Concluding the second chapter of Philippians, Paul binds up his instructions with the encouragement of two faithful ministers who were working on their behalf: Timothy and Epaphroditus. Both of these men had given much for the sake of the Philippian church. Therefore, Paul finds it necessary to point to their service, albeit far less weighty than his own, so that his church might recognize God’s grace and provision upon them and be thankful.
Not that there’s any chance of people in God’s church taking blessings for granted or anything. Right.
Paul is clearly far more concerned for the welfare of his church than for his own well-being. All of his best hopes are bound up in hearing about them, how they were doing in the faith, and making sure they were taken care of by a good minister. He chose Timothy. Doubtless, Timothy was the closest, most trusted man that Paul had. So much so, he called Timothy his son and claimed that there was no one like him as far as love for Christ and the church went. Paul sends his very best because he loves and cares deeply for these people. He has hope that he, too, will soon be out of prison and back with them as well.
Funny how a good minister looks just like his Father. Paul wasn’t the only one who sent his very best man to those he loved. God did, too, when he sent his son, Jesus.
But, wow. How did Paul get this? How did he do it? I mean, most of us are so worried about ourselves and our own well being that we think the world is coming to an end if our lunch gets held up. Being in Paul’s situation would likely drive us to the depths of despair. Maybe that’s why the Lord gave we promise land dwellers this passage. We need to recognize our blessed beyond belief status and begin to pray for more preparedness in the event of persecution.
Paul also speaks of Epaphroditus. Apparently this man was sort of a go-between messenger for Paul and the Philippian church. Here also we find a man of great faith and concern for God’s church as Paul mentions that he was more concerned for their anxiety and distress upon hearing that he was ill than about the fact that he himself was suffering. Epaphroditus almost died serving them. For this reason, Paul makes clear God’s mercy upon Epaphroditus and himself in sparing his life. Paul is celebrating the pain the Lord spared him from rather than dwelling on the pain he allowed. Oh! To have the wisdom to do likewise when we suffer!
Paul prompts the Philippians to readily, joyfully, and thankfully receive Epaphroditus when he comes in return for his great sacrifice for them and willingness to serve them.
In this passage, once again, we find Paul practicing exactly what he is preaching. Just following his instruction to consider the interests of others above our own, he proves how thoroughly he believes and practices the principle. This whole section could well have been about Paul’s pain, sorrow, and unjust suffering. He could have written out a cry for help from the church and no one would have faulted him. Instead, he looks to the interests of others first and foremost – just as he instructed them to do; just as his Lord did. Paul concerns himself with the needs of others first.
The fact that Paul even mentions the necessity for the church to joyfully receive and honor such men implies that their natural disposition (and ours) is to not joyfully receive and honor them. We are prone to jealousy, complacency, and ignorance of even the best men whose best efforts are for us because we are not like Paul. We are not like Christ. We do not think of others first. We think of self. We expect to be served and we ignore God’s miraculous provision as long it continually flows through our lives. We are more apt to exclude good men than to welcome them. We fail to encourage those who do the very most for us. Paul would not have urged and instructed the church this way if it were not true. God, give us a spirit of gratitude for those who serve Christ and his church well.
Finally, let us be encouraged by Paul’s great example that following Christ’s greater example is not only humanly possible, but prayerfully prescribed for our greatest good by both in God’s perfect word.