against the stratagems and assaults of wolves, make it his care, after the example of Paul, that the authority of good pastors be established; as, on the other hand, there is nothing upon which the instruments of the devil are more intent, than on undermining it by every means in their power.
30 Because for the work of Christ. I consider this as referring to that infirmity, which he had drawn down upon himself by incessant assiduity. Hence he reckons the distemper of Epaphroditus among his excellences, as it certainly was a signal token of his ardent zeal. Sickness, indeed, is not an excellence, but it is an excellence not to spare yourself that you may serve Christ. Epaphroditus felt that his health would be in danger if he applied himself beyond measure; yet he would rather be negligent as to health than be deficient in duty; and that he may commend this conduct the more to the Philippians, he says that it was a filling up of their deficiency, because, being situated at a distance, they could not furnish aid to Paul at Rome. Hence Epaphroditus, having been sent for this purpose, acted in their stead. He speaks of the services rendered to him as the work of the Lord, as assuredly there is nothing in which we can better serve God, than when we help his servants who labor for the truth of the gospel.