The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
February 5, 2012


1) Philippians 2:18-30 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 2:18-30
by Tom Edwards

In our last installment, we closed with Paul's being able to rejoice in pouring out his life as a drink offering, metaphorically speaking, in his service to the Philippians and his sharing that joy with them all.  He, therefore, continues that thought in Philippians 2:18, by saying, "You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me."  For that is what Paul wanted.  Even if he would have to be literally sacrificed for Christ, Paul could still rejoice -- and would want the brethren to do so also, instead of mourning for him.  One reason for that can be seen in what he had expressed earlier, concerning his view toward life and death, as brought out in Philippians 1:21: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."   The brethren could, therefore, be glad for Paul's life; but they could also rejoice in knowing that his death would lead him to something even far greater.  

And not only is death set forth by the apostle Paul in a very positive way with hope and joy of something better, but also by God's perspective toward one who dies as a faithful believer.  For consider the following: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones" (Psa. 116:15).  That certainly is a comforting thought for the righteous.  Also, in Luke 16:22, there is a point that might not often be emphasized in sermons when considering in this chapter of the rich man and Lazarus.  It says, "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried."  "Abraham's bosom" is symbolizing Paradise, where the poor, beggar Lazarus was taken to.  But notice again how he was taken there: He was "carried away by the angels."  That makes sense, doesn't it?  For how would one go about transporting his own soul to Paradise?  But as long as we are striving to do God's will, we won't have to worry about that.  For the angels will then take us there, when that time comes.  For they are "...ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14); and they will also return with Jesus when He comes back on the last day, when all the dead will be raised (Jn. 5:28,29), and when we who are saints will meet the Lord in the air (cf. Mk. 8:38 with 1 Thess. 4:16,17).  

In Philippians 2:19, Paul then says, "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."  

As seen earlier, Timothy had been with Paul when the church in Philippi was established with Lydia and her household, along with the Philippian jailer and his household, as being the first converts (Acts 16).  So the Philippians knew Timothy well.  Their familiarity with him can also be inferred from Philippians 2:22, when Paul says to the Philippians, "But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father."  That the Philippians would know of Timothy's "proven worth" indicates that he had been with them for some time.  We also saw that Timothy, as well as Luke, had been with Paul when he went to Rome as a prisoner, and spent two years there.  Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written during that time; so they are sometimes referred to as the Prison epistles; and Timothy is mentioned in all of these except Ephesians (Phil. 1:1; 2:19; Col. 1:1; Philemon 1:1,2).  

Timothy must have been a great service and comfort to Paul.  In writing his last epistle, notice what Paul says of him in 2 Timothy 4:9-13: "Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.  But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.  When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments."

That Paul hoped to soon send Timothy to the Philippians was to be a two-fold mission.  First, Timothy would be able to take a word of encouragement to the Philippians and update them about the apostle Paul; and, secondly, he would also be able to return to Paul with a report of their condition.  

This certainly wasn't the first time that Timothy was used in this manner.  On another occasion, Paul had sent Timothy from Athens to the Thessalonians to bring them comfort and encouragement, during their time of persecution; and to then report back to Paul, which, in this case, included good news of their faith and love (1 Thess. 3:1-8).  In 1 Corinthians 4:17, we also have the example of Paul sending Timothy to Corinth to remind them of Paul's ways in Christ, which he had taught everywhere in every church; and through which they could be imitators of Paul, as he was of Jesus Christ (1 Cor.  4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1).  

In speaking more about the goodness of Timothy, consider what Paul says about him in Philippians 2:20,21: "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."   Paul refers to Timothy as having been a "kindred spirit."  Though we often think of the term "kindred" as referring to one's relatives, it also has a third meaning of "having the same belief, attitude, or feeling."  It would be this latter definition that best describes the relationship between Paul and Timothy.  In 2 Timothy 3:10,11, Paul commends Timothy for having followed in Paul's "teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings...."  So not only in the teaching, but also in conduct and attitudes, there was a great similarity between Paul and Timothy -- a "kindred spirit."  Paul had the truth in his life, which had changed his life for the better; and now that life was also influencing Timothy even more in the right direction.  

In Philippians 2:20,21, we need to keep in mind that Paul is probably not comparing Timothy to all the brethren in the world; but to only those who were with him in Rome at that time, when speaking of having no one else of kindred spirit who would genuinely and unselfishly be concerned for the Philippians.  And it would also seem that Mark, Luke, and Epaphroditus would have been away on a mission at that time, so that they would not have been included in that comparison.  

Notice what Paul then writes in Philippians 2:23,24: "Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;  and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly."

The "him" whom Paul speaks of sending is Timothy, Paul's "true child in the faith," as he refers to him in 1 Timothy 1:2.  Paul was waiting to first find out whether he would be released or not from his house-arrest, which  Timothy would then be able to inform the Philippians.  

Paul closes this chapter with a heartfelt remark about Epaphroditus in Philippians 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, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.  Therefore receive him 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."

As mentioned, this man, who had been a messenger for the Philippians, had traveled about 700 miles (over land and sea) in order to bring support to the apostle Paul in his Roman imprisonment.  Epaphroditus had been near unto death, due to sickness.  There is no mentioned that Paul worked a miracle on him to heal him; but the restoration of his health is attributed to God who had mercy on him.  This illustrates the fact that the main purpose for miracles was to confirm God's word -- not merely to make people well again or to have a supernatural power for one's personal use (cf. Mk. 16:17-20 and Heb. 2:2-4).  This can also be inferred from 2 Timothy 4:20, in which Paul, who could work miracles by the power of God, says, "...Trophimus I left sick at Miletus."  Why would Paul leave Trophimus sick, if Paul could simply heal anyone he desired to see well again? And why would Paul tell Timothy to, "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Tim. 5:23), instead of just healing him of that stomach problem and frequent ailments?  We know that Paul thought very dearly of Timothy, as his own son in the faith. Surely, if Paul could have healed on the basis of merely personal feelings, he would have miraculously healed Timothy; but, instead, we see him prescribing a natural remedy.  The very fact that Paul recommended a treatment for Timothy shows that Paul was concerned with Timothy becoming well again; but there was no shortcut miracle performed on him to quickly bring that about.  

Paul also had some type of infirmity in his own life that he initially wanted to be healed of and prayed about; but he wasn't.  He did, however, come to learn that his infirmity was keeping him humble and that God's grace is sufficient, "for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:7,9).  Paul, therefore, could then gladly boast in his weaknesses, that the power of Christ might dwell in him.  For Paul knew that when he was weak (physically), he was strong (spiritually) (vv. 9,10).  So from this, we see that even infirmities can be used for our good.  Consider also Psalm 119:67 and 71: "Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Thy word."   "It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes."  Solomon writes about God that "Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted" (Prov. 3:34).   And would not these "afflicted" be not just anyone in general; but, rather, those who belong to God?  So the point is that as a faithful child of the Lord undergoing affliction, our greatest relief can be in the grace of God and all which that involves in our personal lives.  If afflictions help us to trust more in the Lord then they truly are for our good.  

Let us also remind ourselves, just how close Paul must have felt toward Epaphroditus. By the Lord having mercy on him and healing him, Paul refers to it as God also showing mercy to him, and saving him from the "sorrow upon sorrow" he would have had over Epaphroditus' death.  This indicates the "strong personal affection"  Paul had toward him; but even that in itself could not authorize a miracle.  So regardless of how good of a friend the one with the gift of healing was toward the sick, miracles were not performed unless it was truly what God wanted.  

E. M. Zerr cites Epaphroditus as "a striking case of unselfishness."  For rather than being worried about himself -- even when near unto death -- he had, instead, been distressed over the Philippians who had heard of his poor health; so he was worried that they might be overly troubled about that.  Philippians 2:26 is rendered in the KJV as, "For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick."   The ASV speaks of him as being "sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick."

This feeling between the Philippians and Epaphroditus reminds us, too, of 1 Corinthians 12:26,  where Paul declares, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."  Epaphroditus and the Philippians had mutual feelings for each other.  

We can also see an unselfishness in the apostle Paul with regard to Epaphroditus, which can be inferred from Philippians 2:28, where Paul states, "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." Paul was more concerned for the Philippians being comforted by Epaphroditus than himself.  

Paul refers to Epaphroditus as a "fellow worker and fellow soldier" (Phil. 2:25).  Why does the Bible use this term "soldier" in referring to a Christian?  J. W. Shepherd writes: "This shows how full of danger the work of the gospel was at that time to those who executed it faithfully; and that the sincere preachers of the gospel, together with the martyrs who sealed it with their blood, bring before us a noble army commanded by Christ, which was successfully warring against infidelity and other powers of darkness which were in opposition to God."  And even when we are not experiencing the intensity of that persecution the early Christians did, we are still up against a spiritual battle between flesh and spirit (Rom. 8:5-8).  Paul had exhorted Timothy to "Suffer hardship" with him "as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3), and Christians are shown in Ephesians 6 of the "full armor of God" that is to be put on in order to withstand the enemy: And it is the truth to gird our loins; righteousness for a breastplate; the gospel of peace to shod our feet; faith for a shield to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one; salvation as a helmet; and the word of God, which is "the sword of the Spirit" and also the one that we are to wield. 

Epaphroditus was a "messenger" of the Philippians.  Interestingly, though the Greek word for this is translated just once as "messenger" and once as "messengers," its most common rendering in the New Testament is "apostles" (52 times) -- and also  "apostle" (19), and possessively as "apostles'" (5).  For it is from the Greek word "apostolos." The literal meaning of it is also used in John 13:16: "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is ONE WHO IS SENT greater than the one who sent him." The phrase "one who is sent" is all from that one Greek word "apostolos."  

Epaphroditus was also a "minister," which can refer to various kinds of servants; and, therefore, should not be thought of as an exclusive term for a preacher.  Traveling about 700 miles to bring support to Paul was just one of the ways in which Epaphroditus had been a minister (or a servant).  And that in itself indicated courage.  For not only were there possible dangers in the journey; but also what about the arrival and being affiliated with Paul at that time?  Concerning this, William Barclay states of Epaphroditus: "He was a brave man; for anyone who proposed to offer himself as an attendant of a man waiting trial on a capital charge was laying himself open to considerable risk of facing the same charge."  Could that have been the reason that some had deserted Paul? As we saw earlier: "...all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes" (2 Tim. 1:15).  But that wasn't the way of Epaphroditus.  For he was truly a good minister unto Paul, unto his brethren, and unto the Lord.         


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Anthony Webb Sr. who though had lost some considerable weight due to thyroid trouble, has been able to put some back on.

* Jean Calloway is still recovering at home from her illness and the pain and swelling around her knee. 

* Mike Dubose who is suffering from cancer and receiving continual treatment for it.

* Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who is healing from wrist surgery. 

* Clifton Trimble who has not been well.

* Geneva Wilson who is weak physically and housebound, but had to be admitted to the hospital recently, due to a kidney infection, for which she received antibiotics intravenously.

* Shirley Young who experiences fibromyalgia every day, and with some days more so than others.

* Cheryl Crews who has chronic ailments and has also been experiencing nausea, due to some of her medication. 

Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson who are seeking employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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