Biblical Truth: By showing appreciation for others, we give evidence of building strong relationships with them.

Show Confidence in Another’s Character: Phil. 2:19-22.

[19]  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. [20]  For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. [21]  For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. [22]  But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.     [NASU]

These verses form a break in the letter. Paul exhorted through commands from 1:27-2:18, and he returned to that in 3:1-4:8. Here he provided information about his situation and his intent to visit the Philippian church when he could. In these verses, Paul promised to send Timothy and Epaphroditus and praised them for their good character and service to him and to the Lord. These two stand as further examples of the mind of Christ. They both served unselfishly, considering others better than themselves. This section has often been called a travelogue because it reveals Paul’s travel plans, and Timothy and Epaphroditus fit into those plans. It is necessary to explain why these verses occur in this part of the text. The answer must be that while Paul thought of the mind of Christ he was reminded of two who represented that character and had especially been selfless in their service to him. Since they each had a special relationship to the church at Philippi, Paul took the opportunity to discuss their character, their value to the ministry, and their proposed journey to Philippi.

[19]  Knowing he could not visit Philippi, Paul hoped to send Timothy. Often Paul sent Timothy on missions for him, especially to troubled spots. Most notably Timothy had a significant ministry in Macedonia. Paul sent him to three churches in that province, Berea [Acts 17:14], Thessalonica [1 Thess. 3:1-2], and Philippi. As always, his plans were subject to the will of God; therefore he stated, I hope in the Lord Jesus. The expression was not simply tacked on to Paul’s statement, nor was it an escape clause in case the plans did not materialize. Rather, Paul naturally thought in terms of commitment to God’s will, and the expression disclosed the principle by which he lived his life. Paul hoped to receive news concerning the church. Good news would lift his spirits, which may have been somewhat depressed by the difficulty in the church. Paul wanted accurate, reliable information. Timothy knew them well. He could read between the lines of their comments. Further, Paul appreciated this church, and in his absence, his right-hand man should go. Thus, he planned to send Timothy on another important mission.

[20-22]  These verses contain one of the highest commendations possible. The commendation includes a statement and three reasons to support it. Simply stated, Paul sent Timothy because he was a kindred spirit. Timothy was a partner in ministry, sharing Paul’s commitments and burdens. Paul gave three evidences that what he said was true. First, Timothy had a genuine interest in the affairs of the church at Philippi. Paul’s commendation was that Timothy had acquired a concern for others that had become second nature in its genuineness. The second reason for commendation was that Timothy sought the things of Jesus Christ rather than his own interests. Finally, Timothy’s worth was found in his commitment to Paul. Paul added to his commendation by pointing out that though Timothy served as a son his primary commitment was to the gospel, not to Paul. Why did Paul go to such lengths to commend one the Philippians already knew well? Apparently, Paul commended Timothy because he wanted to emphasize Timothy’s value to the ministry. Further, in sending such a valued helper, the church would realize Paul’s esteem for them as well. They could not be disappointed with Paul’s actions.

Care About Another’s Well-Being: Phil. 2:25-30.

[25]  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; [26]  because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. [27]  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, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. [28]  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. [29]  Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; [30]  because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.     [NASU]

[25]  With a similar style of commendation, Paul explained why he sent Epaphroditus to the Philippians. Paul wanted to send Timothy, but he also found it necessary to send Epaphroditus. That raises many questions. Why would Paul have felt that way? Would Epaphroditus not be of service to Paul as the church originally intended? Did something happen to sour him or Paul? Was he physically impaired in a way that limited his usefulness? Further, it would seem that Epaphroditus could make the trip without Timothy, so perhaps Timothy accompanied him for his sake, as well as to find out about the church. The text provides no answer to these questions. For that reason, it is best to state what the text does and leave the rest to conjecture. The first commendation mentioned by Paul was Epaphroditus’s relationship to Paul. Obviously Paul expressed a fondness and deep appreciation for him. Paul reminded them of Epaphroditus’s relationship to him on their behalf. As for Paul, Epaphroditus was a brother, a fellow-worker, and a fellow-soldier. These descriptions emphasize partnership by employing familial, vocational, and military terms. Each of them provides insight as to how Paul saw the work of the gospel. Epaphroditus was an equal; there was no hint of inferiority or failure. Epaphroditus’s service had been a gift from the Philippian church to Paul. He came with news of the church’s love and a gift from them. He also determined to stay and care for Paul. This action demonstrated the love of the church in sending and supporting Paul, and it showed the self-giving character of Epaphroditus, who left home to serve in difficult circumstances.

[26-28]  Apparently on the way to Rome, Epaphroditus fell sick. He traveled on to Rome, perhaps after some delay for healing, and met Paul. When he arrived, however, the situation was not like it was when he started. The church made known its concern about Epaphroditus’s well-being, and Paul wanted to assure the believers their messenger was well. Even the discussion of his sickness has the flavor of selflessness about it. Epaphroditus was concerned only for the impact his sickness would have on them, and Paul agreed that Epaphroditus’s return to Philippi would have more profit than the service he would render to the apostle. The sickness was severe. Three times Paul informed them of that fact [26,27,30]. It almost cost Epaphroditus his life, and Paul understood that kind of service. The church, though it had heard Epaphroditus had been sick, had no way of knowing what he went through, so Paul reinforced Epaphroditus by this disclosure. The scene is filled with emotion as well. Epaphroditus was filled with deep emotion over the Philippians’ reaction to his circumstances. Paul also expressed his own emotion. He took Epaphroditus’s sickness to heart, realizing no doubt that he was sick because of his love for Paul. It was better for Epaphroditus to return home than to die in service to Paul. Further, Paul expected that the church would be eager to see him.

[29-30]  Paul urged the members of the Philippian church to welcome Epaphroditus with all joy. If they had doubts about whether Epaphroditus had failed in his mission, Paul relieved those concerns. He had risked his life for Paul, but he also had done it in demonstration of his love for them. He endured sickness near to death for their sakes, by acting on their behalf. Deficient in your service to me does not refer to any lack of desire on the part of the Philippians. It rather refers to the fact that the Philippian church could not assist Paul while in prison because of the distance they were from Rome. So Epaphroditus was sent with a financial gift and as a means of serving Paul on behalf of the church. This was the special way the church chose to honor the beloved apostle. Thus their gift had three stages. First, they collected the gift. Second, they selected a courier to go to Paul. Third, that courier was to remain with Paul for an extended time, presumably at the church’s expense. They intended all three, but the church could only do one. The rest was the responsibility of Epaphroditus. What they could not do, the deficiency in their ministry, he attempted to do. Since Epaphroditus had to cut short his stay with Paul due to his illness, Paul did not want the church to think that Epaphroditus had failed in his mission.

Express Gratitude for Another’s Contribution:  Phil. 4:15-18.

[15]  You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; [16]  for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. [17]  Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. [18]  But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.     [NASU]

[15]  Paul commended the church for the way it supported him. From the very first it supported his work, evidencing the genuineness of salvation and love for Paul. It was the only Macedonian church to support him. The other churches failed in their obligations to the gospel. Subtly and without complaining, Paul pointed out that others had received but not given. They had a one-way relationship in the gospel. Paul expected rejection and loneliness in his work; it came as no surprise. He was, however, troubled for two reasons. First, when they received they had a responsibility to share. Second, they missed the spiritual blessings that came from giving. The Philippians understood both principles and acted on them. That brought joy to Paul’s heart.

[16-17]  Paul also commended them because their support was immediate and consistent. He also commended them because their gifts were an investment. Financial terms dominate this passage. The gifts were an investment in the work of God and in their future. Some believers may have mistakenly assumed that Paul sought gifts, but he clearly stated he sought the blessings it would bring to the givers. Paul saw beyond the physical act to the spiritual transactions taking place. Even in acknowledging their support, his servant attitude surfaced. He thought of their growth and blessings.

[18]  Genuine giving seeks no personal benefits. Nevertheless, giving brings blessings to both giver and receiver. Paul listed two benefits to the giver. First, God was pleased. In terms reminiscent of Romans 12:1-2, Paul pointed out that their gift was an acceptable Christian sacrifice. Like Romans 12, this passage teaches that physical activity can become spiritual in motivation and importance. Romans states that dedicating the body to God is a spiritual act. Here, Paul revealed that giving was a spiritual exercise. Paul had developed a comprehensive theology of stewardship. Its most thorough statement occurs in 2 Cor. 8-9, where he solicited support for a famine relief offering. He stated that the Macedonians led the way in giving, and most likely the primary church to give was Philippi [2 Cor. 8:1-5]. Their giving was exemplary because they gave our of their poverty. Their contribution was a fragrant offering to God because of its sacrifice, its Christian motivation, and its significance to the spread of the gospel.

Questions for Discussion:

1.          Paul describes Timothy as a kindred spirit or a partner in the ministry. What three reasons does Paul give for describing Timothy in this way?

2.          Why does Paul think it necessary to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippian church? Paul uses three terms to describe his relationship with Epaphroditus. What insight do these three terms provide into Paul’s view of the work of the Gospel?

3.          What character traits do you see in Timothy and Epaphroditus that are important for effective ministry? How can you further develop these character traits so that your ministry will be more honoring to God?

4.          Genuine giving seeks no personal benefits. Yet Paul lists two benefits to the giver. What are they? What is Paul’s theology of stewardship [see also 2 Cor. 8-9]? Is this the way you view your giving?


Let’s Study Philippians, Sinclair Ferguson, Banner of Truth.

Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Richard Melick, Jr., NAC, Broadman.

The Message of Philippians, J.A. Motyer, Inter-Varsity.

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