Fellowship of Joy: A Study in Philippians, 2:19-30

Fellowship of Joy: A Study in Philippians, 2:19-30, Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on August 30th, 2008

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. The passage further showed that we are to do this so a “Crooked and Perverse Generation” would see the light of the gospel in our lives (See Philippians 2:15 cf. Matthew 5:16). Our working out our salvation in community is imperative for the gospel to be understood. It is in the mess of relationships that the world sees repentance, reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness, mercy, love and peace in real life situations. This is where your kids will learn about the gospel. This is where your co-workers will understand that you are not perfect, but are willing to repent and ask forgiveness, and quickly willing to offer forgiveness.

In today’s passage we see a continuing story of Paul’s acknowledgment of two men that are living out the Philippian 2 principle (Philippians 2:3-5). This began with seeing Christ’s humble attitude of sacrifice, as our salvation and our example of how we are to do community with one another for the sake of the gospel. In our passage he lifts up Timothy (vv. 19-30) and Epaphroditus (vv. 25-30), demonstrating once again how God works in the hearts and lives of ordinary, humble men and women who seek to live to glorify God, and work to further His mission in the world.

From the Head…
Paul just finished telling us that he is proud of the fact that he hasn’t run in vain. There is really a church, compiled of honorable men and women who have dedicated themselves to loving God and loving people in a way that will carry the gospel to the nations well beyond Paul’s own ministry and life. Paul’s heart is tied up in Christ and His mission here on earth, and this gives him great joy. Just like last week, Paul is connecting this passage back to verse 1:27, and his concern that we all walk worthy of the gospel (See too Ephesians 4:1). Today our story points to two men, emphasizing the community and deep love that gives Paul great hope in Christ.

The Sending of Timothy (Philippians 2:19-24)
Verse 19 starts with Paul’s desire (Hope) to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church for their own benefit. When our hearts are looking outside of ourselves (Philippians 2:3-5) with the desire to bless others, we will gain a joy for the great things that are happening in other people’s lives (See v. 19). Paul had a great concern for the spiritual growth of people (2 Corinthians 11:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). Remind you, Paul is in prison, and there is no doubt that his circumstances bring him sorrow (See vv. 27-28), but his joy comes from seeing people proclaiming and living out the gospel (Philippians 1:4-5; 2:2, 16-19). When we live our lives for ourselves, we will not care about the gospel, nor will we ultimately care for anyone else. It is only when Christ and His mission is paramount in our lives that we will sacrifice, and even be able to “Work out our salvation in fear and trembling.” The text tells us two things about Timothy whom Paul is sending:

1. He has a caring heart (vv. 20-21)
Timothy has learned the Philippian 2 Principle, and he has learned to put others before himself. This is a mark of the reality of the gospel in our lives, since our savior is our prime example. It is this kind of love that God is working in the lives of His people.

2. He has godly character (v. 22)
Timothy has a certain heart characterized by His service “In the gospel.” A true understanding of the gospel, reflects a life of service to the gospel!

These are the qualities of a biblical leader (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; 1 Peter 5:1-4). A “Servant” leader loves others, and has godly character. Too often we go after “Charismatic” leaders, and place those with gifts up front so we can build large gatherings; but the bible consistently teaches us that God uses the weak and the foolish to confound the strong and the wise. Biblical leadership is servant leadership. As far as we know, these guys didn’t have titles (With the possible exception of Timothy), but they humbly served, because they love God and His mission. They live for Christ (Philippians 1:21). In this sense, we are ALL leaders.

The Sending of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-28)
Paul also sent Epaphroditus, his friend and the one that was ministering to him in jail (see v. 25, “Minister to my need”). This is all Paul had, but he felt it was more important that they were blessed instead of him. Epaphroditus was a close companion of Paul, who was a “Brother, worker, soldier, messenger and servant (Minister) of my needs). You feel Paul’s heart for Epaphroditus, and Epaphroditus’ concern for the people at Philippi. The text tells us that Epaphroditus was deeply “Distressed.” The word he chooses to use here (Akademoneo) is the harshest type of distress/depression that one could have. Epaphroditus is in sorrow/depression, not because of his condition (Which had been mercifully healed by God; v. 27), but because of his worry that the Philippians would be in distress because of his illness.

God’s mercy is demonstrated in the fact that He healed Epaphroditus (v. 27a), and that he was able to relieve Paul’s “Sorrow” (v. 27b). It is interesting to note that Paul has distress in his life. No one has a life free of stress and death and suffering. We can’t escape this, yet, Paul is able to rejoice knowing that the Philippian church will be blessed by sending them Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:28). Paul’s stress is mitigated by turning his gaze away from himself and his circumstances and towards others and the mission of God.

The Reception of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:29-30)
1. Receive him with Joy and Honor (v. 29)
Paul exhorts the Philippians to receive Epaphroditus with “Joy and honor.” In no way is Epaphroditus serving the Lord for honor or position. He would never be known if it wasn’t for Paul mentioning him in this text, yet we are told to honor men and women who are willing to serve the church in sacrificial ways. Unfortunately many people in the church get upset when someone is honored and not themselves for the “Work” they have done for the Lord. When this emotion comes upon us, it is fair to say that our “Service” was done for our own glory, and not for the Lord.

2. Because of his risk for the “Work of Christ” (v. 30)
The reason Paul gives to honor Epaphroditus is his willingness to risk his life for them. He has truly born the example of his savior (Philippians 2:3-5) in his example in his own life. His desire, and his joy was, like his friend Paul, tied up in the “Work of Christ,’ and not his own comfort.

…to the Heart
How often do you approach service with how you are going to be honored and blessed? All too often we leave churches and Missional Community groups because they don’t serve us well. They aren’t meeting during the exact times that meet our schedules. They don’t teach us exactly how we think we should be taught; they have too few kids, or too many kids, they’re made up of people that aren’t like me.

Is this the way we live in our families; or do we sacrifice for our families, and the goals that we have set for them? The church is a family, that is called to live out the reality of Christ within, and the fact is, it will be messy, and we will be inconvenienced, but as the gospel is working in us, it is tearing out the stones left in our hearts, and turning us upward instead of inward, which the latter unfortunately is the direction most American pulpits (Church and otherwise) take. We must measure the cross as an opportunity for God’s glory, and not an opportunity to make much of ourselves. This should drive us to be servants to one another as Christ both taught us, and demonstrated through His cross for our sakes.

Books for Further Study: Word Biblical Studies; Philippians, Gerald Hawthorne; The NIV Application Commentary; Philippians, Frank Thielman; The New International Greek Testament Commentary; Philippians, Peter T. O’Brien; Preaching the Word; Philippians, R. Kent Hughes; Paul’s Letter to the Philippians; Gordon D. Fee

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