Session 11

Philippians Study – Session 11

(Philippians 2:19-30)

 

In these verses we are introduced to two people.  One plays a key role in the New Testament and the other makes only a cameo appearance only in the book of Philippians.  Verses 19-24 focus on Timothy.  There was no person closer to or more valuable to the Apostle Paul than Timothy. 

·         Timothy is mentioned approximately 20 times in Paul’s letters. 

·         Two of Paul’s letters in are addressed specifically to him. 

·         2 Timothy 4 indicates that Paul viewed Timothy as his successor in the faith, expecting Timothy to carry-on the work he began.

We know quite a bit about Timothy. 

·         He was the product of a mixed marriage.  His father was Greek and his mother was Jewish. 

·         He did not grow up in one of the major political or educational or religious centers of the 1st century world like Rome or Alexandria or Jerusalem.  He was from the area of Derbe and Lystra and Iconium, rather small, insignificant towns in Asia Minor.  

·         He was not educated in a prestigious school as was Paul who studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem. 

·         He was not by nature a very aggressive person.  As matter of fact seemed to be rather timid and retiring.

Verses 25-29 focus on Epaphroditus.  In contrast to Timothy, we know almost nothing about Epaphroditus.  We do not know whether he was married or single/young or old/rich or poor/educated or illiterate.  He is mentioned by name only twice in the Bible, both times in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.  When the Christians in Philippi heard that Paul was in prison, they sent gifts to Paul to help him during that difficult time.  Epaphroditus, a member of the Philippian church, was selected to deliver the gifts.  In Philippians 4:18 Paul tells them, “I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent...”  Having received the gifts Epaphroditus delivered, Paul sent him back to Philippi, probably bearing the letter to the Philippians.

            I think there is a reason Paul spends 11 verses at the end of chapter 2 of Philippians focusing on Timothy and Epaphroditus.  At the beginning of this chapter he wrote of the importance of living an others-centered life as opposed to a self-centered life.  Timothy and Epaphroditus are shining examples of what an others-centered life looks like.

 

Timothy – Philippians 2:19-24

Timothy shows us three characteristics of an others-centered life.

An others-centered life genuinely cares about others

1.      Florence Nightingale was born into a wealthy, aristocratic English family...very early in her life she began to think of becoming a nurse...in those days nurses were looked upon as questionable women with questionable motives...her parents were horrified at the thought of her being a nurse and attempted to discouraged her at every turn...her fiancé was also appalled at the idea...but Florence Nightingale left her family and walked away from the man she loved to train as a nurses...when asked to explain her actions she simply said, “My mind is absorbed with the idea of the sufferings of [people].” [Brian’s Lines, July/Aug. 2001, p.15] 

2.      I think Timothy would have understood her sentiment...notice what Paul says about Timothy in the last part of v.20...he tells the Philippians that Timothy “...will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”...the emphasis in that statement is on the word “genuine”…Timothy’s caring for others was not forced or artificial or pretend.  He had an unfeigned interest in the welfare of others. 

An others-centered life is unselfish

1        V.21 is a sad verse...it contrasts Timothy with the other Christians around Paul when he wrote this letter...of those surrounding him Paul says, “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus...”...what a tragic thing...instead of being able to see the larger picture, their only concern was what interested and what would benefit them...instead of having a kingdom vision, they had a selfish vision…they—

--didn’t care what others thought; they only cared what they thought...

--weren’t concerned with what others needed; they were only concerned with their own needs...

--weren’t concerned with what was best for the larger body; they selfishly pushed their own narrow agendas...

2.      Timothy had the kind of unselfish heart which enabled him to put aside his personal preferences, desires, biases, tastes for the larger good...and how rare it is to find such a person and how needed in our world!

An others-centered life is humble

1.   In v.22 Paul says a wonderful thing about Timothy...he says, “...he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.”...in other words, Timothy willing to let Paul have the upper hand...Timothy was characterized by a humility which made him perfectly content to serve in the shadow of Paul...

3.      And, contrary to popular opinion, Paul was characterized by that same kind of spirit...

--notice how he worded v.22...not, “Timothy served me...” but Timothy “served with me”...that is, “Timothy served alongside me...”...even though Timothy was content to serve under Paul, Paul elevated him to a position of equality with him...

--and then back in v.20 Paul described Timothy as a “kindred spirit” with him...that word is a compound word literally meaning “equaled souled”...

And while Paul could have easily placed himself in a position of authority and superiority over Timothy, his son in the faith, he graciously elevated Timothy to his level...

4.       In the book A Call to Excellence there’s a beautiful story about D.L. Moody, the famous evangelist...he invited a group of pastors from Europe to a Bible conference in the states...following the European custom of the time,  each guest put his shoes outside his room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But of course this was America and there were no hall servants.  Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but met with only silence or pious excuses. Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s only famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes. Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of the work revealed the secret.  When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never know by whom.[Gary Inrig, A Call to Excellence, (Victor Books, a division of SP Publ., Wheaton, Ill; 1985), p. 98]

 

Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25-29

Notice what Paul says about Epaphroditus in the last part of v.29....”...hold men like him in high regard...”...in other words, Paul is saying, “Here is someone you can look up to...someone after whom you can model your lives.”...what was there in the life of Epaphroditus that made him such a good role model for others? 

 

Epaphroditus was a balanced Christian

1        In verse 25 Paul describes Epaphroditus with three phrases - “...my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier...”...each of those phrases emphasizes an important part of the Christian life…

·         Fellowship or relationships with other believers...he was a “brother”...

·         Service and ministry - He didn’t sit on the sideline...he did his share...he was a “fellow worker”... 

·         Defending the faith against attacks from those who would tear it down...put his life on the line for the gospel...he was a  “fellow soldier”...

2.      However, the special thing about Epaphroditus is that while he was a—

·         “brother” who enjoyed fellowship with other Christians, his entire focus wasn’t just on fellowship...

·         “fellow worker” who understood the importance of serving, his entire focus wasn’t just on serving...

·         “fellow soldier” who willingly defended the faith, his entire focus wasn’t just on defending the faith...

Epaphroditus had the unique ability of keeping these three expressions of the Christian life in balance in his life...

3.      It is deadly for us to lose our balance in the spiritual realm of life...if we get out of balance and  focus too much on —

·         The fellowship side of the Christian life we can become self-centered and elitist and superficial...

·         The ministry side of the Christian life we can become prideful and even develop a “poor me, look how much I do” martyr complex...

·         Defending the faith against every real or supposed, we can become negative, mean-spirited, always striking out at or attacking others...

 

Epaphroditus was a committed Christian

1        At the end of v.25 Paul says a lovely thing about Epaphroditus... he describes him with this phrase: “...minister to my need”... the word translated “minister” in that phrase is not the word normally translated minister or servant in the NT...that word is diakonos from which our word deacon comes...the word Paul used in v.25 is  leitourgos...in using that word, Paul was communicating a special truth about Epaphroditus which the Christians in 1st century Philippi would have immediately understood...

2.      This word was used in two specific ways in the ancient world—

--in a religious sense was used to refer to service in a temple...our word liturgy comes from this word...taken that way, Paul would be saying that as Epaphroditus carried out his ministry to Paul, he was in the process performing an act of service to God...

--in the secular sense was used to refer to someone who went beyond the call of duty in public service...in ancient days wealthy people would undertake at their own expense certain civic projects...it might be financing a public play or outfitting a warship or paying a crew to serve on a ship...the word leitourgos was used to describe a significant act of generosity...taken that way, Paul would be saying, “Epaphroditus is a man who has done something significant, something important in ministry...you would do well to imitate him.”

 

Epaphroditus was a compassionate Christian

1        Like Timothy, Epaphroditus was concerned about others...he, too, was one of those people who was focused more on the needs of others than his own needs...

2.      While he was in Rome with Paul, Epaphroditus became ill...some speculate that perhaps he fell victim to the notorious Roman fever which sometimes swept through the city killing hundreds of people [Barclay, p.61]...his illness was so severe that Paul says in v.27, “...he was sick to the point of death...”

3.      But the interesting thing here is Epaphroditus’ reaction to his illness...he wasn’t concerned for himself...he was concerned because he knew his Christian friends back in Philippi would be worried about him...Paul tells the Philippians in v.25 that Epaphroditus was “...distressed...”...that word carries the idea of bearing a great burden, being heartsick...it’s the word used to describe what Jesus felt the night before his crucifixion as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane...and why was he “distressed?”...v.25 tells us he was distressed because the his friends in Philippi “...had heard that he was sick...”

4.      And that little statement speaks volumes about the kind of person Epaphroditus was...instead of viewing his illness as an opportunity to draw attention to himself, he viewed it as an opportunity to express concern for others...

 

Epaphroditus was a courageous Christian

1        V.30 speaks of Epaphroditus “risking his life”...that phrase probably refers to more than just the illness Epaphroditus contracted...more than likely it refers to the risk he took in being openly associated with Paul, a Roman prisoner who could be executed...     

2.      The word translated “risking” to stick one’s neck out...to take a chance...Epaphroditus was not a man who played it safe...

--he willingly made the risky journey from Philippi to Rome, along the way guarding and protecting the gifts the church was sending to Paul...

--upon arriving in Rome, he freely and openly associated with Paul, even though he risked sharing Paul’s fate for doing so...

3.      There’s a lesson in that for us...one writer put it this way: “Too often too many of us play it safe.  Fear of failure keeps us from stretching and breaking new ground for Christ.  We need to realize that trying and failing is not as bad as not trying at all.  Living in a world of radical change and great need, we must be willing to use that change to meet those needs in the name of Christ.” [Harbour, Notes on Philippians]

4.      Christianity needs more people like Epaphroditus...people who are willing to take risk to break new ground in doing God’s work in the world....

Conclusion

1.      Philippians 2 is one of the great chapters in the Bible.  Every person lives either by Philippians 2:4 (“...do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others...”)  or Philippians 2:21 (“For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”)...

2.      The last paragraph of this great chapter tells us that Timothy and Epaphroditus were Philippians 2:4 kind of Christians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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