Thursday, January 22, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 8 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

Paul moves from the attitudes we as Christians must develop to some personal matters.

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. 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. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. 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. 

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, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. 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. Receive him then 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. (Philippians 2:19-30)

We can surmise from this that Epaphroditus is carrying Paul's letter the to Philippian Church. We can also surmise that he had brought news and financial support to Paul from the Philippians. Paul calls him a brother, fellow worker, and fellow solider. As a Christian, Epaphroditus was a brother. As one who labored for the spread of the gospel, he was a fellow worker. As one who endured hardship and exhibited discipline, and life-risking self-sacrifice, he was a fellow soldier. Paul advises the Philippians to "hold men like him in high regard." Indirectly we come face to face with the cost of discipleship. In a later letter to Timothy, Paul writes:

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:1-7)

Paul plans to send Timothy to the Philippians, but not until Paul is more sure of his personal status. Indeed, I get the idea that Paul would like to travel with Timothy. Timothy is one who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of the churches. It seems that many traveling evangelists are not. Although Paul earlier was pleased just to know that Christ is preached, he advises the saints to be wary of them. Once again, character matters.

Friday: The Legalists

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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