After Paul explains his desire to send Timothy back to them and his desire to come to them eventually himself, he says in Philippians 2:25, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus 15 greater1my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need.” We don’t think that Epaphroditus was Paul’s physical brother. None of the commentaries suggest that. There is widespread agreement that this is the term by which men who came to faith in Christ referred to each other.

Since we are all born again of the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), we are linked together as family members with one and the same Father (Ephesians 4:4-6). As such we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, members of the same family. The way we treat our family members is an indication of our belonging or not belonging. John tells us in 1 John 3:14-16, “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” There is a consistent principle in the New Testament about “no greater love.” It’s a love that is willing to sacrifice itself for the well being of others.

I don’t know about you but I always cringe a little when I read exhortations like this. I’m usually so focused on my own needs and wants and interests that I’m very far away from sacrificing myself for the well-being of others. Even when I do make sacrifices they are not without mixed motives and at times thoughts that aren’t pleasing to God. Jesus sums up the law by saying we must “love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.” If I believed I had to do that to earn a place in heaven, I would throw in the towel right now. Whenever people suggest that this is the responsibility of all People who want to merit eternal life, I want to say “good luck with that.” There is none that seeks God, there is no one who does what is right all the time, there is none righteous, no not one! The truth of the Gospel is that this kind of love is what Christ demonstrated for us. He is the only one with such “great love.” When our hearts are opened to His love for us, then we can in some ways return that love to Him and share it with others although we’ll never do it perfectly. The Law was not given to us as the standard by which we can earn eternal life. It was given to us to show us that we can’t earn or merit eternal life.  But Christ has fulfilled the law for us. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in this, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”