Week of May 4, 2008
Bible Verses:† Philippians 2:19-22,25-30; 4:15-18.
Biblical Truth: By showing appreciation for others, we give evidence of building strong relationships with them.
Show Confidence in Anotherís Character: Phil. 2:19-22.
† But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. † For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. † For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. † But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.†††† [NASU]
These verses form a
break in the letter. Paul exhorted through commands from 1:27-2:18, and he
returned to that in 3:1-4:8. Here he provided information about his situation
and his intent to visit the Philippian church when he could. In these verses,
Paul promised to send Timothy and Epaphroditus and praised them for their good
character and service to him and to the Lord. These two stand as further
examples of the mind of Christ. They both served unselfishly, considering
others better than themselves. This section has often been called a travelogue
because it reveals Paulís travel plans, and Timothy and Epaphroditus fit into
those plans. It is necessary to explain why these verses occur in this part of
the text. The answer must be that while Paul thought of the mind of Christ he
was reminded of two who represented that character and had especially been
selfless in their service to him. Since they each had a special relationship to
the church at Philippi, Paul took the opportunity to discuss their character,
their value to the ministry, and their proposed journey to
† Knowing he could not visit
[20-22]† These verses contain one of the
highest commendations possible. The commendation includes a statement and three
reasons to support it. Simply stated, Paul sent Timothy because he was a kindred spirit. Timothy was a partner
in ministry, sharing Paulís commitments and burdens. Paul gave three evidences
that what he said was true. First, Timothy had a genuine interest in the
affairs of the church at
Care About Anotherís Well-Being: Phil. 2:25-30.
† But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; † because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. † For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. † Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. † Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; † because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.†††† [NASU]
† With a similar style of commendation, Paul explained why he sent Epaphroditus to the Philippians. Paul wanted to send Timothy, but he also found it necessary to send Epaphroditus. That raises many questions. Why would Paul have felt that way? Would Epaphroditus not be of service to Paul as the church originally intended? Did something happen to sour him or Paul? Was he physically impaired in a way that limited his usefulness? Further, it would seem that Epaphroditus could make the trip without Timothy, so perhaps Timothy accompanied him for his sake, as well as to find out about the church. The text provides no answer to these questions. For that reason, it is best to state what the text does and leave the rest to conjecture. The first commendation mentioned by Paul was Epaphroditusís relationship to Paul. Obviously Paul expressed a fondness and deep appreciation for him. Paul reminded them of Epaphroditusís relationship to him on their behalf. As for Paul, Epaphroditus was a brother, a fellow-worker, and a fellow-soldier. These descriptions emphasize partnership by employing familial, vocational, and military terms. Each of them provides insight as to how Paul saw the work of the gospel. Epaphroditus was an equal; there was no hint of inferiority or failure. Epaphroditusís service had been a gift from the Philippian church to Paul. He came with news of the churchís love and a gift from them. He also determined to stay and care for Paul. This action demonstrated the love of the church in sending and supporting Paul, and it showed the self-giving character of Epaphroditus, who left home to serve in difficult circumstances.
[26-28]† Apparently on the way to
[29-30]† Paul urged the members of the
Philippian church to welcome Epaphroditus with
all joy. If they had doubts about whether Epaphroditus had failed in his
mission, Paul relieved those concerns. He had risked his life for Paul, but he
also had done it in demonstration of his love for them. He endured sickness
near to death for their sakes, by acting on their behalf. Deficient in your service to me does not refer to any lack of
desire on the part of the Philippians. It rather refers to the fact that the
Philippian church could not assist Paul while in prison because of the distance
they were from
Express Gratitude for Anotherís Contribution:† Phil. 4:15-18.
† You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; † for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. † Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. † But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.†††† [NASU]
† Paul commended the church for the way it supported him. From the very first it supported his work, evidencing the genuineness of salvation and love for Paul. It was the only Macedonian church to support him. The other churches failed in their obligations to the gospel. Subtly and without complaining, Paul pointed out that others had received but not given. They had a one-way relationship in the gospel. Paul expected rejection and loneliness in his work; it came as no surprise. He was, however, troubled for two reasons. First, when they received they had a responsibility to share. Second, they missed the spiritual blessings that came from giving. The Philippians understood both principles and acted on them. That brought joy to Paulís heart.
[16-17]† Paul also commended them because their support was immediate and consistent. He also commended them because their gifts were an investment. Financial terms dominate this passage. The gifts were an investment in the work of God and in their future. Some believers may have mistakenly assumed that Paul sought gifts, but he clearly stated he sought the blessings it would bring to the givers. Paul saw beyond the physical act to the spiritual transactions taking place. Even in acknowledging their support, his servant attitude surfaced. He thought of their growth and blessings.
† Genuine giving seeks no personal
benefits. Nevertheless, giving brings blessings to both giver and receiver.
Paul listed two benefits to the giver. First, God was pleased. In terms reminiscent
of Romans 12:1-2, Paul pointed out that their gift was an acceptable Christian
sacrifice. Like Romans 12, this passage teaches that physical activity can
become spiritual in motivation and importance. Romans states that dedicating
the body to God is a spiritual act. Here, Paul revealed that giving was a
spiritual exercise. Paul had developed a comprehensive theology of stewardship.
Its most thorough statement occurs in 2 Cor. 8-9, where he solicited support
for a famine relief offering. He stated that the Macedonians led the way in
giving, and most likely the primary church to give was
Questions for Discussion:
1.††††††††† Paul describes Timothy as a kindred spirit or a partner in the ministry. What three reasons does Paul give for describing Timothy in this way?
2.††††††††† Why does Paul think it necessary to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippian church? Paul uses three terms to describe his relationship with Epaphroditus. What insight do these three terms provide into Paulís view of the work of the Gospel?
3.††††††††† What character traits do you see in Timothy and Epaphroditus that are important for effective ministry? How can you further develop these character traits so that your ministry will be more honoring to God?
4.††††††††† Genuine giving seeks no personal benefits. Yet Paul lists two benefits to the giver. What are they? What is Paulís theology of stewardship [see also 2 Cor. 8-9]? Is this the way you view your giving?
Letís Study Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson, Banner of Truth.
Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Richard Melick, Jr., NAC, Broadman.
The Message of Philippians, J.A. Motyer, Inter-Varsity.