Concern:  Philippians 2:19—30

Philippians 2 is a most remarkable chapter. In it, we see the great apostle, Paul, as the optimistic prisoner, joyful servant of Christ, articulate author deep spiritual truths, and now as a thoughtful pastor. Rarely in Scripture do we find such a wide range of topics in 30 verses. What begins as one of the most profound Christological passages in the whole New Testament ends up as an almost sentimental note from a pastor to his friends. But that only serves to illustrate the dynamic character of Paul. Here was a man who was so passionate about his faith, he saw no distinction between doctrine and discipleship, commitment to Christ and concern for fellow believes. He was able to slip from the role of theologian to thoughtful church leader with infinite ease. And why shouldn’t he? His faith was no mere Sunday exercise! It motivated his whole life; Paul was defined by his faith, not by his occupation or anything else with which we, today, are in the habit of defining ourselves.

1. The responsibility of concern, 2:19—24

Paul followed up a serious admonition (“do everything without grumbling”) with a passage of tender and thoughtful concern.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. (verse 19)

Paul wanted to send Timothy, not only “to” them but also “for” them; Paul knew that the Philippians were anxious about his welfare and the last thing he wanted to be was the cause of their angst! But notice in Whom Paul’s hope rested: Jesus Christ. First, Paul did not wait for the good graces of his captors in fulfilling his duty. His hope was in Jesus; he knew Jesus would make a way for him to get word out to his friends. Paul forged ahead, certain doors would open; he did not sit around waiting for circumstances to become more amenable. Secondly, his union with Christ was so vital and so complete; it influenced the apostle’s every thought and action. He needed to get word out to the Philippians for the sake of Christ. He was concerned about the Philippians because of their mutual relationship to and with Jesus Christ.

In this, Paul is no different than any other believer. All believers are “in Christ” and all believers ought to show the same godly concern for each other as Paul showed for the members of the Philippian church. He was not exceptional in this. Indeed, he was simply demonstrating God’s expectation of how a Christian should live.

Just as Paul expected the Philippians to be relieved and heartened by the news from him via Timothy, he also expected to be relieved and heartened by Timothy’s report about them. Timothy was a man that Paul trusted. Why wouldn’t he? Consider what Paul thought of him in verse 20:

I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.

The KJV translates this verse slightly differently:

For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.

Since he was “likeminded” with Paul, Timothy had the mind of Christ. “Likeminded” literally means “no one of equal soul.” Isopsuchon is the Greek word used here, and only here in the New Testament. Given its rarity, it is significant that this was Paul’s estimate of his young friend. He had unqualified confidence in Timothy: there was no doubt he would show genuine concern for their welfare. Timothy’s concern for the Philippians was not phony or ginned up by sob stories coming out of that church; rather, it was personal. Timothy would make the trip to Philippi because he was genuinely concerned about them. And he shared their concern about Paul. Timothy wanted both parties to be at ease with each other’s current state.

What a marvelous picture of Christian unity we see here. Nothing can draw believers together like Jesus Christ! Believers ought to be drawn together, not by denomination or by political beliefs, or even by need, necessarily, but by a mutual relationship with Jesus Christ. This is something that must come naturally; it cannot be forced by religious councils or movements.

But why was Timothy so different from Paul’s other associates? Verse 21 gives us a clue:

For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Herein is the single greatest problem in the Church of Jesus Christ today: self-centeredness. It seems to be the norm for people, Christians included, being preoccupied with cares and concerns that concern them. We have an inordinate interest in sometimes the most trivial of things in our lives. We are a very inward looking people, and that kind of behavior is ultimately self-destructive and detrimental to the health of the Body of Christ.

As we read Paul’s estimate of Timothy, we get the impression that he was disappointed with other believers. Already in this letter Paul noted that there were many converts and preachers in Rome and many who were serving the Lord for the wrong reasons. For example, there was man named Demas, whom Paul knew well and whom he mentioned in his earlier letters. But by the time he wrote to the Philippians, Demas is no longer mentioned. And by the time the apostle wrote his later letters, Demas had become a bitter disappointment:

Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. (2 Timothy 4:10)

Now, we don’t know what Demas was doing in Thessalonica; he could have been preaching for all we know. But he wasn’t where he should have been; he should have been by Paul’s side, giving him support:

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. (2 Timothy 4:16)

This “first defense” probably refers to Paul’s first imprisonment, which explains why he wrote what he did about Timothy. The very people that Paul expected to help him during this time had disappointed him; they were nowhere to be found. Where they bad people? Probably not; they were people like Jesus’ disciples, most of whom deserted Him during His hour of need.

But Timothy was different. His concern was genuine, both for Paul and for the Philippians. This concern came from his heart, borne of his relationship with Jesus Christ. Being concerned about our fellows is all part of being a Christian; this kind of concern is unique among believers; the world can’t have it nor can they experience it. How sad it is when Christians treat other Christians as worldly people. They deserve better, as Paul did. This is a responsibility we as believers all have; to show this kind of genuine concern for one another.

2. The reciprocity of concern, 2:25—28

Timothy would be the first of Paul’s messengers to Philippi; the second would be a man mentioned only here in the New Testament: Epaphroditus. We don’t know a whole lot about this man, but what we do know about him is impressive:

  • He was a spiritual leader in the Philippian church;
  • He brought a gift of money from that congregation to Paul, and stayed with the apostle, becoming his personal assistant;
  • He fell gravely ill;
  • The church back home found out about his illness and became greatly alarmed. He, in turn, learned of their anxiety.
  • He yearned to go back home in order to allay their concerns and fears over his health;
  • Paul, agreeing with Epaphroditus, sent him back home for that very reason.

Do you see a commonality between Timothy and Epaphroditus? They were both concerned with other people’s feelings and welfare. Incidentally, “Epaphroditus” means “lovely.” And he was, indeed. Here is what Paul thought about him:

my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. (verse 25b)

This description is in an ascending scale. Like every believer, Epaphroditus was Paul’s brother, united with him and to him in faith. We are all members of the same spiritual family, with God as our Heavenly Father. Epaphroditus was united to Paul not only in faith, but also in work; that is, the work of the Gospel. He was Paul’s “co-worker,” a title shared with Timothy and many others with whom Paul worked in the mission field. Not only in faith and in work, but the two were also united in battle; Epaphroditus was referred to as a “fellow soldier.” A worker also needs to be a warrior, and Paul’s lovely friend was.

Like Timothy, Epaphroditus was not special; he was simply living and behaving as any Christian ought to. And Paul knew that he could count on both men without hesitation. Both men were genuine and held genuine concern for others.

3. Risk of concern, 2:29—30

The Philippians needed to welcome their friend Epaphroditus back with “all joy.” No welcome could be too cordial; in fact, this faithful minister deserved much more than a mere welcome. But Paul goes a step further in adding this caveat:

and honor people like him… (verse 29b)

What does Paul mean by that? At the time he wrote this letter, he could not have been referring only to the martyrs. Epaphroditus was a willing servant of the Lord. He was a faithful servant of the Lord. He served the Lord in adverse conditions with joy. He fulfilled his calling and mission with distinction. He was engaged in work not typical of all believers. To people like that belong a special honor.

Furthermore, Epaphroditus carried out his ministry clothed in concern, for Paul and for the Kingdom of Heaven. From verse 30, we are given two more reasons why Epaphroditus deserved a big homecoming. First, he actually risked his life to fulfill his calling. This probably referred to his illness, but it could have referred to other risks, like that of imprisonment and/or bodily harm on account of preaching the Gospel. The word translated “risked” comes from a Greek verb meaning “to venture.” It is a word most often used of gamblers who would stake everything they own on the roll of the dice. Does that describe your attitude toward your Christian life and service? Could Paul commend you the way he did Epaphroditus? You may think that this description was only of Epaphroditus. In fact, the early church referred to people like Epaphroditus, Priscilla, Aquilla, and others as the parabolani, or “the riskers.”

Second, he had stayed behind with Paul, helping him, on behalf of the congregation in Philippi:

He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. (verse 30)

The church had given him money, but they could do little else for Paul, separated as they were from the apostle by many miles. So this one man labored with Paul, as a representative of all the believers back home. And this hard, grueling work took its toll on Epaphroditus’ body. Because of that, this man deserved their concern, and a grand welcome home. Concern is nice, but it needs to be demonstrated in some way. gives this definition of concern:

1. to relate to; be connected with; be of interest or importance to; affect: The water shortage concerns us all.
2. to interest or engage (used reflexively or in the passive, often fol. by with  or in ): She concerns herself with every aspect of the business.
3. to trouble, worry, or disquiet: I am concerned about his health.

Wouldn’t you like to be that person?

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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