Philippians 2:17-30

During our time here, we have read several biographies of Christians during our Wednesday prayer meetings. The example of earlier Christians has been a blessing to us. Whether it was a missionary, evangelist, pastor, or king, we saw how the Lord used them as they dedicated their lives to be a living sacrifice for the Lord.

In this section of Philippians 2, Paul speaks about three specific people who were an example to the church at Philippi. Although the church already knew them well, he wanted them to be reminded of how the Lord was using these men in ministry and also to follow their example of service to the Lord.

  1. Paul (Phil. 2:17-18)

    a. Who was he?

    Paul was one of the founders of the church at Philippi. His time there had led to the conversions of several people who were now part of the local church. So, the people already looked up to him as a spiritual leader.

    It may seem strange for Paul to hold himself up as an example to the Philippians. But this was his job. In another place, he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” So this was a good thing because Paul was following Christ and was a good example to follow.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    He was being poured out like a drink offering (17).

    “The apostle knew that death as a martyr was a real possibility for him. Paul viewed himself as being poured out like a drink offering on behalf of the Philippians” (Lightner 656).

    “There was a drink offering which was to be added to the burnt offering and the meal offering. It was never added to the sin offering or the trespass offering. … They would bring in a skin of wine and just pour it on the sacrifice which was being consumed by fire. What happened? It would go up in steam and disappear. … [Paul] wanted his life to be a drink offering—just poured out to go up in steam. He wanted to be so consumed and obscured that all that is seen is just Jesus Christ. He wanted Christ to receive all the honor and glory” (McGee 307).

    Paul was not so concerned with his release that he asked them to constantly pray for him to be freed and not harmed. Instead, he was willing to give his life for the Lord.

    He wanted them to rejoice (18).

    It is hard to rejoice when going through difficult times. The death of a loved one is hard to take. In Paul’s situation, he thought that he was drawing near to the end. His life could be taken by the Roman government at any time. But if so, he wanted the Philippian church to rejoice, not that he was killed, but that his life had been used by God for the furtherance of the gospel and the spiritual edification of the churches.

  2. Timothy (Phil. 2:19-24)

    a. Who was he?

    Read Acts 16:1-5. In these verses, we see that Timothy was someone in whose life God had already been working before he met Paul. But after they met, he became an important part of the missionary team and later pastored several different churches. If you want to learn more about Timothy, read through Paul’s letters to him in 1-2 Timothy. They give an insight into his life, ministry, and specific needs.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    Timothy was going to be sent to check on their spiritual welfare (19).

    There have been times when I have had to ask the police to do a “welfare check” on an employee when I couldn’t reach them by phone. This is a service provided by the police to make sure that someone is not sick or hurt. It has proven to be a valuable tool to someone who has employees working in multiple states.

    Paul sent Timothy to do a spiritual welfare check on the church at Philippi.

    “The concern Paul demonstrated in sending Timothy was an example for the Philippians and all believers to follow. Not only did Paul give them the gospel and lead them to Christ, but he also wanted to be sure they were growing spiritually. His genuine interest in them continued” (Lightner 657).

    Timothy would care for them (20-21).

    But Paul didn’t just want to know how they were doing. He wanted to send someone who would care for them and help them with their walk with the Lord. “Paul had no one else in Rome who was like him. Timothy’s interest in their welfare was unexcelled. He was an excellent example of one who was selfless, more concerned about others than himself” (Lightner 657). Timothy, unlike many others, would care for their souls.

    Timothy had good character (22-24).

    “The Philippians knew Timothy, so they knew that what the apostle said about him was true. From the start, when he worked with Paul in Philippi, Timothy was faithful (cf. Acts 16)” (Lightner 657). As Timothy worked with Paul, the two became a great team. It was like a father and son working together.

    But notice something in verses 23-24. Paul had not yet sent Timothy. His desire was to send Timothy soon, but he seemed to be waiting on something to happen before doing so. Perhaps he was waiting for his legal matters to be concluded because he mentioned that he was trusting the Lord to send him shortly.

    While Paul waited on sending Timothy, he chose to send another man to minister to them right away.

  3. Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30)

    a. Who was he?

    From the verses we have read, it seems that Epaphroditus was a member of the church at Philippi. McGee says that he was “the pastor of the church in Philippi” (308). Whatever the case, he seemed to be a ministry-minded individual who had gone to Rome to minister to Paul’s needs while he was under house arrest.

    “It is uncertain whether Epaphroditus was still with Paul at Rome when Paul wrote Philippians or whether Epaphroditus had already left to return to Philippi. Traditionally Epaphroditus has been viewed as the bearer of this letter to the Philippians. He is mentioned only here and in 4:18” (Lightner 657).

    Philippians 4:18 – “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

    Epaphroditus was someone sent by the church at Philippi to be a blessing to Paul. That mission had been fulfilled.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    Epaphroditus was being sent back to them (25).

    It seems that Timothy was not available to be sent at the moment, so Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi to minister to them. This was a selfless action because Paul considered Epaphroditus to be a brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, messenger, and minister. In other words, Epaphroditus was a big help to Paul while he was imprisoned. But Paul saw the need to send him back to Philippi for the good of the people in the church there.

    Epaphroditus had been very sick (26-27).

    “Whatever illness Epaphroditus suffered was serious because he almost died (Phil. 2:27, 30). There is no indication that Paul had the ability to heal him or that he tried to do so. Neither is there any hint that Epaphroditus was sick because of being out of God’s will” (Lightner 658).

    Why didn’t Paul heal him? “He was so sick he almost died! … Paul and the other apostles had ‘sign gifts’ because they did not have what we have today, a New Testament. … When he went into a new territory with his message, what was his authority? He had no authority except sign gifts, which included the gift of healing” (McGee 309). So Paul did not have the ability to heal all people at any time; it was limited to being used as a sign when he was presenting the gospel in new territories.

    News of Ephaphroditus’ sickness got back to the church in Philippi and they were concerned. But when Epaphroditus heard that they were concerned for him, he felt worse! This is the sign of a true minister. He was someone more concerned about the needs of others than his own.

    Paul “loved and needed Epaphroditus, so Epaphroditus’ death would have brought Paul additional heaviness” (Lightner 658). The church at Philippi also loved him and would have been greatly affected by his death. Thankfully, God spared his life and allowed him to recover from this sickness.

    Epaphroditus was an example to them (28-30).

    Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi to be an encouragement to those who had been praying for him while sick. His return to his home church would have been a time of rejoicing. But Paul had one more thing to say about him.

    They were to hold him in high esteem for what he had done for the apostle Paul. He willingly faced the possibility of death to be a blessing to Paul. And his time with Paul had been an encouragement to him.

Conclusion

This passage has two applications.

  1. We need to recognize the godly examples God has placed in our lives.

    Over the years, each of us has had a number of people who have been a spiritual example to us. It may have been a Christian in the church, a pastor or his wife, a missionary, or someone in your own family. As you look back on these examples to you, thank God for how He used that person in your life.
  2. We need to seek to be a godly example ourselves.

Tonight, we have seen the examples of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. They each were an example to the church at Philippi. But who will be godly examples in our church? Who will be a godly example in your home? The only person you have control over is yourself. Will you choose to be an example of a godly person to those around you?

Bibliography

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 656-658.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 307-10.

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