I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. – Philippians 2:19-30
There is a special bond that can last a lifetime when people share in a common mission. It could be members of a high school basketball team or other team sport. It is very common among military veterans who have shared the mission of watching out for one another in battle and being able to come home safe. Viet Nam Vets get together regularly and share the bond that was forged during that horrendous conflict. Those loyalties run deep and strong.
Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus shared a bond that ran deeper and stronger than any military veteran-based bond. The imagery in Paul’s description is military. Timothy “served with me in the gospel,” Paul says. The same kind of language we hear of military veterans speaking of serving in the military. Paul describes Epaphroditus as a “fellow soldier.” These men shared a deep common bond in the mission of Christ to take the gospel to the nations, a battle for the souls of men announcing the victory Christ had already won over sin and all the powers of darkness that hold men captive.
Paul had taken Timothy all the way through gospel boot-camp as a young disciple who is now a peer to the Apostle, a disciple who now makes disciples who make disciples. The church at Philippi had entrusted the significant offering for Paul to the hands of Epaphroditus. Once in Rome, Epaphroditus had proved to be not only the trusted messenger with the offering, but he proved to be a fellow worker and a fellow soldier with Paul and Timothy.
In about a month, the Lord willing, I will be enjoying one of these reunions with a fellow soldier. If I am a Timothy, my friend I will meet with would be my Paul. He had an enormous impact on my life in Christ. He will be celebrating his 90th birthday in the not too distant future and I hear the same spark of excitement in his voice when I speak with him on the phone as he tells me about his recent ventures for Christ. Today he lives in an independent living retirement community. He doesn’t preach anymore because his short-term memory doesn’t serve him so well and he can forget details of an illustration in a sermon. (That sort of messes up a sermon.) But, he says, now that he is in the retirement community he has a new mission field! That is the spirit of a gospel soldier. I am so looking forward to sharing that fellowship in Christ, that bond in Christ that was forged initially about forty years ago.
This fellowship, this bond that is deep and rich is one of the benefits of being committed to the mission of Jesus to take the gospel to the nations. It doesn’t mean one has to be an overseas missionary or a Pastor of a church. It just means that you obey Jesus in following his command to make disciples who make disciples and do it with the other followers of Jesus as a team. The bond will come as the Lord teams you up with other brothers and sisters in Christ who are also committed to the mission. This beautiful bond is not found by making it the object; it is a side benefit of the mission and fellowship with Jesus.