“Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;” Philippians 2:25 (NKJV)
“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:” Philemon 1:1-2
Roman military soldiers, especially front-line infantry, closely identified with their units; many were “branded” with their legion number or name. Veterans could immediately identify another veteran after they left service by the legion number or name branded on their arm. The historian Stephen Ambrose coined a term for soldiers—“band of brothers.” Today’s military describes unit cohesion as “…the bonding together of soldiers in such a way as to sustain their will and commitment to each other, the unit, and mission accomplishment, despite combat or mission stress.”
As Christian soldiers we are spiritually united to other believers through an unbreakable bond—we are all one in Christ! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Members of a local assembly call one another “brethren” because of our unbreakable bond – not just as family, but as an indivisible, organic unit who work together as a spiritual body. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:4-5)
This was the bond that the Apostle Paul had forged with many men and women who helped him in his ministry. He named many of them in his epistles as an indication that the bond between them mirrored that of soldiers who fight side-by-side, share a foxhole, march in the rain, and sleep in dark forests. People like Epaphroditus and Archippus were called fellow soldiers; Titus, Timothy, Clement, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas were fellow workers; Epaphras and Tychicus were fellow servants; Aristarcus a fellow prisoner. The Apostle Paul was close to these believers with whom he shared special bonds of friendship and suffering.
Today, the bond among believers is stronger and deeper than those formed by soldiers or people who work together. Our bond is secured by the Holy Spirit and cannot be broken. (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; II Corinthians 1:22) Our common, binding tie with other believers is the fellowship that we have with the Lord Jesus Christ. “…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3)
Stay alert! Stay together! March on!