Paul has been hammering on this idea of humility worked out in community for the sake of the mission. Last week we looked at what it means to “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” We do this in community, for the sake of mission. We can’t work on our relationship issues by ourselves, and most of our sin is evident in the midst of community/relationships.
Paul started this thread of thought way back in chapter one verse 27, when he exhorted the Philippians to “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel,” as they became of the same mind, and acted courageously in the faith. He then proceeded to show them that in order to do that, they would need to be like Jesus and show humility (See Philippians 2:1-11). Last week he continued his assault and selfishness, by exhorting them to work out their salvation, stop complaining and rejoice with him.
In our passage today, Paul gives us two live co-workers who have exemplified a service oriented humility, showing the Philippians that it is possible>
Big Picture: Men that are led by the Spirit and faithful to the gospel can be an example to the people and a joy to the heart.
From the Head…
Paul begins in verse 19 by connecting his joy to what God is doing in the hearts of the people he has ministered with (See too Philippians 2:2). Once again, we see that Paul’s ultimate joy is in Christ, while his proximate joy is in the work that God is doing in His church. The fact is, Paul loves people (See vv. 1:7, 9). While many of us still struggle to find joy in things, using people, technology, money, etc., Paul continues to root His joy in God and His work.
There are two examples Paul uses to give as examples for the Philippians, and to show that godly leaders, can have the “mind of Christ” as they grow in Him.
Timothy Is An Example of Humility (Philippians 2:20-24)
Note Paul commends him because he is “Genuinely Concerned,” displaying that mind of Christ (See vv. 4-5), and that he has Proven Worth.” He’s not commended for being a great leader, speaker, musician, etc., but for his character as a leader. 1:15-17 reminds us that there are many capable leaders who lack character. Timothy’s humility shines, as he is willing to submit “As a son” to Paul’s lead. Timothy was a “proven” leader, because he cared for and loved people. According to Timothy’s profile in 1 Timothy, he was a timid wallflower, but he gained strength and courage through his obedience, and willingness to humble himself, and learn from Paul; even to the point of letting Paul circumcise him for the sake of the gospel (Acts 16:3).
It is too easy to lose sight of the gospel (The gospel), and turn our salvation inward. To this Theologian Leslie Newbigin writes, “I suddenly saw that someone could use the language of Evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need for salvation. And God is auxiliary to that… I also saw that quite a lot of Evangelical Christians can easily slip, can become centered in me and my own need for salvation, and not in the glory of God.” This is the tendency of the human heart, to make the gospel about us. The fact is as Pastor/Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.
Have you tamed God, or are you controlled by Him?
Epaphroditus Is An Example of Sacrifice (Philippians 25-30)
Epaphroditus was a Philippian, yet he sacrificed his time away from his family to tend to Paul and his needs. In a sense, God cancelled his plans for comfort, and it almost killed him. He “Risked his life” to help Paul. He was willing to sacrifice it all in service to the apostle.
This is why Paul exhorts the Philippians to “Honor Such Men!!” Leaders that display humility and sacrificed, are worthy of honor. Not the honor that we give to Christ whose humility and sacrifice is our grand example, but when men and women act out in bold courage, humility and sacrifice, it is ok to note their example, and honor such people.
…to the Heart
Following Jesus is costly, mostly for Him; but the reality is, we are giving up poverty for riches, slavery for freedom, yet the cost is denial of the self that we proceed needs to be in charge.
We have many examples of humility in the scriptures and in the church, and yet, we continue to live our own life, because we are comfortable with it. We don’t really believe that I can give that life to the Lordship of Jesus, so we struggle to realize the grace and truth found in Christ.
Jesus remains our prime example, and it is because of His example that we can trust Him, for what He promises.
Further Questions to Ponder
- Why do we struggle so much with humbling ourselves before one another?
- In Verse 23, Paul says he’ll send Timothy “just as soon as I see how it will go with me.” Why so?
- How is following Jesus a great benefit?
- How is following Jesus a great cost?
For Further Reading
Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, Frank Theilman
Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, John Calvin
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the NT), Gordon Fee
Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), Moises Silva
Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters, Tom Wright
The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary), G. Walter Hansen
Life Lessons Study Guide: Philippians, Max Lucado
Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary), Dennis Johnson
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