He Gambled His Life on God
May 19th, 1957 @ 7:30 PM
HE GAMBLED HIS LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-19-57 7:30 p.m.
We turn now to the second chapter of Philippians. We begin at the twenty-fifth verse and read together to the end of the chapter: Philippians 2. The title of the message tonight is He Gambled His Life on God, and that’s in this text. It’s not translated that way. It’s translated another way. But that’s what it says, and we’re going to preach on that tonight. The second chapter of Philippians, the twenty-fifth verse and reading to the end of the chapter: we’re going to read about Epaphroditus. The Greek would pronounce it epaphroditos, but we like Epaphroditus better, so we call him Epaphroditus. Now you have it? Second chapter of Philippians, the twenty-fifth verse. Now let’s read the text:
Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, 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.
He gambled his life on God. Now you’ve just read that. You just didn’t know it when you read it.
So it is with delight that I preach about Epaphroditus. He has an unusual name to begin with. It’s an unusual name to us. It was a very common name in the Roman Empire. The Greek goddess Aphrodite was the same goddess in the Latin language called Venus, and there were two names for men that were very common just like John or Thomas or Fred or Jim – just a common name. There were two names that were most common in those early days that were built upon the names of those goddesses.
Now, the name built upon the Greek of her name, Aphrodite, was Epaphroditus, and it meant "lovely." But that’s no good name to call a boy, so let’s translate it "charming, charming." The little boy’s name is Epaphroditus: "charming."You know, they could have named Dean that so well: "charming." He says for me to stay with the Bible. I am. We’re just exegeting now on that name Epaphroditus.
So I say that Greek name was built on the name of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.Now, her name in Latin is "Venus," and on her name in Latin, they built the masculine name of Venustus, Venustus; and Venustus means "handsome." So in the Latin language, if they had a goodly, comely boy, why, they’d name him Venustus which is the same name as Epaphroditus.
Now you come across Epaphroditusin another form in the New Testament here shortened to Epaphras. Epaphras was the unusually able missionary who founded the churches on the Lycos River. He founded the church of Colossae. He founded the church of Laodicea. He founded the church of Hieropolis, and you find him mentioned and described in the Book of Colossians [Colossians 1:7, 4:12]. Well, his name was Epaphroditus too, but it was shortened down to Epaphras. So in the Book of Colossians you hear him called Epaphras, but he had the same name. I say it was a very common namethis young fellow named Epaphroditus.
Now, this is why he appears in the record. The Book of Philippians is written out of the gratitude of the apostle’s heart for a love gift that the church at Philippi had sent to Paul in his first Roman imprisonment [Philippians 4:10, 18]. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, Luke describes Paul’s first imprisonment [Acts 28:16-31]. He had great liberty. Second time, they put him in a dungeon in the Mamertine Prison and beheaded him, but the first time that he went to Rome he had great freedom. People could come and see him [Acts 28:17, 23, 30], and he could preach to the people who’d come [Acts 28:23-31]. He dwelt in his own hired house [Acts 28:30]. They merely had a soldier there chained to him to guard him. But outside of that Praetorian Guard, Paul had perfect liberty. So while he was there in that first Roman imprisonment, the church at Philippi sent him a love gift [Philippians 4:10, 18].
That’s the only church that we know of that took any part in the support of Paul’s missionary labors [Philippians 4:15], but they did it often [Philippians 4:16]. When Paul was preaching in Macedonia, in Thessalonica, the church at Philippi sent him a gift [Philippians 4:16]. When Paul was preaching in the great Greek city of Corinth there on the Peloponnesian peninsula, there while he was laboring, the church at Philippi sent him a gift [2 Corinthians 8:1-4].
And now here in Rome, the church at Philippi remembers him once again. They sent that gift to Rome by a young man named Epaphroditus [Philippians 4:18]. And when he came to the great city, he didn’t just deposit the gift of Philippian love in the hands of the apostle, but he threw himself into the work with all of the energy of his life [Philippians 2:22]. And he so gave himself to multiply the labors of the great apostle Paul until he became sick [Philippians 2:27]. He wasted his life and finally was nigh unto death [Philippians 2:30].
The people at Philippi heard about it [Philippians 2:26].You see, he stayed there a long time: Philippian journey to Rome and then laboring there in Rome so strenuously and devotedly that he got sick unto death [Philippians 2:27, 30]. Then the people back in Philippi hear that their young man Epaphroditus is sick unto death. Then Epaphroditus hears that the church at Philippi, the home church, hears that he’s sick in Rome unto death, and that nearly kills that boy [Philippians 2:26].
That’s just the same way as all boys are made – all made alike. There is something in a boy that when he’s sick and he knows his mother knows it and his mother’s worried about it, that boy just gets so homesick he just nearly dies in his heart just thinking about mother thinking about him and how sick he is and nigh unto death [Philippians 2:27, 30] and how worried and how burdened they are at home.
Well that’s just like this young fellow Epaphroditus. When he heard that they knew that he was sick unto death, it added sorrow on sorrow and heaviness on heaviness. And Paul prayed for him, and the Lord raised him up [Philippians 2:27]. And Paul said, "I am sending him back home. I am sending Epaphroditus back home" [Philippians 2:24-25, 28]. And in his hand he carried this letter which is the sweetest letter in the Bible. All Paul says in this letter is, "God bless you, and I thank God upon every remembrance of you [Philippians 1:3-4] ’cause I have you in my heart [Philippians 1:7]; let us rejoice in the Lord [Philippians 3:1, 4:4]; and again I say, be glad in the Lord." It’s that kind of a letter, and you can see why it should be.
Now, in the description of this young fellow, Paul says some of the most magnificent things about him you could ever think for. Now look at the twenty-fifth verse: he calls him "my adelphon, my sunergon, my sustratiōtēs" [Philippians 2:25]. He calls him, "my brother, a companion in sympathy and love, my adelphon." He calls him, "my fellow laborer, my sunergon, my companion in toil and ministry." And he calls him, "my fellow-soldier, my sustratiōtēs, my companion in danger and in battle and in war."
I think those are ascending, and Paul mentioned them as such. "My brother," common sympathy and love; "my fellow worker," common toil and commitment; and "my fellow soldier," common danger and warfare." Then he says two other words here about him: "But your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants" [Philippians 2:25]. Now in the Greek those are just two words: "But your apostolon, your representative. In this young man, the whole church is here by my side. Your representative, your sent one – apostolon – your sent one, your messenger, and he that ministered." That’s just one word in the Greek.
"Your leitourgon, your minister, standing here by my side."That word leitourgon is an interesting word. A leitourgos was an assembly of the state and so came to be an assembly of the church. Your word "liturgy" comes from it. A leitourgos, a leitourgon, was a man who stood as a servant of the state, and so when it came to be applied to the church, it referred to a man who stands as a minister of God to do the obedience of God. And he applies that word here to Epaphroditus: He’s a leitourgon.He’s a minister of God "standing here by my side" [Philippians 2:25].
Then he says one other thing about him. Down there in the last verse, in the thirtieth verse, he says of Epaphroditus: "For the work of Christ he was nigh unto death" [Philippians 2:30]. Then you have it translated: "Not regarding his life." Now that Greek word paraboleuomai, "not regarding his life" – now I’m not saying that Paul uses it in this sense. I am just saying that the same word that Paul uses is the word that the gambler’s use when they throw everything on a stake – when they put down a stake and cast everything they have on the throw of the dice.That was a paraboleuomai. Everything on a throw, everything in that stake, putting everything in a gambler’s chance. You have it translated, "Not regarding his life" – paraboleuomai: "risk everything on the throw." It was a gambler’s term. It was used by men who cast dice and staked everything on a throw. Now that’s why I have entitled the message He Gambled His Life on God. This young fellow Epaphroditus put everything in that throw: his life, his soul, his talents, his future, his destiny. He bet everything on God, and for that he was nigh unto death as he gambled all that he had on God [Philippians 2:30].
Now that’s not an unusual thing for I see men stake everything on a throw in many, many categories. I’ve seen men, for example, put everything they have in cattle, everything they have in oil, everything they have in wheat, everything they have on the bank, everything they have on some treasure here in this earth. I see men all the time who gamble every treasure on a stake in this world and in this life: everything, everything.
One time they asked me to hold a funeral service of a big cattleman who had died, and so I went to hold the funeral service for the big cattle baron. And when I asked the family, "Was he a member of a church?" this was their reply. You listen to it. They said to me, "No, he was not a member of any church. He gave his whole life to cattle, and he never had time for the church. You understand, don’t you?" And I replied, simply and humbly, "Yes, I understand. I understand."
When he gets to the great judgment bar of Almighty God and he stands there in the presence of the great King, the Lord will ask him, "Were you a Christian? Did you give your life to the church and to the Son? Did you?" And he will reply, "Lord God, in my life I put everything in cattle. You understand, don’t You?" And God will reply, "Yes, I understand." Oh, we all pretty much like that! We gambling on something, and it’s something here, or it’s something there. We are betting our lives on something.
Now I want us to look at this young fellow Epaphroditus. He bet his life on God. Everything he had he threw in that stake – everything. His life, his destiny, his talents, what he had – everything he had – he bet it on God. Now what do you think of him? Well, there are millions and millions who rise to say, "And he lost, and he lost.Why sure he lost! He bet on God. He gambled on Christ. For Christ he gambled his life" – millions to say that he lost.
Well, sometimes when I think of the odds against that young fellow, sometimes I’m halfway sympathetic with those who say, "And he lost." Look at the odds against him: just to be a Christian, just to be a Christian, just to be a Christian was to imperil your life. And a little while after this, to be a Christian was to have a martyr’s death.
Look at the odds against him:pouring everything he had into that work and became sick and sick unto death [Philippians 2:27, 30]. Look at the odds against him:all of the trouble and the trials and the deprivations, all of the sacrifices that he had to make. Look at the odds against him,and he was betting on something he’d never seen!He’d never seen Jesus. He’d never seen God. He’d never seen Christ. He’d never seen the resurrection or the world that is to come. All that can be seen with the naked eye is the physical and the material and the temporal around you, and here this young fellow is betting his life and everything he has on a gambler’s chance in Christ.
Why, they rise by the millions and say, "He lost." Every infidel university professor that ever taught says,"He lost: a foolish, foolish, fanatical religionist. " Every gross materialist that lives says he lost. Every worldling that walks says he lost. Every grasping earthborn creature that walks in this earth says that he lost. They all say that he lost gambling his life on God.
There are just some of us who stand up to say, "That young fellow Epaphroditus who put everything he had in that throw," there are just some of us to say, "We believe that he won." He may have lost his life. That’s right. He may have lost everything that he had, confiscated by the Roman Imperial government. He may have lost every friend and all the fellowship of the old group that he knew, and the day may have come when he lived in a den or in a cave. He may have lost everything in this present world, but we believe that if he died a martyr that he received from the hands of Jesus a martyr’s crown [Revelation 2:10].
And we believe that if he lost a possession in this world that he was given treasures that never pass away in the world that is to come [Matthew 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 9:25]. And we believe that when the great time that he was translated, that when that time came, that the Lord Savior was there saying to his young friend Epaphroditus, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" [Matthew 25:21, 23]. We believe that he won. Over here in the first chapter of that Philippian letter and the twenty-first verse, Paul had written to the saints at Philippi: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21].
If for me to live is the world, to die is a loss. If for me to live is cattle, to die is a loss. If for me to live is the bank, to die is a loss. If for me to live is wheat, to die is a loss. If for me to live is money, to die is a loss. If for me to live is pleasure, to die is a loss. If for me to live is this world, to die is a loss; but if for me to live is Christ, to die is a gain. And we believe that Epaphroditus won in his gambler’s throw betting his life on God.
One time, I heard a missionary – the director of a tremendous mission. His name was Bingham [Rowland Bingham, c. 1872-1942]. I never saw him before. I’ve never seen him since. He was the director of a great mission work called The Sudan Inland Mission, and he directed that work in all of those vast reaches of the upper course of the Nile River.And in that address that moved and stirred my heart, he told of a girl – a woman, a young woman – who, he said, was the gift of God, the prayer of God, the instrument of God that had really saved and lost the Sudan Inland Mission. When he talked, they had over four hundred missionaries.
Well, it was the most unusual thing, and it went like this. He said that there was a servant girl who had the most common and ordinary name. Her name was Mary Jones. He said she was the household servant in a family for over a quarter of a century. He said that she was devout, loved God, a wonderful servant, and her master and her mistress loved her; but her family didn’t have anything to do with her. They thought she was funny and peculiar religiously. They never came to see her, he said. She just worked there as the servant girl in that home.
When she died, this missionary said, the service was held in the home, and she was buried from that home where she’d been a servant for over a quarter of a century. And he said all of her relatives came – every one of them. They were all there. And after the service was over, the mistress in the home asked the relatives to come back for refreshments. So they all gathered there. Each one, you know, had something on his mind, and so pretty soon they said it, "Could we have her personal effects?" Relatives are always interested: "Could we have her personal effects?"
"Yes," said the mistress, "Everything – all that she had – you’ll find in a trunk in her room. You’re welcome." So they all crowded into the room, and they all opened the trunk. They all went through that trunk looking for a bank book, and sure enough, they found a little book, and this is what they found in the little book. On one side, she entered her wages month by month by month for all of those years. It was a nice salary for a servant girl in those days. Month by month entered there on one side; and on the other side, month by month, she had entered little items like this: "For a native worker in Africa, $50; for a native worker in the South Sea Islands, $50; for a native worker in China, $50."
And they all eagerly turned the book down to a certain date when they knew she had received a legacy from her parents – $300. And there was the entry: "Received a legacy, $300," and on the other side, "gave to the Sudan Inland Mission, $300." And Bingham said, "And that was the gift that saved our work way back yonder." Went clear on through, and her last month’s wages were in the little book, and over here she had given it all away.
The reason, mostly, I tell you that is to tell you something else because I want our young folks to remember something about this church. Every time you walk through those beautiful big oak doors into the activities building there on San Jacinto Street, I want you to remember that blessed, sweet, sainted woman to whom those doors are dedicated. The dedication is there just so you’ll never forget and always remember. You’ll find on that door the plaque of dedication to Mariah Dunn and underneath the inscription, "She gave her all to the Lord." You go over there and read it.
All right, this is why that dedication is there. When I came here to be pastor of the church, there was a little old maiden woman who always sat right there toward the front on my right – always there, always there. And she’d speak to me frequently so preciously and so sweetly.Upon a day, she was hurt by an accident in the Dallas City Railway, and I found her in a big ward in Baylor Hospital.
I went to my dear, and sainted, and lamented friend, Orville Groaner, who’s now in glory – one of the best friends this poor preacher ever had. I went to Orville and I said, "Mr. Groaner, that little old maiden woman is in the hospital. She’s been hurt in an accident on a street car, and somebody ought to help her and see her through. And I think the railway company ought to pay at least for her hospital expenses and for the doctor, and so, Orville, I want you to be responsible for that little woman."And he said, "Pastor, I will."
And he was that. He was good to her and went to see her. I went to see her. We prayed for her, and we helped her. And Orville Groaner took that thing all the way through the court, and he got a little sum of money for her to pay for her accident: the hospital bill, and the expenses, and for the physician, and just a little beside. Then we took care of her.
While she was able, she came to church, but the day came when she was feeble and so old she couldn’t come. And Orville and I put her in a convalescent home – a nice, clean, pretty home out toward where I live. And there we cared for her, and we ministered to her, and we saw that she lacked nothing. And upon a day, she went to be with Jesus, and we buried that sweet, little, old maiden woman Mariah Dunn.
Well, because there wasn’t anybody and we didn’t know anybody, we went to the landlady where we had rented a room for her in order to dispose of her personal effects, just to say that we wouldn’t need the room any longer, and that everything was over, and to take out all of her things so that everything would be clear. And I want you to know, when Orville Groaner went through the personal effects of that dear sweet little old lady, he found a shoebox, and in that shoebox he found more than $25,000. And in that shoebox he found a will, and she had willed everything to the First Baptist Church – to us. Orville called me, and I said, "Orville, you have lost your equilibrium. That little woman never had a thing in the world. We have fed her and taken care of her for years. You just off."
"No," he said. "Pastor, I’ve got it here in my hand. It’s in a shoebox." Well I’d heard about people having so much money they just put it in shoeboxes and just put it around. I couldn’t believe it. Lo and behold, out of the blue of the sky, out of nowhere, there came relatives! The Lord help me, I never knew she had any relatives; my soul, my soul.
And I want you to know what those relatives did. They got them a first-class, high-powered lawyer here in Dallas, and they swore on a stack of Bibles from here to the moon that that little aunt of theirs was their most beloved aunt and that they had cared for her and waited on her by day and night – and I’d never seen them before, and I never heard of them – and that all of that money rightfully belonged to them.
Well, poor Orville and me, what do you do? What do you do? Well, I said, "Orville, we just can’t go to court, not us." He said, "That’s right, Preacher, we can’t go to court." But he said, "Preacher, I got something else. I got something else. Not only," he said to me, "do I have this recent will by which she willed everything to the First Baptist Church, but," he said, "Pastor, I have another will. In that box I found another will."
He said, "When she and her brother were living, and that brother was still living" – he died first – Orville said, "When both of them were living, they had a common will. Both of them had a will, and they both willed everything that they had to the First Baptist Church." Now, he said, "Pastor, here are two of them: one made by her and her brother willing everything to the First Baptist Church."And then he says, "I’ve got this recent will, when she’s by herself and her brother had died, willing everything to the First Baptist Church."
And so Orville went to their lawyer and put both of them down before him. And the lawyer called in all of those nieces and all of those relatives and said, "The best thing for you to do is just to compromise and get out of this what you can." So Orville and I agreed – – against my will. Brother, I wouldn’t have given them that much – – but Orville gave them about eight thousand dollars – something like that – just to keep it out of the court so our name, First Baptist Church, wouldn’t be tarnished by going to through the courts.
So we received from that blessed little old woman, we received about twenty thousand dollars. And what she was doing through the years and the years was this. She was saving every penny she could lay her hands on and putting it aside for us. Everything that she received that she could save, she put it aside for us. And she did that for years and years and years: saving up for us, putting aside for us, denying herself for us, going without for us.
That’s the reason, young people, I just wanted you to know why it is that on that building over there, when you go through those great big oak doors,you’ll see that plaque to Mariah Dunn. She gave her all to the Lord. She bet her life on God, gambling on Jesus. Oh, the Lord sanctify and bless the memory of that dear, sweet, little, faithful prayer partner who now has received from the Lord’s hand a thousandfold for all that she’s done for Him. She won. She staked on Jesus, and she won. And we all win in Him [Matthew 19:27-30; Mark 10:28-31; Luke 18:28-30]. You can’t lose with God [Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24-25].
That’s the appeal we make to your heart tonight. While we sing this song, somebody you to give his life to the Lord; somebodyyou to put his life in the church; a family you, down here by the side of this preacher: "Here I come, Pastor, and here I am. I’m taking Jesus as my Savior. I’m giving my life to God," or, "We’re putting our lives in the church." On the first note of that first stanza while we sing the song, would you come while we stand and while we sing?
YOUR LIFE ON GOD
I. The pagan convert – Epaphroditus
out of gross idolatry
for Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility
Name sometimes shortened to "Epaphras", like the missionary in Book of
to Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment
had a measure of liberty in his own hired house (Acts
Epaphroditus comes with a love gift from church at Philippi
Epaphroditus threw himself into the work with all his energy, until he became
sick unto death
Church at Philippi hear about his illness and greatly sorrow, which caused him
Paul prays for him, and sends him back home with letter in hand
II. Paul’s description of Epaphroditus
words in an ascending scale
– "my brother"
– "my fellow worker"
– "my fellow soldier"
– a minister who stands before the seat of government
translated "not regarding his life" – gambler’s term meaning "to stake
everything on a throw"
bet everything on God
see men do that on many things – cattle, oil, wheat
III. What do you think of a man like
Epaphroditus, staking everything on God?
who say he lost
The odds against him
would say he won
He may have lost his possessions, his friends, even his life; but he won from
the hands of Jesus a martyr’s crown(Matthew
If to live is the world, to die is a loss; but if to live is Christ, to die is
a gain (Philippians 1:21)
Jones and the Sudan Inland Mission