THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
I hope in the Lord Jesus
to send Timothy to you shortly,
I also may be encouraged
when I learn of your condition.
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.
you know of his proven worth,
in the furtherance of the gospel
like a child serving his father.
I hope to send him
as soon as I see how things go with me;
I trust in the Lord
I myself also will be coming shortly.
The structure of this thought is unique.
Verses 2:19-20 use the "I" of Paul.
Verses 2:21-22 speak of "They," "You," and "He."
Verses 2:23-24 returns to the "I" of Paul.
It is a kind of poetry or song. It gives a certain kind of beauty or flow to the words. But while the words flow like poetry the meanings are full of drama. This drama is our introduction to Timothy.
Timothy was the son of one of these mixed marriages which, though unlawful (for the Jew), were quire frequent in the later periods of Jewish history. His mother was a Jewess, while his father was a Greek (Acts 16:1-3). We know almost nothing about his father, but his mother and grandmother (on his mother's side) were well known for their tenderness and faith, piously instructing him in the Scriptures, and training him to hope for the Messiah of Israel (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15). And thus, being brought up far removed form the larger colonies of Israelitish families, he was brought up in a thoroughly Jewish household - however he was never circumcised (probably prevented by his Greek father), and thus never admitted into full Jewish temple life. Apparently Timothy was converted by Paul in the city of Lystra (Acts 14:6). No mention of Timothy is made until Paul's second visit, but it is safe to assume that Timothy's spiritual life and education were under the care of the elders of the church (Acts 14:23). Timothy was circumcised by Paul at his setting aside for missionary work and the calling of Evangelist (Acts 16:3) and Paul much desired Timothy as a constant companion. Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy, and Luke formed the group that first went to Philippi. Timothy's circumcision was performed voluntarily as a simple act on prudent grounds to make the work of ministry among Jews more effective. It was not required of him by Paul like circumcision was called upon by the Judaizers in the mixing of Jewish theology and practice at error with the free grace of Jesus Christ for both Jew and Gentile.
It is possible that Timothy shared in the last years of Paul's imprisonment (possibly Hebrews 13:23). Timothy became the bishop of Ephesus, and suffered martyrdom under Domitian or Nerva.
It is not known whether Timothy was able to get to Philippi or Rome in time to greet Paul in prison during his current imprisonment. But we do know that Timothy was Paul's heartfelt choice for ministry there.
These last few verses in Philippians Chapter 2 make this letter a little more pointed as to Paul's expectations of the Philippian church and their failure to meet those expectations - this even after a lengthy discussion in chapter one about how entirely wonderful they were.
The closing verse (:30) states: he came close to death for the work of Christ, (he was) risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. This seems like a little "slap on the wrist" from Paul. He had expectations of the Philippians. While it was a journey of many miles to Rome apparently Paul thought they could have done more - and probably they should have. Paul was imprisoned - and they knew that. He was often alone - and they knew that. This was the church that always did everything for him, when even as far away as Jerusalem - but they did not minister to his needs as he had thought they should.
Ever been terribly sick, and the pastor did not come, the elders did not come, members of the Sunday school class did not call or come, there were no cards. While we may look at Paul and think of his ego - it is better to look at ourselves and consider why we do not go, why we do not call, why we do not send cards - in reality, few do. It hurts those who suffer and are ill that we do not care as we should.
Apparently Epaphroditus (belonging to Aphrodite) was a Greek who had been saved out of an idol worshiping family - his very name implied that he had been set aside to Aphrodite herself (the goddess of love, pleasure, beauty, and procreation). But now, this tender and loving servant has gone to Paul and had spent much time there with him. So much time with him in prison that he caught something there and nearly died from it. Paul calls him, "My Brother!" "fellow worker," "fellow soldier, "Your (Philippian) messenger, and (your) minister to my need." But he was not enough - only one came, only one visited. And now Paul was sending him home.
he was longing for you all and
he was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
(2:27 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.)
Epaphroditus is a man like Paul. His main concern is that others have found out that he was ill and he's worried about them. Apparently a man among men (in the good sense) - exceptional, uncommon, others-centered, caring. Paul expresses his gladness that Epaphroditus recovered - so that Paul would not have "sorrow upon sorrow." How difficult it would have been for Paul that such a man would come and visit, and stay for so long a time, only to get so sick that it seemed he would die. Remember, he was Paul's friend, "brother," "fellow worker," etc.
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.
Here now is Paul's heart - he is so concerned about what the Philippians think about Epaphroditus' illness and recovery that he sends him home "eagerly," with great vigor, so that the Philippians will have him back sooner that they might not worry about him.
Paul says that knowing what their reaction will be - they will rejoice when they see him - and Paul will be able to be less concerned about how the Philippians worry. What a wonderful relationship between Paul, Epaphroditus, the believers at Philippi and Timothy.
Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and
hold men like him in high regard;
he came close to death for the work of Christ,
(he was) risking his life
to complete what was deficient in your service to me.
Paul next tells the Philippians to remember to receive Epaphroditus, in the Lord, and with all joy. I'm sure he expects that his wishes will be honored because of the way the Philippians loved Epaphroditus to begin with - but scripture is written with a bigger picture in mind. It is on Paul's heart that people like Epaphroditus are rare. They are the ones who "go" and "do." They are the visitors, the care-givers, the soul and spirit healers, and they are rare. They have something special about them that is, largely, different from the rest of us. Paul says they are special and to be held in high regard. Especially this one who even risked his life to minister to Paul.
Suppose it was put to you to go and visit - and stay with for a long time voluntarily - in one of the country's most backward and abominable prisons. In some of these facilities nearly 80% of all long-term inmates will die of AIDS long before their sentences are up. Everything you touch, everything you eat with, everything you sleep on, has been, at one time or another, infected with this dreadful disease. Knowing that you may become ill during your stay, to comfort another - would you go? Would you stay? Would the comfort of another be of more concern than your own health.
Paul's final words in Chapter 2 are a slight reprimanding of the Philippians, their elders, and their deacons. This man did what was deficient in your service to me. May we not take Paul's words and meaning lightly.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
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