I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel …
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs … Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. (verses 19-22, 25, 29-30)
How inspiring to see the lives of those who have eyes on Jesus.
Timothy is one. He’d been nurtured in the scriptures since youth, having grown up in a home with a Hebrew mother and grandmother, even though his father was a Gentile and presumably non-believing. Likely he had been converted to faith in Jesus through the ministry of Paul himself, who mentored him like his own son, taking him on missionary journeys and engaging Timothy directly in the work of evangelism and church-planting. Clearly there was a deep bond of commitment and affection between the two. Paul trusted him implicitly, often sending him as a representative to churches when he himself could not go, and naming Timothy as the co-sender of many of his letters, including this one to the Philippians.
Two things stand out in Paul’s brief description. The first is that Timothy is a man who embodies the very characteristics Paul has been encouraging the Philippians themselves to embrace. Earlier in the chapter he urged them to be “like-minded … Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves … look not only to your own interest, but also the interests of others” (Phil 2:2-4). Timothy is exemplary. The second stand-out isn’t stated, but rather implied. In praising Timothy, Paul says that everyone else “looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” By implication, Timothy does the opposite – he looks out for others (taking “a genuine interest in your welfare,” Paul says), and in so doing he is actually looking out for the interests of Christ. Jesus is the centre of his motivation. What higher praise could be given?
The other inspiration is Epaphroditus, whom Paul counts as a “brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier.” This must be a man of stature and faith, to be so highly valued by the Apostle! But he is also a man of humble service. The very reason he is with Paul in the first place is simply to take care of his needs, serving on behalf of the Philippian church, while Paul himself is in prison. It’s hardly an exalted position, but one that embraces the very heart of Jesus, coming down to serve, washing feet, laying down his life. Indeed, Epaphroditus nearly lost his own in the service, becoming so ill, he was on the brink of death. He models Christ’s service, but, also, his willingness to suffer. Paul describes Epaphroditus’ activity simply and profoundly, labelling it “the work of Christ.”
These two men, millennia back, shine out from these pages – indeed, they “shine like stars in the universe as (they) hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). They compel us to follow. To think of others before ourselves. To put Jesus at the centre. To do his work, however humble.
Lord, these examples stretch my vision and expectations. How could I ever do the same? It can only be through your Spirit’s empowering. So, fill me then, that I, like Timothy, might not look out for my own interests, but instead for “the interests of Jesus Christ.” Strengthen me, that I, like Epaphroditus, might serve humbly and effectively, doing “the work of Christ.” To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Take these two phrases and place them before you today. What will it mean to not look out for your own interests but instead for “the interests of Jesus Christ”? How will it focus your activities, attitudes, and behaviours if it is all to be “the work of Christ”?
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