Monday, June 13, 2011
Paul had been urging you to live in such a way that your life fits the gospel, and now he’s back to telling what’s been going on with him and about two men that the Philippians had sent to him. He draws attention to aspects their respective character and service as examples of what he has been exhorting us to do from 1:27 to 2:18. First, Timothy’s selflessness and focus on serving the interests of Jesus Christ in the church and then Epaphroditus’ bravery and his willingness to die for the sake of the gospel.
Even though he’s giving the Philippians a missionary report, he’s doing two other things at the same time. One, he’s letting them know how he is in order to set their hearts at ease. Two, he’s giving an example of living the life to which he’s exhorting the Philippians.
In the course of this missionary report, there are four very important truths about the Christian life.
I. Joy does not mean the absence of trial.
He is making it clear that the kind of gospel joy that he has and the kind of gospel joy that he wants the Philippians to have, he really does want it because he says, “I’m willing to stay here on earth rather than go to be with Jesus in glory in order that you might have joy.” He needs us to understand that this joy is not going to mean an absence of trial.
In verse 27, he’s telling you how glad he is that God spared Epaphroditus’ life. He doesn’t just say that he would have been sorry if Epaphroditus had died. It would have been sorrow upon sorrow.
In verse 28 he says he’s sending Epaphroditus back to them so that Epaphroditus can take them word of Paul, and so that word can be sent back to the Paul that the Philippians are doing “ok.” He’s worried about the petty divisions in the church about people in the church that are looking out for number one instead of being concerned for others in the congregation.
If you look back in verses 20 and 21 he talks about Christians who were there with him at the time of his imprisonment other than Timothy and Epaphroditus. He says that he couldn’t send any of them to the Philippians because they wouldn’t look out for the Philippians’ best interest, but only for their own!
Paul says these things and they are not inconsistent with his experience of gospel joy. Your experience of gospel joy does not mean that you enter in this life into a blissful state. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t hard things. And yet, trials and sorrows are no impediment to gospel joy. That’s a huge message to learn in the Christian life. Paul’s so realistic about this, he wants you to experience gospel joy, but he knows that troubles are not going away in this world, even in the church.
II. The Christian life is a life of companionship.
The Christian life was meant for company. God intended us to need, to depend upon one another, and to minister to one another as we walk through this world on the way to the new heavens and the new earth. The Christian life is a life of companionship.
Paul, who met Jesus face to face on the way to Damascus, whom Jesus personally taught, who was vested with all of the authority of Jesus so that he could raise people from the dead, could heal people, could prophesy by the Holy Spirit, could speak in tongues and interpret and give words of knowledge. And yet, here he is describing to the Philippians how he needed Timothy and Epaphroditus.
III. Christians always seek the interests of Christ.
Third, Paul draws your attention to Timothy who alone among the circle of disciples with Paul in his imprisonment, who alone of whom it can be said he did not seek his own interests but he sought the interests of Christ.
Do you think that way about the church? Can you think of a decision that you have made in a time when you thought, you know this would be good for me personally but I’m not sure it would be good for the church as a whole. Therefore, I’m not going to do it, I’m going to do what’s best for the church. Paul is commending Timothy to you as a person who did think that way.
IV. Christians are ready to die for Christ.
Paul commends Epaphroditus who was ill and nevertheless, risked his life for Paul’s sake and for the sake of the Philippian church because, he thought that his life was of less value than the work in the kingdom of Christ.
Are you ready to die in the work of Christ? That’s what Paul is holding before the Philippians and before us as an example of being like Jesus because Jesus Christ was not only ready, but He did die for us.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 10:21 AM