Soldiers in the U.S. Army are charged to uphold seven values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. They are taught these values in their basic training and then expected to integrate them into everything they do—whether they are performing military duties or enjoying their personal life. It is understood that a soldier is never fully “off duty.”
Paul uses three distinct and meaningful titles for his friend Epaphroditus: “brother,” “fellow worker” and “fellow soldier” (v. 25). Each of these titles implies qualities that can also be used to describe the relationships we have with fellow believers.
The term brother is used throughout Scripture to describe the kinship we enjoy with other Christians as children of God. We are born again into this new family—and our connection runs deep. The title of brother implies a permanent responsibility to care for one another. In referring to Epaphroditus as his “fellow worker,” Paul identified their common purpose in serving God. Because of this shared task Epaphroditus delivered a message to Paul, even though he himself was desperately ill (v. 27). Caring little for his own welfare, he finished the job, even to the point of death!
The final term is soldier. Christians are to be soldiers of the Cross. That implies that we should be recognized for our loyalty to serving God. Soldiers show commitment to something beyond themselves, with a willingness to give their lives for the cause. Our cause is the gospel of Christ. Epaphroditus demonstrated all of these qualities to both Paul and the people of Philippi.
While Ephaphroditus has only a brief mention in Scripture, he is a noteworthy example of one who understood and fully lived out his role within the body of Christ.