Last Saturday, I published my translation of Philippians 2:25-30. In this paragraph, Paul tells the Philippians why he chose to send this letter via Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus had originally come to Paul both bearing a financial gift from the church in Philippi (see Philippians 4:18) and for the purpose of helping Paul (see Philippians 2:30).
In this short passage, there is a very interesting use of various terms that mean “sent”.
For example, Paul begins by saying that he is sending Epaphroditus and also calling him the Philippians’ own apostle (“one who is sent”) (see Philippians 2:25). Next, Paul once again says that he is “sendin” Epaphroditus (see Philippians 2:28).
Thus, Paul describes Epaphroditus as a double-apostle. First, he was sent by the Philippians, and now he is being sent by Paul. (Remember, both the term “apostle” comes from one of the Greek verbs for “send”. Similarly, the word “mission” or “missionary” comes from the Latin verb for “send”.)
But, I think there is something else that we can learn from this passage. This related to the perspective of the church (and Paul) on the purpose of apostles.
At the end of this passage, we see Paul’s understanding of why the Philippians sent Epaphroditus in the first place: “so that he might take the place of your own service for me” (see Philippians 2:30). So, the Philippians themselves could not all leave their homes and places of business in order to help Paul, so they “sent” someone (an “apostle”) in order to serve Paul in ways that they could not. Similarly, Paul is now sending Epaphroditus back to the Philippians because he cannot go himself. So, Epaphroditus can now serve the Philippians in Paul’s absence.
Thus, one reason that a church would send someone (“an apostle”) to another location is because of their desire to serve the people in that location. But, they are not all able to travel to that location to perform that service. So, they send someone as their representative (“apostle”).
So, seeing how Paul views Epaphroditus as “sent” by the church in Philippi and now doubly-sent by him can help us understand the relationship between the church, their apostle, and the person/people in the area where the apostle goes.