Philippians 2:19-30 Two Christian Missionaries WC McCarter
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Timothy’s Work (19-24)
Notice that this paragraph is bookended by Paul’s trust in the Lord: to send Timothy and to come himself to the Philippians. Timothy accompanied Paul on the second missionary journey when the church was established. Paul wanted to send Timothy to the Philippians, and it appears that’s what they had requested by sending Epaphroditus as somewhat of a trade-off. Paul wanted to send Timothy so that he could report back the state of the church.
Look at the descriptions of Timothy: like-minded; sincerely caring; proven character; and serves in the Gospel. This is in contrast with others who are described as those who seek their own. Among Paul’s helpers, Timothy was outstanding and most valued. Verse 21 is a general rule, yet Timothy was an exception.
Sons learned the trade of their fathers ~ Timothy learned the work of Paul, the Gospel ministry. Let’s talk about mentorship for a few minutes. (SEE Titus 2:1-8; 2 Tim 2:1-2; Matt 5:19)
Epaphroditus’ Work (25-30)
Epaphroditus was from Philippi and was commissioned by the church as a messenger/servant. Roman prison officials offered little-to-no provisions so the Philippians probably sent things like money, clothes, and food by Epaphroditus for Paul. He was to deliver the gifts to Paul and offer his service in place of the church. That service almost cost him his life. His name is only mentioned in Philippians and there is nowhere in the letter that says this, but I think he may have been a deacon of the Philippian church.
Epaphroditus wanted to go back to Philippi because he was distressed that they had heard he was sick. Paul also wanted to send Epaphroditus back and there are several possibilities for why: he wanted to keep Timothy, wanted Epaphroditus to deliver the letter and give an update on Paul’s situation, and he had been sick so Paul wanted him to get back home safely. Paul and Epaphroditus could ease their anxieties if he made it back and had a joyous reunion with the church. A big part of this letter is about Epaphroditus returning to them—how would he be received?
There is speculation that the Philippians were passing rumors about Epaphroditus’ illness which isn’t too far-fetched because churches do that type of thing all the time. There is a good chance that he got sick from the traveling—crossing lands, boats, prison.
Epaphroditus is the type of Christian to be esteemed and emulated. Verse 30 “not regarding his life” exemplifies Paul’s teaching (SEE 2:1-4, 8).
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Why these two men and why now? Both exemplify Paul’s teaching.
(2) Christians (esp. servant leaders) who seek the well-being of others should be respected.
(3) This is what the Christian life is all about—Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus were looking out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of the Philippians. That is why these verses are added and why they are added in this exact place in the letter.