You don’t find him mentioned outside of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Don’t know much about his background other than what you might glean from his name. Not really a Jewish name . . . you kind of guess the boy was raised pagan . . . really pagan. Seems he was named after the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. Literally, his name was “Lovely.” Hows that for a handle for a young strapping boy to have to wear as he grows up?
Hi, what’s your name? . . . Lovely. . . . What’s lovely? . . . Me. . . . Uh, yeah, but I wanted to know your name . . . It’s Lovely. . . . Yeah, I’m sure it is. But what is it, what’s your name? . . . Lovely.
A boy named after a love goddess . . . a young man called Lovely. But somewhere along the way he met the true God . . . the One whose name is Holy . . . whose name is LORD of Hosts . . . whose Son’s name is above all names. At some point Lovely encountered the Lamb. And you glean from Paul’s reference to him, that, in Christ, Lovely lived up to his name.
His actual name was Epaphroditus. He’s mentioned twice by Paul. And, says Paul, he is a man to be honored.
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 . . . So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men . . .
(Philippians 2:25, 29 ESV)
Check out the many hats this guy wears . . . a brother in the Lord . . . a fellow worker . . . a fellow soldier . . . a messenger . . . a minister. Wow! This guys is . . . well, Lovely!
Not a minister is the sense of a paid clergyman . . . but in the sense of a servant. Sent by the church at Philippi to Paul with a financial gift for the apostle, Epaphroditus faithfully carried their message of support to the prison-bound man of God. And while we don’t know the details, Paul says that Epaphroditus “nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me” (Php. 2:30). Lovely was no pansy.
The journey from Philippi to Rome had, evidently, been a tough one. Epaphroditus had become ill, near to death, as result of pressing on to complete the ministry he had been given. As a soldier enduring the battle . . . as a worker laboring to finish the task . . . he pressed on to make sure that Paul received the gift the Philippians had sent by him. Lovely was no quitter.
And you sense also that Paul really appreciated the guy. Beyond delivering the gift, Epaphroditus was a brother . . . a brother that, had he died, his death would have brought “sorrow upon sorrow” to Paul (2:27). Beyond finishing the job, he also brought a fellowship that Paul valued . . . a kindred spirit . . . through the Spirit. Lovely was loved.
Honor such men. Epaphroditus was kind of a bit player. Shows up only here . . . all he did was carry some money from one place to another . . . though it almost cost him his life. But his name is God-breathed . . . captured as part of the record of God’s inspired Word. And his name is found also in the Lamb’s Book of Life . . . forever written with the blood of Christ by the grace of God.
And, on that day, I wonder if the conversation might go something like this . . .
Well done good and faithful servant. What’s your name? . . . Lovely. . . . Yes it is, My child, yes it is.