Serving Christ (Philippians 2:19-30)
In our culture, we honor men and women who achieve greatness in their field, like military generals, athletes, business entrepreneurs, scientists, musicians and artists. When we want to motivate someone aspiring to advance in that field, we almost always hold up the superstars. For most, this is an inspiration, but maybe not for everyone. Some may dismiss the superstar because they think that they will never be great.
That is why I think Paul’s tactic in this text resonates with me so much. Paul is looking to give an example of what it looks like to live a life that is worthy of the gospel. Rather than going back into the archives of Jewish history and pointing to all-stars like Abraham, Moses, David, or Daniel, he holds up two ordinary men, Timothy and Epaphroditus. No one ever uses ordinary men as examples of greatness because ordinary men are so, ordinary. But Paul does, and so does God, and that gives me a lot of hope because I am pretty ordinary.
God does not call us to greatness; he calls us to faithfulness. I may never be able to be great or famous or make an impact on the world. But my friends, that is not what God requires of us. God takes ordinary people and He does extraordinary things to them and through them so that He gets the glory (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
As Paul holds up these two ordinary men, he exhorts the Christians of Philippi and of all ages to “honor such men” (Philippians 2:29). This is the major imperative of this section of his letter. They were to honor men who are like Timothy and Epaphroditus. It is entirely possible that Paul exhorts the Philippians tohonor these men because they would not think to do it otherwise. Most likely, Epaphroditus was a very ordinary man. He could have been the equivalent of a modern, blue-collar workingman who was willing to use his vacation to go on this short-term mission for the church.
The hard truth is our society does not honor these kinds of men. We overlook them. Worse, we oftendespise them. And the church is often no different. We are so enamored with the celebrity Christians in our church that we overlook the ordinary men and women who are faithful to Christ within the sphere of their home, their church, their work, and their community. “Honor such men.”
Before we learn what makes these two men honorable, we need to understand the context in which Paul honors them. At a minimum, it seems that Paul is accomplishing four purposes in this section of his letter.
First, Paul is giving the Philippians his travel plans. We see this in 2:19, 23, 24. Notice that Paul uses terms like, “I hope in the Lord Jesus” and “I trust in the Lord.” From this we learn an important lesson. Paul recognizes the sovereign rule of Christ over his travel plans. He does not speak with certainty about what he will and will not do in the future. Many of our fathers in the faith used the term “Lord Willing” to show this same submission to the Lordship of Christ. Though it sounds quite Puritan, we would do well to add this phrase to our everyday vocabulary.
Second, Paul is sending Timothy to address his pastoral concerns in the church at Philippi. We see that Paul will not just send anyone. He is looking for a faithful man to shepherd God’s flock. From this we learn the importance of choosing qualified and faithful men as those who will serve our church.
Third, Paul is sending Epaphroditus to ease an emotional distress that is going on. Epaphroditus is concerned about the folks at Philippi (26a). The folks at Philippi are concerned about Epaphroditus (26b). Paul is concerned about all of them (27-28). Then God shows His concern for them by having mercy on all of them (27). Let us remind ourselves of the wonderful truth that our God can and does heal physical disease when it is His will.
Fourth, Paul is giving an example of the kind of Christ-likeness that he has been discussing. He gives an example of Christians living in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27) and Christians who have the mind of Christ (2:3-5). This is where we learn the kinds of characteristics and qualities that are honorable in Christians. “Honor such men.”
Four reasons Timothy and Epaphroditus were held up as honorable examples:
1. They are CONCERNED for the welfare of others, specifically the Church.
a. Timothy: v20 “I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”
i. v25 “your messenger and minister to my need”
ii. v26 “he has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.”
2. They SEEK the interests of Christ.
a. Timothy: v21 “They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
3. They SERVE for the advance of the Gospel.
a. Timothy: v23 “he has served with me in the gospel.”
b. Ephaphroditus: v25 “my brother, my fellow worker, my fellow soldier.”
4. They RISK THEIR LIVES for the work of Christ.
a. Ephaphroditus: v30 “he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life...”
APPLICATION QUESTION: How can we cultivate these commitments into our lives so that we—like Timothy and Epaphroditus—can be the kind of Christians that are honorable?
LOOK TO CHRIST! (Philippians 2:5-11)
Christ was concerned for the welfare of others, specifically the church.
Christ did not seek His own interests, but sought the interests of His Father.
Christ did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Christ not only risked His life, but He sacrified His life to accomplish the work of redemption.
Because Christ served us through the cross, we are to serve others for the gospel and the glory of Christ.