It was somewhere between A.D. 61 and 63. The place was Rome, where the Apostle Paul was under house arrest. He was there awaiting trial, uncertain as to whether he would be vindicated and released or convicted and executed. Paul is forced to wait for his trial to begin and its verdict to be rendered. But while he waits, he works.

Paul was chained to two Roman soldiers at all times. But house arrest afforded him many privileges. For instance, Paul was able to entertain guest in the house he had rented during his imprisonment. Throughout his imprisonment, various friends and colleagues came and went. But one guest came and stayed. His name was Epaphroditus, from the city of Philippi.

When the church at Philippi heard about Paul’s circumstances, they raised a love offering to send to him. Epaphroditus was selected to carry this gift to Paul. But the money was only a part of the gift. The bigger and better gift was Epaphroditus himself. Paul’s Philippian friends sent Epaphroditus to serve Paul on their behalf until Paul was released.

Epaphroditus ministered to Paul’s needs and ministered with Paul in spreading the gospel, until he became sick. Low sick. He almost died. Mercifully, God spared his life. When he was well enough to travel, Paul thought it best to send Epaphroditus home. The Philippians, who were troubled by the news of his sickness, worried about Paul and Epaphroditus. Indeed, Paul needed Epaphroditus. But he loved the church even more. So Paul sent Epaphroditus home, to relieve their concerns about him.

Before Epaphroditus’ departure, Paul prepared a gift for him to carry home to the Philippians. A letter. In this letter, Paul updated the church on his circumstances. Likewise, he thanked them for their generosity, which included a warm commendation for Epaphroditus. But most importantly, Paul wrote to the Philippians about matters related to their mutual partnership in the gospel, calling them to unity and steadfastness. All of these matters were addressed in a tone of joyfulness, which has resulted in Philippians being called, “The Epistle of Joy.”

God willing, we will begin a verse-by-verse exposition of this great letter this Sunday (4/19/09). In both of our Lord’s Day services, we will study this great letter to learn and be reminded of what it means for a local church to fellowship in the gospel. During your quiet time, read through the four chapters of Philippians in one sitting. Pray for the pastor’s preparation and presentation of the word, and ready your own heart to receive the ministry of the word. And invite someone to join us in worship as we discover the joy of Christian partnership.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)