Pastor David B. Curtis


A Picture of Discipleship

Philippians 2:19-24

Delivered 12/03/2006

This passage in Philippians is a very simple, very practical text that gives us a picture of discipleship. Timothy is an example of a selfless man ­ a young man like us, who learned to live according to the pattern that God has established. The example of Timothy is very encouraging to us.

Thomas Brooks said, "Example is the most powerful rhetoric." The Holy Spirit, knowing this gives us examples to follow. We tend to be creatures led more by pattern than precept, and that makes example so powerful. Principle and precept tell us our duty, but example assures us that duty is possible. We need models -- precepts fleshed out by example.

1 Peter 2:21 (NASB) For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

A disciple is someone who more than anything else in the world wants to be just like Jesus. So to be like Jesus, we follow in His steps. The only way we can do this is if we know Him. The only way we can know Him is to spend time with Him in His Word. We are to be like Him so we should do what He would do. Paul practiced modeling Christ and expected others to follow him:

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Philippians 3:17 (NASB) Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.
Philippians 4:9 (NASB) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

Paul clearly teaches that we are to follow the example of his life. We can't see Paul. We read about him and thus learn of his life. But we need flesh and blood examples to follow, so God ordained that His church be lead by elders. These elders are to be examples to the flock:

1 Peter 5:1-3 (NASB) Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

The church of God is to be led by the living visual power of example. We all need examples to follow. Parents, we are also to be examples to our children. You know from first hand knowledge that they pick up what you do much quicker than what you say. The parent who says, "Do as I say, not as I do" is asking the child to overcome the power of example. This is wrong! The child will imitate the parent's example. Philippians 4:9 should be the mantra of every parent: "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things..."

In Philippians 2:1-16, Paul lays out our duty as believers; this is how we are supposed to live. In verses 19-24, Paul sets forth Timothy as an example of what the disciple of Jesus Christ looks like:

Philippians 2:19 (NASB) But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.

Paul wanted to go to Philippi himself, he loved the Philippians and wanted to be with them:

Philippians 1:3-4 (NASB) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
Philippians 1:8 (NASB) For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:1 (NASB) Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Paul has a very close and loving relationship with the Philippians. He wanted to be with them to fellowship with them, but he also wanted to aid them in their spiritual progress:

Philippians 1:25 (NASB) And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,

Paul wanted to be there with them to help them in their spiritual growth, but Paul is a prisoner in Rome. He can't be with them, so he sends Timothy.

"I hope in the Lord Jesus" -- the word "hope" is elpizo, which means: "expect or hope." His hope is in the Lord Jesus. All of Paul's hopes and expectations were contingent upon God's sovereign will. The Lord Jesus Christ was the circumference of all his thoughts, plans, hopes, and expectations.

I think that many Christians live like atheists when it comes to every day life. It's possible to express our dependence upon God in formal worship and then disregard Him in the daily pursuits of life. Do you live your life and make your plans in dependence upon God? Or do you live like an atheist? James rebukes this spirit of practical atheism:

James 4:13 (NASB) Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."

This is an attitude of self-sufficiency. God is left out of their plans. This is practical atheism. Do you do this? Parents, how do you feel when your young children make plans without consulting you? We might ask them, "Who in the world do you think you are? You don't make plans without asking me." This attitude in our children angers us, but we often do this very thing to God.

James 4:14 (NASB) Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Do you realize that? We have no clue as to what tomorrow may bring, or if we will even have tomorrow.

James 4:15-16 (NASB) Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

Verse 15 is calling for an attitude of humble submission to God's sovereign will. It is an attitude that says, I'm making plans (which is fine, we should plan), but I realize that God's plan for me may be different. The proper attitude is to accept and submit to God's plan, whatever it may be.

This is what Paul is saying in Philippians 2:19: My plan is to send Timothy to you, but I know that it is all contingent on God's providence.

"Timothy" means: "one who honors God." Timothy was a native of either Derbe or Lystra:

Acts 16:1-2 (NASB) And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.

Timothy had a good reputation among the local churches:

Acts 16:3-4 (NASB) Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.

So, Paul picks up Timothy, and he begins to travel with them. Timothy's mother was a believing Jew, and his father was a Greek. The fact that Timothy wasn't circumcised would seem to show that he was educated in Greek culture. We don't know when or how he was converted, but First and Second Timothy give us some insight:

2 Timothy 1:5 (NASB) For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Timothy had a godly grandmother and mother who obviously had a great impact on his life.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NASB) You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

How did Timothy know the Scriptures from childhood? His mother and grandmother obviously taught him the Word of God. The word "childhood" in verse 15 is brephos. It is used of "newborn" babies. Brephos is even used of John the Baptist leaping in the womb:

Luke 1:41 (NASB) And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

So, the Word is telling us that Timothy knew the "sacred writings" from the time he was a little baby. What does "sacred writings" refer to? This is a reference to the Tanakh or the First Testament. Timothy's Jewish grandmother and mother had taught him God's Word and given him a godly heritage.

1 Timothy 1:2 (NASB) to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul calls Timothy his "true child in the faith." The word "true" is gnesios, it means: "legitimate, genuine, true." Timothy's mother or grandmother probably led him to the Lord, and then Paul him took and discipled him. Paul calls him "his son in the faith," because they were so much like each other; Paul had poured his life into Timothy. Spiritually, their relationship was like father and son.

Timothy was with Paul in Philippi when the church was started. He was with Paul in Thessalonica and Berea, he was with him at Corinth and Ephesus, and he was with him in prison at Rome, but Timothy wasn't a prisoner. He was Paul's disciple and loving companion. He was Paul's aid-de-camp; his right hand man.

Philippians 2:19 (NASB) But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.

Paul says that he hopes to send Timothy "shortly." How soon is "shortly"? If you look at verse 23 he tells us:

Philippians 2:23 (NASB) Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;

I think that what Paul is saying here is, "As soon as I hear the outcome of my trial, I'm going to send him so you will know what is happening in my life." The Philippians were concerned about Paul, and he wanted to keep them informed. He was going to send Timothy to them just as soon as he knew the results of his trial.

Sidebar on "shortly": The Greek word for "shortly" is tacheos. According to Arndt and Gingich Lexicon, tachos is used in the LXX and certain non-canonical writings to mean: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste, suddenly."

Are you excited about Timothy's soon arrival? Why not? The Bible says that Paul will send him "shortly." But I don't know of any Christians that are looking for Timothy to arrive soon. Christians understand that Paul was speaking to the Philippians in the first century when he said this. They don't understand the "shortly" to be to them, but to the Philippians of the first century. Why then, when it comes to the return of Christ, do they not take "shortly" in its first century context?

The Greek word translated "shortly" in Revelation 1:1 is tachos:

Revelation 1:1 (NASB) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,
Revelation 22:6 (NASB) And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.

These words were spoken to a first century audience, and if these things were to take place "shortly," how can we still be expecting them now, some 2,000 years later? "Shortly" to the churches in Asia minor is the same "shortly" as it was to the Philippians. I think if we weren't blinded by tradition, we would see this.

Some try to redefine these terms to fit their theology. One Dispensational writer explains the use of tachos in Revelation 1:1 this way: "The idea is not that the event may occur soon, but that when it does, it will be sudden". What consolation would this have offered to those persecuted saints? Interpreting this passage to mean that Jesus will come rapidly some two or three thousand years in the future mocks their historical circumstances. Revelation hails the advent of Jesus as a relief; the original audience would not have been consoled to hear that once He started to come, in a couple thousand years, He would come quickly. How does this author use his definition of tachos in our text?

Philippians 2:19 (NASB) But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.

Does this mean that whenever Timothy does come to them he will come running?

Back to Philippians. Why is Paul sending Timothy?

Philippians 2:19 (NASB) But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.

He was sending Timothy so he, "may be encouraged when I learn of your condition." The Greek word for encouraged is eupsucheo; it means: "to be in good spirits, to be encouraged." So, upon Timothy's return to Paul, he will bring the good news that all is well with the Philippians. The trip from Paul to the Philippians would have been a forty day trip on foot. This would be an eighty day round trip for Timothy. Paul expected to hear a positive report; he had confidence in the Philippians.

Now, in verses 20-22, Paul give us a picture of discipleship. Here Timothy fleshes out for us what a disciple of Jesus Christ looks like. I want to look at seven features in these verses that Timothy models of discipleship.

1. Timothy is a reproduction of Paul.

Philippians 2:20 (NASB) For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.

Paul was following Christ, and Timothy was following Christ as he followed Paul. Paul says, "I only have Timothy to send to you, he's the only one like me."

The word "kindred spirit" is the Greek word isopsuchos. This word is only used here in the New Testament. It comes from two words: isos, which means: "equal"; then the word psuche, which means: "spirit, life, soul or mind." Paul is saying, "I have nobody of equal mind, equal life, equal spirit." He is saying that Timothy is equal to him. Timothy thinks like Paul, he acts like Paul, he ministers like Paul. Paul had no one else like him.

Of all the Christians at Rome, of all the brethren that were with Paul, of all the saints who were members of Caesar's household, there was no one who shared so intimately Paul's heart as Timothy. They were equal in soul.

1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (NASB) I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.

Paul says, "I want you to imitate me, now here's Timothy." Timothy was a reproduction of Paul. Paul couldn't be there, so he sent Timothy who was just like him. This is the goal of discipleship, to reproduce yourself in others:

Luke 6:40 (NASB) "A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

Timothy is a model of what we all should be. We are all called to pattern our lives after Paul, who patterned his life after Jesus. It should also be the goal of every disciple to reproduce himself in the lives of others:

2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB) And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

How do we make disciples? We teach the truth and we model the truth. We all should have a Paul (a model of godliness) to follow and a Timothy (someone that we are reproducing ourselves in). Caution: people tend to pick up our negative traits more quickly than they do our positive traits.

Timothy was a reproduction of Paul and:

2. Timothy was caring.

Philippians 2:20 (NASB) For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.

Paul said that Timothy would "genuinely be concerned for your welfare." The word "genuinely" is the Greek word gnesios; it means: "legitimately or genuinely." Timothy had the heart of a true disciple:

John 13:34-35 (NASB) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

The word Paul uses for "concerned" is the Greek word merimnao; it means: "to be anxious, worried or burdened in a serious way, to be troubled with care." This is a strong verb. Timothy has a genuine burden for the Philippians. We see this same word in noun form in:

2 Corinthians 11:28 (NASB) Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches.

When you compare these two passages, you see how deeply Timothy had drunk of the apostle's spirit and attitude to his missionary and pastoral work. The care of all the churches was shared by both men. Look with me at:

Philippians 4:6 (NASB) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Are Paul and Timothy in violation of this verse? This verb anxious is used often in the gospel, "take no thought [merimnao] for your life." What is forbidden in the gospels and here in 4:6 is anxious care for one's self and one's own interest. Timothy and Paul's anxiety was for the spiritual welfare of others. This is a biblical anxiety.

1 Corinthians 12:25 (NASB) that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.

This states the Christian's responsibility for other believers using the identical verb. It is amazing how often we see this reversed. We find ourselves guilty of anxiety over our own interest to the exclusion of others' well being. We have actually turned the Scriptures around. We do what is forbidden and don't do what is commanded.

Timothy fleshed out esteeming others as better then himself:

Philippians 2:4 (NASB) do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Timothy was a reproduction of Paul, he was caring and:

3. Timothy was single-minded.

Philippians 2:21 (NASB) For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.

This is a sad verse: "They all seek after their own interest." What he is saying is that everybody is selfish. Paul is literally saying, There is no other Christian at Rome, apart from Timothy, upon whom he could count on at this time to care about the Philippians. Luke and Aristarchus had already left Rome, so he is not speaking badly of them.

Paul speaks here in the present tense -- "they are all continually seeking their own interest." This is strong! Is Paul complaining? No. He is contrasting Timothy's concern for the Philippians with the lack of concern by others for Christ. He doesn't say that others care for themselves and not for you, but others care for themselves and not for Christ. To be concerned for other Christians is to be concerned for Christ; to love Christ is to love His people.

Acts 9:1 (NASB) Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
Acts 9:4 (NASB) and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

Timothy cares about Christ's interest, he's single minded. Everyone else at Rome is double minded. Timothy's interests were in Christ, not himself.

Paul's words are a scathing indictment against the awful sin of selfishness.

1 Corinthians 10:24 (NASB) Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
1 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

Many people serve Christ; it's just that they're not single minded, their interests are mixed. Some will serve only when Christ's gain is compatible with their own. What made Timothy so special in ministry is that he is so single minded. When everybody else had a lot of interests, he had only one-- Jesus Christ.

John Calvin said, "Involved in their own private affairs, they were the more negligent to promote the public advantage of the Church. For it must necessarily be, that one or other of two dispositions rules in us; either that, overlooking ourselves we are devoted to Christ and the things that are Christ's or that too intent on our own advantage, we serve Christ perfunctorily."

Is Christ one of the items on your agenda? Or is Christ your agenda? Paul said in Philippians 3:13, "One thing I do." Can you say that? It's so easy to put other things first; reputation, pleasure, plans, or family. Timothy put Christ first, he was single minded. What is it that you're seeking in life? Is it your own interests or Christ's?

Timothy was a reproduction of Paul, he was caring, single-minded, and:

4. Timothy was mature.

Philippians 2:22 (NASB) But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

The word "know" is gnosko;, it means: "to know by experience." Timothy had a long and intimate relationship with this church. The word "proven" is dokime; it means: "to approve by testing, tried character." Timothy's character had been tried and proven. Timothy was no novice, his character had been proven. How does a believer mature? What are the means of sanctification? 1. The Word of God. 2. Providence. Timothy has spent time in God's word. When you neglect the Bible, you ignore Jesus Christ. His maturity was a product of his single mindedness.

Timothy was a reproduction of Paul, he was caring, single-minded, mature and:

5. Timothy was submissive.

Philippians 2:22 (NASB) But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

The word "served" is douleuo; it means: "to be a slave, to be in bondage." It is the noun used of Christ in:

Philippians 2:7 (NASB) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Paul is saying, "He slaved with me." Not, he was a slave to me, but he slaved with me. He was my equal. The word "child" is teknon, which means: "offspring, to be a father." Timothy esteemed and submitted to his spiritual father Paul. No murmuring over difficult conditions, just submission.

Timothy was a reproduction of Paul, he was caring, single-minded, mature, submissive and:

6. Timothy was sacrificial.

"He served with me in the furtherance of the gospel..." It was no small act of self-denial on Timothy's part to leave his home and abandon other prospects to share the uncertainties and dangers of Paul's way of life. This was no twentieth century evangelistic campaign of luxury and self indulgence.

Hebrews 13:23 (NASB) Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I shall see you.

Timothy was imprisoned for his faith. He was willing to do what was required to serve in the furtherance of the gospel. As far as we know, Timothy had no wife, no children, no home. On top of everything that he had to go through, It must have been hard for Timothy to watch all that Paul had to suffer. He was only concerned with Christ's interests.

Timothy was a reproduction of Paul, he was caring, single-minded, mature, submissive, sacrificial and:

7. Timothy was available.

Philippians 2:23 (NASB) Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;

Whenever Paul wished for information from some church or wished to send advice or encouragement or rebuke and could not go himself, it was Timothy that he sent. Timothy was sent to Thessalonica (1 Thes. 3:6), Corinth (1 Cor. 4:7), Philippi, and Ephesus:

1 Timothy 1:3 (NASB) As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

Timothy was always willing to go anywhere without complaining, and in his hands a message was as safe as if Paul had delivered it himself. Others might be consumed with selfish desire, but Timothy's one desire was to serve Christ. Timothy is a model for us to look to and follow in these seven areas. He was a living, breathing, fleshed out example of all that God wants us to be. He was a reproduction of Paul. When you looked at him, you saw Paul. He was caring, he was single minded, he was mature, he was submissive, he was sacrificial, and he was available.

Do you have a Paul in your life? Someone who is an example to you. Someone who you are following and learning from both in precept and practice. Who is your Timothy? Do you have someone that you are being an example to? Is there someone that you are investing your life into? We are all called to be disciples and to make disciples.

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