The mention of Epaphroditus's role in the church's ministry to Paul brings Paul to the first reason for sending him back now. Epaphroditus is full of concern for "the folks back home"; he longs for all of you (cf. 1:8)—a longing not just to see them again but to relieve their distress over his illness. Epaphroditus's concern is perfectly understandable. He knows as they do that he could have died from his illness, but they do not yet know he has recovered.
How the Philippians had learned of Epaphroditus's illness cannot now be known. It is usually assumed that he took ill in Rome and that a courier, going by way of Philippi, carried the news to them. But another scenario seems more promising. Given that Epaphroditus was probably carrying a considerable sum of money, it is altogether unlikely that he was traveling alone (cf. 2 Cor 11:9, where the same Philippian service to Paul is brought by "brothers," plural). Very likely Epaphroditus took ill on the way to Rome, and one of his traveling companions returned to Philippi with that news (which is how Epaphroditus knew they knew) while another (or others) stayed with him as he continued on his way to Rome, even though doing so put his life at great risk (Phil 2:30). This view is favored in particular by the way Paul phrases verse 30: risking his life in order that he might fulfill his mission on behalf of Philippi.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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