Living Gospel Lives

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Philippians 2:19-30

 

No outside story to start today, no illustrations about how this passage reminds me of something else. No this passage today speaks for itself. It is the illustration; the example of what Paul has been saying. So let’s pray as we come to God’s word.

Paul does a few things in this section that we will be focusing on this morning. He shows the lived out Gospel hearts of himself, Timothy and Epaphroditus, and he also lets the Philippians know the travel plans of the three of them. It also quickly becomes apparent that these two things are actually one in the same. The travel plans are purely devised out of Paul’s Gospel heart of compassion.

Let’s just back up a little and remind ourselves of a few things about the letter to the Philippians. In Chapter 1:1 we see that Paul is writing to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus. So he is writing to believers, to those who believe that Jesus died for their sins and was raised for their justification (Romans 4:25). What then is the essence of what Paul says to the Philippians up to this point. Well as Pastor Philip showed us three weeks ago, that can be found in verse 27 of chapter one. Just one thing. Here is the thing,  ‘Live lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ’. Paul then tells the Philippians and us sitting here today what this should be like.

  • A community that is characterised by Christ focused unity and built on Christ shaped humility

Two weeks ago Pastor Matt walked us through the first 11 verses of the beginning of Chapter two and the big idea was that churches (so that means Chatswood Baptist) are to be a community that is characterised by Christ focused unity and built on Christ shaped humility. This is what Paul is calling the church to be, and therefore saying imitate Christ. Now I don’t want to repeat all that Philip and Matt have said in the sermons from 1:27 to 2:18. But in a nutshell Paul shows that to live lives worthy of the Gospel is to live lives imitating Christ. To live lives that are ‘like-minded’ in having the Gospel as your life, your compass and your Joy.

  • But isn’t it impossible to live as a Christian in this world?

I want to say something right now that you may not have asked in these words, but perhaps you have had this thought. But isn’t it impossible to live as a Christian in this world? The great thing about today’s passage is that we can answer this questions with a big NO. It is indeed possible, ‘with, God’s, help’ to live a life worthy of the Gospel. And how do I know this, well because right now we are going to look at three servants of Christ who exemplify this. It is what Paul urges the Philippians and Indeed us gathered here today on our couches, and in person here at Chatswood Baptist Church to do. Paul doesn’t just talk, or write. He shows us by example what it means to live for the Gospel both in his life and the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Now, some scholars would dismiss this passage that we are looking at today as merely travel plans. I want to say that if you read this section and all that you see is travel plans, then read it again. What we are about to look at is so incredibly joyful, because what we see in these two accounts is three followers of Jesus conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

Let me give you a reason why in these verses it would seem that Paul is trying to talk about much more than travel. Paul would usually indicate his travel plans towards the end of his letters. Yet, here we see Paul speaking about travel in the midst of the main teaching section of the letter. This is a pretty big clue that something is up. It should make us sit up and ask why.

So let’s dive into the text.

 

Timothy – Philippians 2:19-24

19 ‘I hope in the Lord to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you’ 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.

  • Paul’s concern

While this section (verses 19-24) would seem to be chiefly about Timothy, we also see Paul’s example throughout. In verse 19 we see that as always Paul is concerned with doing what God would have him do. He hopes in the Lord. Or perhaps we would say if it is the Lord’s will, if God grants this to happen. So Paul sets this up by showing us his example of how he seeks God’s will in everything he does. Then we see that Paul’s joy is found in hearing about the Jesus glorifying lives of the Philippian believers. Hearing about how they are living humble and united lives for Jesus. I say this because Paul is expecting that they will head his words in 2:2 and ‘make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.’ This is the news that he looks forward to hearing about the Philippians, and this is what he expects to hear from Timothy after his visit. So you could say this was a reprimand. Now you may be asking me how that works. The simple answer is that if the news comes back to Paul that the church in Philippi is conducting itself in a manner worthy of the Gospel then he is filled with Joy or as the NIV says he will be cheered. However if the news comes back that the church isn’t united through the Gospel of Christ, that in fact the members of the church aren’t being like-minded, aren’t having the same love and being one in spirit and of one mind. Well it stands to reason that Paul would be greatly disappointed.

  • Paul’s commendation of Timothy

Paul then begins his commendation of Timothy. In fact he doesn’t just commend him, he holds him up as a living breathing example of someone who is imitating Christ’s humility and conducting himself in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

  • Timothy’s heart for the Philippians

There are three things right here that Paul shows us in Timothy’s conduct. Firstly, as we see in verse 20, Paul is saying that he has no one else who has the same concern for the Philippians. Paul is saying that Timothy shares the same heart and mind as indeed Paul has for the Philippians. In essence we can see verses 2 & 3 of chapter 2 being shown in Timothy through Paul’s words. This is borne out even further as we continue in these verses about Timothy. Read with me verses 21 & 22.

21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father has served with me in the work of the Gospel.

  • Putting Jesus Christ First

Secondly, we see here that Paul is saying that Timothy is unique because he put’s Christ first, and not his own interests and this is can be seen in how he lives his life, in his example. It is interesting that we read here that Timothy puts the interest of Jesus Christ above his own, and that it is not the interests of others as we see back in verse 3. But let me say that in putting the interest of Jesus Christ first, you will as Christ did put the interests of others above your own. I find verse 21 a little confronting. This is where the rubber hits the road. Paul has said the words, which we can all nod along with. However, what we are hearing about here is not just how we should live, but how Timothy does actually live. How a believer in Christ should live and act and think. How we should live. This example is what we are to follow. Christ’s example, Paul’s examples as he follows Christ’s example and Timothy as he follows the worthy example of Paul and perfect example of Christ.

Thirdly, Timothy has proven himself. That is what verse 22 says. He has been faithful and served alongside Paul in Gospel ministry. Paul makes the point that Timothy hasn’t just served alongside Paul, but has served as a faithful Son would a Father. So in this way Paul can send Timothy as his son in the faith, as his representative. As if he was going himself.

In living and sharing the Gospel. Timothy is living what it means to follow Christ. This is what Paul is talking about when he says, ‘proved himself’. This is not that Timothy is a nice bloke and so he has proven that he is fun to be around. No this is talking about the fact that Timothy has proven, that he has shown through his words and deeds that he puts Christ first and lives for Christ’s glory no matter what.

  • Are we living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

I want to stop here for a minute and ask us all a question. If someone had to report back on Chatswood Baptist Church about how we are going in being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit. Rather in humility valuing others above ourselves. Not looking to our own interests but looking to the interests of others. In other words living lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. How would that report look?

So as we finish this section looking at Timothy we see the final words of Paul and the future travel plans.

23 I hope, therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

  • Travel plans

So we see that while Paul is planning to send Timothy, he isn’t ready to do that straight away. In fact it seems that it will be dependent on how things turn out. The same goes for Paul’s travel plans. He is confident in the Lord that he will be able to visit the Philippians after he gets out of prison. Now we don’t know exactly what Paul was referring to when he said how things turn out. It would seem likely that it would be the upcoming trial, that he is in prison awaiting. The main thing is that Timothy is not going now, but later. So the question needs to be asked. Why does Paul have verses 19-24 in this letter. He is talking about something that will probably happen soonish, depending on a few things. Two reasons why having this section would seem to make sense are that Paul is able to show his concern and love in Christ for the Philippians, and he also highlighting Timothy as an example they should follow as they look to live lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

Paul then after commending Timothy,  and through these verses sharing his Gospel life lived out with the Philippians and all of us who read this letter, then makes it clear that while he isn’t sending Timothy now, he is straight away sending Epaphroditus. Once again we see that Paul highly commends Epaphroditus as he had Timothy. It is hard in this section not to see Paul using these two men as clear examples of what a follower of Jesus, a Christian is to be like in practice stemming from his words that stated from chapter 1:27 and go through to 2:18. Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus are living, breathing examples of what Paul has written.

 

Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25-30

So let’s look at Epaphroditus. Read with me verse 25

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.’

  • Sent to serve Paul

It is just striking how Paul commends Epaphroditus in this first instance. We see that Epaphroditus had been sent as Paul says to ‘take care of my needs.’ So he was sent to serve Paul. We know from Philippians 4:18 that Paul had received the gifts that the church had sent through Epaphroditus. This is no small thing by the way. Prison two thousand years ago was not like prison today. You didn’t get three meals a day, a shower and a TV. No you received what people brought for you to eat. If you didn’t have friends visit you in prison then you likely had nothing. So it is true that Paul was very thankful for the gifts that the – Philippians had sent.

  • A brother, a co-worker and a fellow soldier

But let’s come back to how Paul describes Epaphroditus. Firstly, he is a brother. This is a term of endearment, a fellow brother in the Lord. Another believer is a brother. Yet Paul doesn’t leave it there, no he then calls Epaphroditus a fellow worker. A co-worker, but not in any work, this means that Paul is saying that Epaphroditus worked alongside Paul in ministry. Paul is commending Epaphroditus as a ministry team member. Then Paul again gives another metaphor for Epaphroditus’s service to the Gospel. This time he calls him a fellow soldier. Paul considers Epaphroditus as a fellow soldier for the sake of the Gospel. In his commentary Gordon Fee observes that it is unusual for Paul to speak in military terms. However, in a sense it fits well here, because like a soldier wounded in battle, Epaphroditus fell ill while serving Paul in Gospel work and so as we will see Paul is now sending him home, like a wounded soldier might be sent home from the battle.

In verses 26 to 28 we see Paul’s heart of compassion. Let’s read these verses

26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.

  • Paul’s compassion following the example of Jesus

Again we return to the compassion that Paul shows. The other centredness that is on display in these verses. There is little doubt that Paul really could do with keeping Epaphroditus around. He has obviously been a great help to Paul and having him alongside Timothy and the other co-workers has meant a lot to Paul. Yet Paul’s love for the Philippians and for Epaphroditus, and in order that he would not have sorrow himself, he feels compelled to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi. This is a beautiful picture of compassion, and I can’t help but thinking of our Lord’s compassion in the Gospels. The feeding of four thousand in Mark 8, where in verse two we read that Jesus has compassion on the people, that they had nothing to eat and might collapse if he sent them away so he feeds them. Paul here can see how deeply distressed both Epaphroditus and the Philippians have been over Epaphroditus nearly dying and so Paul eases their distress by releasing Epaphroditus to go back to Philippi.

Then Paul after commending Epaphroditus brings the Philippians in on this. He is asking them to also commend him. Read with me verses 29 & 30.

29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give.

  • Epaphroditus’s life for the Gospel

Paul here is saying that Epaphroditus didn’t stop his mission to bring to Paul the gift that he had been entrusted with, even though he became gravely ill. As we have seen time and time again in this section he like Paul and Timothy put the Gospel ahead of his own well-being.

  • Honour those who put the Gospel first

Paul urges the Philippians to welcome Epaphroditus in the Lord when he returns. Be joyful that he is back with you. Paul uses the expression ‘In the Lord’ that we have seen throughout this section, and reminds the Philippians to honour, to hold up as examples believers who live out the Gospel in their lives. Who put the Gospel first.

Finally in the last line of this section it could almost seem in this translation that Paul is having a dig at the Philippians for not helping. I think that this understanding would not be in line with the Greek or the rest of what Paul has said about being thankful for their gift. It is really more about the fact that they would have liked to help Paul more, they would have liked to have been there in person, but that there had not been the opportunity. So they sent Epaphroditus on their behalf to serve Paul and take the gift that they had arranged.

  • Follow those who put the Gospel first

I don’t know about you, but I find this section that we have looked at today very encouraging. We are reading about people who are living, breathing examples of following Jesus, of living Gospel lives.

Imitate these people. Here is the application of Paul’s letter. Here it is in the flesh. This is what Paul is talking about.

Live up to what we have already attained 3:16

‘Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.’ 3:17 This is why Paul is talking about Timothy and Epaphroditus in the middle of the letter. It is because they (Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus) are living lives in a worthy manner. They are living Gospel lives. They are imitating Jesus. They are living lives that are glorifying Jesus and putting others above themselves.

4:9 Paul says in chapter 4, ‘Whatever you have learned, or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.’

  • Conlcusion

Our life is our Witness. Our actions convey our story. Why does Paul call us to live lives worthy of the Gospel in chapter 1:27? Well he does this so that Christ may be exalted 1:20, that Christ is who we would boast about 1:26. So that we as people who have put our trust in Jesus may live lives that show others the Gospel.

To imitate Jesus, to imitate Paul, to imitate Timothy, Epaphroditus. Anyone who lives for Christ is who we should be imitating. If our Joy is in Jesus, then our lives will reflect that.

Following Jesus = following Jesus example = being like others who follow Jesus’s example

Let us all be examples of living out lives worthy of the Gospel.