| Attributes of a godly gambler…
Terry Dashner…Faith Fellowship Church PO Box 1586 Broken Arrow, OK 74013
“Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me” (Philippians 2:29-30; NIV).
He was truly Greek. He was named, like many Greek males of the first century, after the Greek goddess, Aphrodite. And who was Aphrodite, you might ask? Well, in Greek mythology Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus. She was the goddess of love and beauty. The godly gambler was named Epaphroditus. I don’t know if he was handsome, but he was certainly a risk taker.
How do I know that? The phrase, “…risking his life…” in verse 30 of Philippians chapter two is the key to understanding something about Mr. Epaphroditus’ personality. The English word, “risking” comes from the Greek word, paraboleuesthai. And what does it mean? I’m glad you asked. According to Bible scholar, William Barclay, it’s a pretty colorful word. Barclay says, “It is a gambler’s word and means to stake everything on a turn of the dice. Paul is saying that for the sake of Jesus Christ Epaphroditus gambled his life.”
Barclay continues with a fascinating piece of history. He says, “In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women called the parabolani, the gamblers. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. In A.D. 252 plague broke out in Carthage; the heathen threw out the bodies of their dead and fled in terror. Cyprian, the Christian bishop, gathered his congregation together and set them to burying the dead and nursing the sick in that plague-stricken city; and by so doing they saved the city, at the risk of their lives, from destruction and desolation.”
Apparently the Apostle Paul wants us to know that Epaphroditus is a “risk taker.” Now the question I raise is this: is “risk taking” a godly attribute? Before I answer that question, I want to tell you more about Mr. Epaphroditus.
When Paul pens his letter to the Philippians, he is incarcerated in Roman custody. Although he is free to secure his own quarters and receive visitors, he is chained to a Roman soldier. And while Paul’s movement is restricted somewhat, his words are not.
The church in Philippi is very close to Paul’s heart and has supported him through the years with financial backing. Knowing that Paul is suffering for the Gospel’s sake, the young church sends a gift to Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus. While attending to Paul’s needs, Epaphroditus becomes deathly ill. But for the grace of God, he would have died. Paul, being the noble soul he is, writes this letter to accompany Epaphroditus’ return home. Paul notes several personality traits regarding this “risk taker,” and all of them are very godly, very positive.
For one, Epaphroditus is an exceptionally brave man. In the days of the New Testament, one took a considerable risk in becoming involved in the life of a prisoner who is awaiting trial on capital charges. It is extremely dangerous because the advocate could be easily indicted in the same charges. It appears that Epaphroditus cares more about Paul’s well being than his own. Caring for others is a godly attribute, according to the Bible’s teaching.
Secondly, Epaphroditus is a man who stays the course. While ministering to Paul, he becomes deathly ill. Paul prays that God will heal him so he doesn’t have to deal with the grief of mourning the death of a true brother-in-Christ and dealing with the difficulty in breaking the bad news to the Philippians.
Although Epaphroditus is sick unto death, his concern is how his church is handling the news of his sickness. He wants them to know of his recovery, so they won’t worry, but also he doesn’t want to leave Paul. If he leaves Paul in order to report back to the Philippians, he’s concerned how it will look. He thinks it will appear that he is giving up before his task is completed. And he is not a quitter.
Paul writes a glowing testimonial about Epaphroditus’ character to curtail any negative criticism about his leaving Paul prematurely. And in the testimonial every word is carefully chosen. Paul thinks highly of Epaphroditus and wants others to know what kind of person he is—remarkable and godly.
He risked his life as a brave and noble man to minister to a prisoner awaiting trial. He risked his life and won immortality—his life on record in the Word of Life for all time and eternity and by the laying down of his life for the sake of a friend. Jesus said that there is no greater love than this.
Keep the faith. Stay the course. Jesus is coming soon.
About the Author
Pastors a small church in Oklahoma. U.S. Navy veteran, retired police officer, and father of three grown children. Grandfather of two.