Philippians 2:19-30, Timothy and Epaphroditus

Tonight, we will be discussing Philippians 2:12-30. In the second half of the reading (vv. 19-30) Paul gives the Philippians two more familiar and immediate examples of what a life worthy of having citizenship in Christ Jesus resembles – Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two men provide the Philippians with living examples of what unity and self-sacrifice look like in practice.

Timothy: (vv.19-24)

Timothy was Paul’s constant companion in his ministry and accompanied Paul on his missionary journey to Philippi. Acts 16. Timothy is currently with Paul in Paul’s house arrest in Rome, although Timothy himself is not imprisoned. Phil. 1:1. Paul hopes to send Timothy to the Philippians as soon as his hearing before Nero is resolved. (After the hearing, Paul is martyred, and Timothy will become the first bishop of Ephesus.)

Paul’s description of Timothy gives his audience a better understanding of exactly what a life in Christ looks like. First, Paul says that Timothy is “like-minded.” v.20. The Greek is “isopsychon” which literally translates as “equal” (iso-) “soul” (psyche). Paul and Timothy’s relationship is that of being of one spirit and one mind which Paul wrote about in 1:27.

Paul also describes Timothy as someone who is “anxious for your general welfare.” Paul does not say that Timothy is a good leader or an excellent teacher. Nor does Paul say that Timothy is a devout and blameless man. Rather, Paul’s only description of Timothy is that he will genuinely care about you. That is the sole leadership qualification that Paul gives. Timothy is a walking example of someone who counts others better than himself and looks after the interests of others.

Epaphroditus: (vv. 25-29)

The second person mentioned by Paul is Epaphroditus. This man was sent by the Philippians to bring their monetary gift to Paul and to minister to Paul during his house arrest. During his journey to Paul, Epaphroditus became ill and almost died. Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to the Philippians with this letter, and presumably, with additional teachings related to those we read in this letter.

Paul describes Epaphroditus as a brother, co-worker, fellow-soldier, and your apostle and minister. In fulfilling his mission to go to Paul, he almost suffers death. As Paul writes: “He risked his life to complete your service to me.” v.29. His placing Paul’s and the Philippians’ interests above his own, almost caused his death. This is Christ-like service.

In this discussion of Epaphroditus, we find, for the first time, Paul’s writing of being anxious and sorrowful. Paul has written that whether he, Paul, lives or dies, he and the Philippians should still rejoice. 1:19, 2:18. However, when it comes to Epaphroditus, Paul says that God’s preservation of Epaphroditus was merciful not only to him but to Paul “lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” v.27. Paul writes that by sending Epaphroditus back home, Paul will be less anxious about his well-being. v.28

Paul’s honesty reminds us that although we are called to rejoice, we cannot escape or ignore our common humanity and the ups-and-downs of our daily lives. Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend. John 11:35. And so Paul reminds us that we too can be anxious and sorrowful amid our rejoicing.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is Chinese chicken salad. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8. Hope to see you here!

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning

Pslam 30:4-5

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