There are times when I read my Bible that I find contrasts so intense they leave no pretense for similarity in the subject or persons being discussed. Such is the case with an Old Testament pair named Jannes and Jamres and a man from the New Testament named Epaphroditus.
Read the verses below to see the contrast in their character:
- 2 Timothy 3:8-9: Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no farther; for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as theirs also was.
- Ephesians 2:25-30: Epaphroditus has been my brother, fellow-worker and comrade-in-arms, as well as being the messenger you sent to see to my wants . . . men like him should be held in highest honour, for his loyalty to Christ brought him very near death—he risked his life to do for me in person what distance prevented you all from doing.
Jannes and Jambres were magicians; sons of Balaam; and, they played a part in the golden calf incident. These men were acrimonious malcontents with narcissistic appetites that were edacious and voracious.
Epaphroditus, however, was sanguine in his service and meticulous in his ministry, and he was a paragon of faithfulness.
Jannes and Jambres were judged as recalcitrant reprobates, but the epitaph of Epaphroditus was a declaration of one who had lived a laudable life. The difference in the lives of these men is the distinction between the appetite of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. This is Paul’s focus in Galatians 5:
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
The important question is not: “When you review your life which path have you walked?” The question of most concern is: “When you look to the future, which path will you take?”