I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
One of the biggest blessings I’ve experienced is the joy of watching younger people I’m leading mature in their faith and grow in their leadership skills. I’ve had the privilege of seeing dozens of my young friends enter into full-time ministry and have a huge Gospel impact in many lives. I’ve seen others find their niche in the secular world, honoring God in their lives as teachers, nurses, business owners, and just about every other profession you can imagine. My wife, Laura, and I have provided pre-marriage counseling to numerous young couples, and then watched them develop godly marriages, and start young families with the intent of being on mission for Jesus.
Words cannot express how meaningful it has been for us to see God at work in this manner.
Paul has spent the better part of two chapters in his letter to the Philippians setting the focus on eternal things, and then describing the manner of life the saints ought to live in light of that eternal perspective. Now, at the end of the second chapter, Paul turns his attention to two men that he lifts up as examples of the very kind of Gospel living he has been describing throughout his letter. These two men are named Timothy and Epaphroditus.
For Bible readers, Timothy is the more well known of the two. In Acts 16:1-4 Paul arrived in Lystra, and he hand picked Timothy to be one of his “disciples.” This meant that Timothy would go everywhere with Paul, watching and learning how to best share the Gospel with as many people as possible. Timothy’s reputation was excellent, and Paul found him to be a teachable young man who knew his Bible and had a growing skillset as a leader. Now, as Paul writes from a Roman jail cell, he tells his friends in Philippi that since he cannot visit himself he intends to send Timothy instead. He writes, “you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the Gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also” (Philippians 2:22-24). You can sense how proud Paul is of Timothy, referring to Timothy as his “son” and boasting of Timothy’s “proven worth.” Timothy is a living, breathing example of the life Paul has been challenging the saints in Philippi toward.
Epaphroditus is lesser known, and came to Paul through a much different path. Paul referenced him as “your messenger,” indicating that at one point the Philippians had sent him with a message for Paul. It seems that at some point Epaphroditus then ceased his role as messenger and became Paul’s assistant and/or caregiver. Paul describes Epaphroditus as his “brother,” his “fellow worker,” his “fellow soldier,” and “minister” to his need. Paul holds up Epaphroditus as an example of humility, perseverance, and sacrificial service. He asks the saints in Philippi to “receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me” (Philippians 2:29-30).
Timothy and Epaphroditus are examples of the manner of life that is worthy of the Gospel.
Paul also mentions that Epaphroditus had “nearly died” for the work of Christ. We’re not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point he had developed a life-threatening sickness. Paul says he had become “ill, near to death.” For me personally, this was the most difficult, yet, also the most hopeful aspect of this section of the story. Our son Luke is battling a serious illness. When someone close to you is suffering, your heart becomes very heavy. Paul describes this godly “sorrow” and “anxiety” at the thought of his close friend dying. I am experiencing that every day, along with so many others who are watching a loved one in pain.
Our hope is in God. Epaphroditus survived. Paul says that God “had mercy on” Epaphroditus, sparing his life, and that God’s mercy was also on Paul himself in sparing him from watching his friend pass away. Our daily prayer is for God to have mercy on Luke, as he did Epaphroditus, and on us as well, that others may then receive Luke with joy and glorify God for the work He has done in his life.
- Is there someone who has served a role like Paul’s in your life? Who has been available to you to show you the way when it comes to spiritual maturity?
- Is there someone who has served a role like that of Timothy or Epaphroditus in your life? Who have you been able to influence, and then watch as they grow in their own faith?
- Have you endured illness yourself, or perhaps the illness or even loss of a loved one? What impact did that have on your heart? Were you able to experience God’s mercy through these difficult moments?
Consider the sorrow in the hearts of those who might be suffering through the illness or loss of a loved one. Make an intentional effort to offer encouragement through your presence and through prayer. Pray for God’s mercies to be great in their lives.