Two Faithful Companions

"But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly" (Phil. 2:19-24). Paul knew that it was possible that he might never see these Christians from Philippi again. He knew that he might die as a prisoner, but he hoped that such would not be the case. He trusted God that he would be seeing them again shortly and he trusted that God would send Timothy to them shortly. At that moment, Timothy was with him (cf. 1:1), and Timothy would stay with Paul a while longer until it was known what would become of him in prison.

Paul knew that he would be encouraged when Timothy went to the Philippian brethren. How would this uplift Paul? Primarily because it would allow him to learn how these Christians were doing. Paul trusted Timothy immensely. He knew Timothy to be a very special Christian who would genuinely care for these brethren. Timothy had proven himself as one who could be relied upon as a servant in the gospel. He was dedicated to seeking the Lord's will and not his own way. Knowing that a faithful Christian man like Timothy was with these brethren would be an encouragement to Paul since he knew that Timothy would help them and accurately inform him of how things were going with the church at Philippi.

It is obvious that Paul loved Timothy dearly. They had worked together as laborers in the gospel like father and son. They were not literally father and son in the flesh, but they were father and son spiritually. Consider I Corinthians 4:15 - "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." Admittedly, Paul wasn't talking to Timothy in that passage, but we do see a principle. Those whom we help convert through the saving gospel message are our children in a sense. Paul called Timothy "a true son in the faith" (I Tim. 1:2) and "a beloved son" (II Tim. 1:2). These verses suggest that Paul converted Timothy, probably during his first visit to Lystra in Acts 14. It should not be overlooked, however, that Timothy's mother and grandmother also played a significant role in his spiritual life (II Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Paul selected Timothy, who had a great reputation among the brethren, to accompany him on his second and third missionary journeys (cf. Acts 16:3ff; 19:22). Thus, Paul and Timothy spent a lot of time together and were obviously very close--like father and son. Undoubtedly, they shared many good experiences together in their labor for the Lord (most of which were not recorded by inspiration).

On a personal note, I am often reminded of Larry Fryer when I read these verses. Although Larry did not bring me to Christ, he did treat me like a son as he encouraged me and helped guide me to become an evangelist like he was. I will always have a special place in my heart for Larry, probably very much like the feelings Timothy had for Paul.

As we move on in the text, we see that Paul mentions a second faithful co-laborer--Epaphroditus. "Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me" (Phil. 2:25-30). Listen to the way Paul described this Christian man. Epaphroditus was: (1) his brother, (2) a fellow worker, (3) a fellow soldier, (4) a messenger for them, and (5) a servant. What a wonderful tribute to this man! If Paul was present today to describe you, could he honestly use such terms? Think about it! Epaphroditus wasn't a Christian brother who just warmed a pew, so to speak. He was a hard worker for the Lord! He was a soldier in that he stood for the defense of the gospel like Paul did! He would not tolerate error but contended earnestly for the faith (cf. Jude 3).

Paul said that Epaphroditus was the Philippians' messenger. It appears that he was the one from Philippi who brought financial support to Paul from them (cf. Phil. 4:18). He wasn't just a runner boy, however. He had been working with Paul and had become deathly ill. Now, what would most humans do when they become sick almost to the point of death? Most would worry about themselves and perhaps feel sorry for themselves, but not Epaphroditus! He was distressed, not about his health, but about those in Philippi who had heard he was sick! He didn't want them worrying about him. He did not desire the attention of others. What a marvelous attitude!

This passage illustrates the fact that Christians are not exempt from illness and death, though some tend to think that we should be. There are those who mistakenly believe that God has failed them when their health deteriorates or a Christian loved one dies. Paul understood that God hadn't forsaken them, and he would've remained true to God even if Epaphroditus had died from his illness, though he would have had "sorrow upon sorrow." Paul would've been extremely grieved to lose this faithful friend and fellow soldier in the good fight of faith, but he would not have blamed God had Epaphroditus succumbed to the illness.

Now, I want you to think carefully about something. Didn't Paul have miraculous power from the Holy Spirit? He most certainly did, including the power to heal (e.g., Acts 19:11,12). Why didn't he just heal Epaphroditus miraculously? Wouldn't that have been a good work? No one would deny such. However, the purpose of miracles was always to confirm the word and instill faith (cf. Mark 16:20; John 20:30,31). Miraculous power was never used by men merely for personal gain (cf. Matt. 4:3,4). Healing Epaphroditus would not necessarily have confirmed any message or teacher as genuine, and this is why I believe he wasn't miraculously healed. It was the same way with Trophimus (II Tim. 4:20) and also Timothy (I Tim. 5:23). Such was also true with Paul's thorn in the flesh (II Cor. 12:7-9). It was not God's will for miracles to be used for personal gain.

Even without a miracle performed through the hands of men, God had mercy on Epaphroditus; that is, He providentially healed Him. Paul then sent him back to Philippi so the brethren would not have sorrow over him by worrying about his health. Paul closes this chapter by reminding the Philippians that Epaphroditus had willingly risked his life to do the work that they had sent him to do. He should consequently be held in esteem because of that fact. Those today who risk their physical well-being for the sake of the gospel should also be highly esteemed.

As we conclude this lesson, let us summarize what we have seen in this second chapter of Philippians. Paul reminded the Philippian Christians of some blessings they enjoyed in Christ and that he yearned for them to be united together under the same mindset. He wanted them to develop the mind of Christ (i.e., an attitude that is not selfish but humbly considers others before oneself). Paul tried to motivate them to develop this mindset by reminding them of Jesus' perfect example of humility and obedience, which is illustrated masterfully in His leaving the glory of heaven and dying on a cross. Paul urged the brethren to continue to live faithfully before God with due respect and without complaining. He wanted them to exercise their godly influence in this sinful world. He wanted them to rejoice in their sacrifice and service to the Lord. Dear friends, may we labor to learn and apply these truths today in our lives as Christians! Paul also wrote about Timothy and Epaphroditus, two faithful companions of his. They also were great examples, like Jesus, of humility and obedience. May we work to be faithful in service to the Lord like they were. May we sincerely care for our brethren and seek God's will above our own. Let us work as God's servants and soldiers, even if we forfeit our physical lives in the process. To God be the glory!

We will continue our study of Philippians next Tuesday. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.