because he was longing for you all: epeide epipothon (PAPMSN) en (3SIAI) pantas humas: (Phil 1:3,8; 4:1; 2Sa 13:39; Ro 1:11; 2Co 9:14)
Because (for) - always pause to ponder this term of explanation.
Longing (1971) (epipotheo [word study] from epi = either an intensifier or marking direction of the desire + potheo = to yearn) means to desire earnestly, long for greatly, intensely crave possession or have great affection for. The LXX (Greek Septuagint) uses this verb to translate David's deep desire for God --
As the deer pants for (epipotheo) the water brooks, so my soul pants for (epipotheo) Thee, O God. (Ps 42:1)
The use in David's psalm gives us a sense of the great heart of Epaphroditus who was intensely longing for his beloved saints at Philippi. The present tense indicates this longing was not a spasmodic yearning but a continual habitual expression of his heart attitude.
AND was distressed because you had heard that he was sick: kai ademonon (PAPMSN) dioti ekousate (2SAAI) hoti e sthenesen. (3SAAI ): (Job 9:27; Ps 69:20; Pr 12:25; Isa 61:3; Mt 11:28; Mt 26:37 Ro 9:2; 1Pe 1:6) (2Sa 24:17; Jn 11:35,36; Acts 21:13; Ro 12:15; 1Cor 12:26; Gal 6:2; Eph 3:13)
Spurgeon on distressed - In Matthew 26:37, you find it recorded that Jesus was “troubled,” and that expression is full of meaning—of more meaning, indeed, than it would be easy to explain. The word in the original is a very difficult one to translate. It may signify the abstraction of the mind, and its complete occupation by sorrow, to the exclusion of every thought which might have alleviated the distress. One burning thought consumed His whole soul, and burned up all that might have yielded comfort. For awhile His mind refused to dwell upon the result of His death, the consequent joy which was set before Him. The learned Thomas Goodwin says, “The word denotes a failing, deficiency, and sinking of spirit, such as happens to men in sickness and swounding.” Epaphroditus’ sickness, whereby he was brought near to death, is called by the same word.
Distressed (85) ("excessively concerned") (ademoneo from a derivative of adeo = to be sated to loathing) means to be distressed, deeply troubled or distressed, this intense discomfort being quite plain. Be sorely troubled. Be upset. Be dismayed. Be in anguish.
Thayer says ademoneo originates from the alpha privative "a" and the root word demos meaning home. This combination yields the literal meaning of not at home and accordingly uncomfortable. In fairness, the reader should understand this origin although it sounds plausible is disputed by other authorities. For example, Moulton and Milligan write that "Towards the etymology of this word, T. W. Allen (CR xx. p. 5) traces an adjective (the Greek word) demon in the Iliad (M 213), with the meaning “knowing” “prudent,” so that ademoneo would suggest originally bewilderment."
Epaphroditus was almost overwhelmed with sorrow, like our Lord was in Gethsemane, Matthew writing that He
began to be grieved and distressed. (ademoneo) (Mt 26:37)
The only other NT use is Mark's parallel description of the Lord in Gethsemane...
Mark 14:33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed (ekthambeo) and troubled (ademoneo) .
Ademoneo describes the confused, chaotic, heavy state of restlessness that results from a time of turmoil or great trauma. Epaphroditus was more concerned about the Philippians’ worry for him than he was about his own difficult situation.
Wuest adds an interesting note that ademoneo "finds its origin in a word that has the idea of “not at home,” thus, “uncomfortable, troubled, distressed.” The word does not refer to homesickness, but to the discomfort of not being at home. Thus the heart of Epaphroditus was not at rest. The reason for this restlessness was that he was concerned that the Philippians had heard of his illness and were themselves concerned over their messenger for whom they in a measure held themselves responsible. What a miracle divine grace had wrought in the hearts of these Greeks who had recently come up out of rank paganism! (Philippians Commentary - Verse by Verse)
He had become sick (770) (astheneo [word study] from asthenes [see study] = without strength, powerless from a = without + sthenos = strength, bodily vigor) means to be feeble (in any sense), to be diseased, impotent, sick, to lack strength, to be infirm, to be weak.
C H Mackintosh has some devotional thoughts on the character of Epaphroditus...
There is great moral beauty in it. We are not told very much about him, but in what we are told, we see a great deal of what is truly lovely and pleasant — much that makes us long for men of the same stamp in this our day. We cannot do better than quote the inspired record concerning him; and may the blessed Spirit apply it to our hearts and lead us to cultivate the same lovely grace which shone so brightly in that dear and honored servant of Christ!
“I supposed it necessary,” says the blessed apostle, “to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation, because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Phil. 2: 25-30).
Now it is quite possible that some of us, on reading the above, may feel disposed to inquire if Epaphroditus was a great evangelist or teacher or some highly gifted servant of Christ, seeing the inspired apostle bestows upon him so many high and honorable titles, styling him his “brother and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier.”
Well, we are not told that he was a great preacher or a great traveler or a profound teacher in the Church of God. All we are told about him in the above touching narrative is that he came forward in a time of real need to supply a missing link, to “fill a gap,” as we say. The beloved Philippians had it upon their hearts to send help to the revered and aged apostle Paul in his prison at Rome. He was in need and they longed to supply his need. They loved him, and God had laid it upon their loving hearts to communicate with his necessities. They thought of him, though he was far away from them, and they longed to minister to him of their substance.
How lovely was this! How pleasing to the heart of Christ! Hearken to the glowing terms in which the dear old prisoner speaks of their precious ministry.
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.... Notwithstanding, ye have well done that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now, ye Philippians, know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound; I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God” (Phil. 4: 10, 14-18).
Here we see the place which Epaphroditus filled in this blessed business. There lay the beloved apostle in his prison at Rome, and there lay the loving offering of the saints at Philippi. But how was it to be conveyed to him? These were not the days of banks checks and post-office money orders. No, nor of railway traveling. It was no easy matter to get from Philippi to Rome in those days. But Epaphroditus, that dear, unpretending, self-surrendering servant of Christ, presented himself to supply the missing link, to do the very thing that was needed and nothing more; to be the channel of communication between the assembly at Philippi and the apostle at Rome. Deep and real as was the apostle's need, precious and seasonable as was the Philippians' gift, yet an instrument was needed to bring them both together, and Epaphroditus offered himself for the work. There was a manifest need and he filled it. He did not aim at doing some great showy thing, something which would make him very prominent and cause his name to be blazed abroad as some wonderful person. Ah! no, Epaphroditus was not one of the pushing, self-confident, extensive class. He was a dear, self-hiding, lowly servant of Christ, one of that class of workmen to whom we are irresistibly attracted. Nothing is more charming than an unpretending, retiring man who is content just to fill the empty niche; to render the needed service, whatever it is; to do the work cut out for him by the Master's hand.
There are some who are not content unless they are at the head and tail of everything. They seem to think that no work can be rightly done unless they have a hand in it. They are not satisfied to supply a missing link. How repulsive are all such! How we retire from them! Self-confident, self-sufficient, ever pushing themselves into prominence. They have never measured themselves in the presence of God, never been broken down before Him, never taken their true place of self-abasement.
Epaphroditus was not of this class at all. He put his life in his hand to serve other people; and when at death's door, instead of being occupied with himself or his ailments, he was thinking of others. “He longed after you all and was full of heaviness” — not because he was sick, but — ”because ye had heard that he had been sick.” Here was true love. He knew what his beloved brethren at Philippi would be feeling when informed of his serious illness, an illness brought on by his willing-hearted service to them.
All this is morally lovely. It does the heart good to contemplate this exquisite picture. Epaphroditus had evidently studied in the school of Christ. He had sat at the Master's feet and drunk deeply into His spirit. In no other way could he have learned such holy lessons of self-surrender and thoughtful love for others. The world knows nothing of such things; nature cannot teach such lessons. They are altogether heavenly, spiritual, divine. Would that we knew more of them! They are rare among us with all our high profession. There is a most humiliating amount of selfishness in all of us, and it looks so hideous in connection with the name of Jesus. It might agree well enough with Judaism, but its inconsistency with Christianity is terribly glaring.
Notice the very touching manner in which the inspired apostle commends Epaphroditus to the assembly at Philippi. It seems as if he could not make enough of him, to speak after the manner of men.
“He longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
How deeply affecting! What a tide of divine affection and sympathy rolled in upon that unpretending, self-sacrificing servant of Christ! The whole assembly at Philippi, the blessed apostle and above all, God Himself all engaged in thinking about a man who did not think about himself. Had Epaphroditus been a self-seeker, had he been occupied about himself or his interests, or even his work, his name would never have shone on the page of inspiration. But no; he thought of others, not of himself. Therefore God and His apostle and His Church thought of him.
Thus it will ever be.
A man who thinks much of himself saves others the trouble of thinking about him.
But the lowly, the humble, the modest, the unpretending, the retiring, the self-emptied, who think of and live for others, who walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, these are the persons to be thought of and cared for, loved and honored, as they ever will be by God and His people.
“I sent him therefore the more carefully,” says the beloved apostle, “that when ye see him again ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation. Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Phil. 2: 28-30).
Thus it was with this most dear and honored servant of Christ. He did not regard his life, but laid it at his Master's feet, just to supply the missing link between the church of God at Philippi and the suffering and needy apostle at Rome. Therefore, the apostle calls upon the Church to hold him in reputation, and the honored name of Epaphroditus has been handed down to us by the pen of inspiration, and his precious service has been recorded and the record of it read by untold millions, while the names and the doings of the self-seekers, the self-important, the pretentious of every age and every clime and every condition are sunk — and deservedly so — in eternal oblivion. (Short Paper 1)
Philippians 2:27 For indeed he was sick (3SAAI) to the point of death, but God had mercy (3SAAI) on him, and not on him only but also on me, so * that I would not have (1SAAS) sorrow upon sorrow. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: kai gar esthenesen (3SAAI) paraplesion thanato; alla o theos eleesen (3SAAI) auton, ouk auton de monon alla kai eme, hina me lupen epi lupen scho. (1SAAS)
Amplified: He certainly was ill [too], near to death. But God had compassion on him, and not only on him but also on me, lest I should have sorrow [over him] coming upon sorrow. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: And he surely was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have such unbearable sorrow. (NLT - Tyndale House)
KJV: For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Lightfoot: Nor was the report unfounded. He was indeed so ill that we despaired of his life. But God spared him in his mercy; mercy not to him only but to myself also, that I might not be weighed down by afresh burden of sorrow.
Wuest: For truly he was ill, next door to death. But God had mercy upon him, and not upon him alone, but also on me, in order that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: for he also ailed nigh to death, but God did deal kindly with him, and not with him only, but also with me, that sorrow upon sorrow I might not have.
For indeed he was sick to the point of death: kai gar esthenesen (3SAAI) paraplesion thanato:(30; 2Ki 20:1; Ps 107:18; Ecc 9:1,2; Jn 11:3,4; Ac 9:37)
For (gar) - always pause to ponder this term of explanation.
Sick (770) (astheneo [word study] from a = without + sthénos = strength, bodily vigor) means to be diseased, enfeebled, weak, without strength.
To the point of (3897) (paraplesion from pará = close to + plesíos = near and figuratively = neighbor) means literally “alongside of a neighbor” and then nearby or close to. As the KJV puts it Epaphroditus was "nigh unto death", the word paraplesion picturing "death" as just next door. And so Epaphroditus and "death" were next door neighbors!
but God had mercy on him and not on him only but also on me: alla o theos eleesen (3SAAI) auton ouk auton de monon alla kai eme: (Job 5:19; Ps 30:1-3,10,11; 34:19; 103:3,4; Ps 107:19-22; Isa 38:17;43:2; Acts 9:39-41) (Isa 27:8; Jer 8:18; 10:24; 45:3; Hab 3:2; 1Cor 10:13; 2Cor 2:7)
Spurgeon on God had mercy - Lazarus of Bethany, Dorcas, Epaphroditus, and Trophimus are a few of that great host of sick folk whom the Lord loves in their sicknesses, for whom the promise was written that the Lord “sustains him on his sick bed. In his illness, you restore to health” (Ps 41:3).
Mercy (1653) (eleeo [word study] from eleos [word study] = mercy) means to show compassion and extend help for the consequences of sin. When God spares a person from death it is always a reflection of His mercy, because “the wages of sin is death” (see note Romans 6:23) and every human being is a sinner (see note Romans 3:23).
Are you a weary wayfarer in need of God's great mercies which are new every morning? Spurgeon has the following illustration of mercy provided to weary wayfarers...
What a rugged, precipitous, ungainly pass is that Col D'Obbia! It was shrewd common sense, and true humanity which suggested the erection of that poor little hospice at the summit. Never was a shelter more opportune, a refuge more welcome. One could not have expected to find a retreat in so desolate a region, but there it was, and we were received into it with cordiality. The great Lord of pilgrims has taken care that in the hardest parts of our road to the Celestial City there should be blessed resting places, where beneath the shade of promises, weary ones may repose within the shelter of love. God's hospice may be confidently looked for whenever the way is more than ordinarily difficult.
I remember well being taken one day to see a gorgeous palace at Venice, where every piece of furniture was made with most exquisite taste, and of the richest material, where statues and pictures of enormous price abounded on all hands, and the floor of each room was paved with mosaics of marvellous art, and extraordinary value. As I was shown from room to room, and allowed to roam amid the treasures by its courteous owner, I felt a considerable timidity, I was afraid to sit anywhere, nor did I hardly dare to put down my foot, or rest my hand to lean. Everything seemed to be too good for ordinary mortals like myself; but when one is introduced into the gorgeous palace of infinite goodness, costlier and fairer far, one gazes wonderingly with reverential awe at the matchless vision. "How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God!" "I am not worthy of the least of all thy benefits. Oh! the depths of the love and goodness of the Lord." — Feathers for Arrows
Imagination fails to guess the height of heaven, and even thus the riches of God's mercy exceed our highest thoughts. — The Interpreter
so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow: hina m e lupen epi lupen echo. (1SAAS ):
So that (hina) - pause to ponder terms of purpose or result - so that, in order that, that, as a result.
Sorrow upon sorrow - The picture of sorrow heaped up or piled upon more sorrow. God is merciful to His children and here protected Paul from such an extreme degree of distress.
Sorrow (3077) (lupe - see study of related verb lupeo = to cause one to experience severe mental or emotional distress or physical pain) means sadness, grief or heaviness.
Spurgeon gives an apt illustration of sorrow, an intruder few of us welcome into our life - Two seeds lie before us—the one is warmed in the sun, the other falls from the sower's hand into the cold dark earth, and there it lies buried beneath the soil. That seed which suns itself in the noontide beam may rejoice in the light in which it basks, but it is liable to be devoured by the bird; and certainly nought can come of it, however long it may linger above ground; but the other seed, hidden beneath the clods in a damp, dark sepulchre, soon swells, germinates, bursts its sheath, upheaves the mould, springs up a green blade, buds, blossoms, becomes a flower, exhales perfume, and loads the wings of every wind. Better far for the seed to pass into the earth and die, than to lie in the sunshine and produce no fruit; and even thus for thee the future in its sorrow shall be as a sowing in a fertile land; tears shall moisten thee, grace shall increase within thee, and thou shalt grow up in the likeness of thy Lord unto perfection of holiness, to be such a flower of God's own planting as even angels shall delight to gaze upon in the day of thy transplanting to celestial soil.— Feathers for Arrows
Spurgeon addresses "Why are diseases and pains left in the bodies of God’s people? Our bodies are redeemed, for Christ has redeemed our entire manhood, but if Christ be in us the body is still dead because of sin, even though the spirit is alive because of righteousness. It is not till the resurrection that we shall enjoy the full result of the redemption of the body. Resurrection will accomplish for our bodies what regeneration has done for our souls. We were born again, but that divine work was exercised only upon our spiritual nature. Our bodies were not born again; hence they still abide under the liability of disease, decay, and death, though even these evils have been turned into blessings. This frail, sensitive, and earthly frame, which Paul calls “our humble body” (Phil 3:21), grows weary and worn, and by-and-by it will fade away and die, unless the Lord shall come. And even if He should come, this feeble fabric must be totally changed, for flesh and blood as they now are cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither can corruption dwell with incorruption. Even unto this day the body is under death because of sin, and is left so on purpose to remind us of the effects of sin, that we may feel within ourselves what sin has done, and may the better guess at what sin would have done if we had remained under it, for the pains of hell would have been ours forever. These griefs of body are meant to make us recollect what we owe to the redemption of our Lord Jesus, and so to keep us humble and grateful. Aches and pains are also sent to keep us on the wing for heaven, even as thorns in the nest drive the bird from its sloth. They make us long for the land where the inhabitant shall no more say, “I am sick” (Isa 33:24). Note this, that in every healing of which we are the subjects we have a pledge of the resurrection. Every time a man who is near the gates of death rises up again he enjoys a kind of rehearsal of that grand rising when from beds of dust and silent clay the perfect saints shall rise at the trump of the archangel and the voice of God. We ought to gather from our restorations from serious and perilous sickness a proof that the God who brings us back from the gates of the grave can also bring us back from the grave itself whenever it shall be His time to do so.