Last week we looked at 1 Corinthians 12 and the illustration that Paul gave of the Church as the Body of Christ. We saw that all believers are part of Christ, we are His body. We constitute the means by which Christ functions within the world. Christ is no longer in his earthly body; therefore, if he wants a task done within the world, he has to find a man to do it. We, Christians, are literally the body of Christ, hands to do his work, feet to run his errands, a voice to speak for him.
We saw that there are two attitudes to avoid, the first being inferiority, a feeling of insignificance. He tells them that in a body every member, no matter what its function, is a vital part of the body. There are no insignificant members in the body.
The second attitude to avoid is that of pride, an independent spirit. These folks consider others of little value. Paul teaches that just as each part in the body has its own specific function, so every Christian should realize that he is needed to take his place and make his contribution to the body of Christ.
Now, if we are all members of Christ's body, and if there are no insignificant members in the body, and if everyone of us is necessary for the body to function properly, why is it that so many members do nothing? In a word, what is it that keeps us from serving the Lord as a vital part of the body? Selfishness! Biblically, are we supposed to look out for and serve one another? Yes, we are:
Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
As Christians, our responsibility is to get outside of ourselves and to minister to the body of Christ. We are all called to be selfless! With that in mind, let me ask you a question, "Have you ever come to the place where you feel that what is required of you as a Christian is impossible?"
Suppose you are a salesman who was responsible for $500,000 worth of sales last year. The boss comes to you and says, "Well, you did very well last year; $500,000 was a good figure, but we would like to increase that by $100,000 this year." You take a deep breath and say, "All right, I'll do my best." But if the boss comes to you and says, "$500,000 was a terrible figure, we would like to make that $2,000,000 this year," you are very likely going to quit your job and get another one.
This is the way the Christian life often strikes people when they first begin to realize what is required of them as Christians. When you first become a Christian, you have a pretty high opinion of yourself. You think you have arrived. Then you begin to study the Bible and realize that God wants you to be like Jesus Christ:
Philippians 2:5 (NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
We are called to have the attitude of Christ, which from this context is selflessness. He gave his life in order to minister to others. We are to be like Christ:
Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
Like the salesman, you may say, "That's impossible! I cant do it." You may even feel like quitting at times. But don't! It's true that in this life you will never be completely like Christ in a practical sense. But yet, you are to become more and more like him. We are to constantly be making progress at dealing with our selfishness.
The Bible teaches that although God's standards are high and thus may seem impossible, God provides supernatural resources to meet them.
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
God gives us the power and ability to do the things that he has called us to do if we live in dependence upon Him.
Think about how we are admonished to live as believers, we are called to be selfless. We are to put the needs of others ahead of our own. Christianity is not easy to live out. How can we do it? How can a Christian live up to such standards? It's hard, but it's not impossible if we depend upon the Lord. And to prove that, the Lord gives us three human examples of godly selfless men in Philippians 2:17-30 - here we have the example of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. Thomas Brooks said, "Example is the most powerful rhetoric."
In living my Christian life, one of the strongest motivations to me is the example of godly men and women, both biblical and personal. Men and women who have fleshed out the word of God. I remember couples like John and Dot, and men like Billy who had a great influence on my life. They walked the walk. They lived humble godly selfless lives. They fleshed out the principles of the Word of God. Humanly speaking, I owe my love and commitment to the Word of God to Billy, who was a model to me of humble service.
We all should have those who we can look to as an example to pattern our lives after - a flesh and blood example we can watch and learn from.
Paul had a passion for service; to teach and preach Christ. His service was sacrificial, it cost him, and he was willing to pay the price.
Acts 20:22-24 (NKJV) "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
The people who make a difference in the world are those who are willing to pay the price. And in Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, we meet men that are willing to pay the price.
In verses 17 and 18, we have the example of Paul:
Philippians 2:17 (NKJV) Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Paul uses himself as an example of sacrificial joy. Why does he use himself? Is it pride? NO! He's writing under inspiration, and the Holy Spirit uses Paul because he is a good example.
"Sacrifice"- this word would produce a potent image to the first century believers, but it is very remote to us. We've never seen anybody sacrifice a lamb, or a goat, or a bull. We've most likely never seen someone cut an animal's throat and let the blood drain out. We don't have that in our culture, it's unfamiliar to us, but it wasn't to the Philippians.
Paul is talking about an alter, a living animal (a valuable one), blood, suffering, pouring out a drink offering, a libation. That is the imagery that's in his mind. This ancient ritual stopped in AD 70 when Christ returned in judgement on Jerusalem, forever putting an end to the Old Covenant.
The word "poured out" that Paul uses is the Greek word spendo. It means: "to pour out as a libation, a drink offering." Figuratively, it was used of devoting one's life as a sacrifice. Background: the offerer would bring his animal and kill it, and after preparing it, it would be burned on the alter giving off a sweet fragrance in the process. At this point the ancient worshiper would have made an additional offering called a "libation". He would have taken a cup of wine and poured it upon the alter, thus pouring it upon the sacrifice that was already burning. Because the alter was hot, the libation would immediately turn to steam and be gone. Paul is saying that he is a libation, poured out for God. That would be how a Greek or Roman would offer sacrifice.
Paul is saying, "I am offering my life as the final act upon another sacrifice." Paul is the libation or drink offering. It wasn't just his death that he saw as a sacrifice but his life also. His life was a sacrifice in which his death was the culmination. Paul viewed his live as a living sacrifice.
Paul's attitude is "I joy and rejoice." Why? Because I'm being poured out as an offering. Joy comes through sacrifice. Have you ever experienced the joy of sacrifice in suffering? We know so little about Paul's level of joy, because we know so little about his level of sacrifice. His joy was in the sacrifice, he lived to serve God. Paul's attitude is, "Don't worry about me, I'm rejoicing."
Philippians 2:18 (NKJV) For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul's joy is not related to circumstances, but most of our joy is. If our circumstances are good, we are happy, if they are not, we are miserable. Paul seems to have the most joy in the worst circumstances. Most Christians never really know the joy that comes from sacrificial service. The whole world wants joy, but most people chase it in the wrong direction. Joy comes from sacrificial service. Paul is our model, what he shows us is the greater the sacrifice the greater the joy.
For most people the only way they get joy is by what they do for themselves, or maybe in helping others. How many of us receive joy from the sacrifices we make for Christ? What are you sacrificing in service for Christ? What amount of treasure and time are you putting into the ministry? What have you said, "No" to in order to say, "Yes" to God's will? His will is that you know his word.
Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
What have you said, "No" to so you could spend time in God's Word? - T.V., sports, hobbies, sleep?
The reason that we have such a discontent society is because we try to find our joy in possessions rather than in sacrifice, which is where real joy comes from. Do you know the joy of sacrificial service?
How can we reach this level? Just like Paul did, by abiding in Christ. Your effectiveness as a Christian is directly related to one thing - the proximity in which you live in intimate fellowship with Christ.
John 15:4-5 (NKJV) "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Paul's frame of mind was not something that came about in an instant. Paul's genuine humility and sacrificial attitude was the product of a long relationship with God.
The principle we see in Paul is, "The greater the sacrifice, the greater the joy." The more Paul sacrificed, the greater was his joy. Paul followed Christ and is an excellent example for us of sacrificial service.
In verses 19-24, we see the example of Timothy:
Philippians 2:19 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.
Paul wanted to go to Philippi himself, he loved the Philippians and wanted to be with them, but Paul is a prisoner in Rome. He can't be with them, so he sends Timothy.
"I trust in the Lord Jesus" -- the word "trust" 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 you plans in dependence upon God? Or do you live like an atheist?
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. Why is Paul sending Timothy? He was sending Timothy so he "may be encouraged when I know your state." So, upon Timothy's return to Paul, he will bring the good news that all is well with the Philippians.
In verses 20-22, Paul give us the Kenosis of Timothy. Kenosis is the emptying. Here we see the self-emptying of Timothy. I want to look at several features in these verses that Timothy models in spiritual living.
Philippians 2:20 (NKJV) For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.
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. This is the goal of discipleship, to reproduce yourself in others.
Luke 6:40 (NKJV) "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly 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 be the goal of every disciple to reproduce themselves in the lives of others.
Paul said that Timothy would "sincerely care for your state." The word "sincerely" means: "legitimately or genuinely." Timothy had the heart of a true disciple.
The word Paul uses for "care" 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.
Philippians 2:21 (NKJV) For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.
This is a sad verse. "All men seek their own." What he is saying is that everybody is selfish. The word "all" used here is the Greek word hoi pantes, it means: "one and all, all without exception, the whole of them." 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."
Paul speaks here in the present tense - "they are all continually seeking their own interest." This is strong! Paul is contrasting Timothy's concern for the Philippians with the lack of concern by others for Christ. Notice carefully that 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.
1 John 4:20-21 (KJV) If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Paul says, "They don't care for you, so they don't care for Christ." Christ is one with his children.
Paul's words are a scathing indictment against the awful sin of selfishness.
1 Corinthians 10:24 (NKJV) Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.
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" (done merely as a routine).
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?
Philippians 2:22 (NKJV) But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.
Timothy's character had been tried and proven. "He served with me in 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. 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 is a model for us to look to and follow. 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.
Now in verses 25 thru 30, we have the example of Epaphroditus. Paul was an apostle called of God to write most of the New Testament. He's probably one of the greatest Christians that ever lived. It's hard to identify with him and his sacrificial life. It is also hard to identify with Timothy who was a duplicate of Paul, he's no easy act to follow either. So, Paul's third example is Epaphroditus. He wasn't a teacher nor preacher that we know of. We have no record of any messages that he preached. He wasn't an incredibly gifted man, but he was committed totally to Christ. His level of sacrificial service becomes very instructive to us. He provides a pattern that the average person can relate to. Epaphroditus is one of us, which makes his example very powerful and very convicting to us.
Philippians 2:25 (NKJV) 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;
Paul says, "I'm sending him to you." I weighed the facts and found it a necessity to send Epaphroditus to you." Why? He tells us in verses 26-28.
Philippians 2:26 (NKJV) since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
Many say that Epaphroditus was homesick. I don't think so. The word "longing"means: "to intensely crave, desire greatly." It is a strong inward desire for the Philippians. Then he goes on to say that he was "distressed", it means: "to be depressed or rejected, be troubled, full of anguish or sorrow." This word is only used two other times in the New Testament, both of them of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33). The Greek word finds its origin in a word that has the idea of: "not at home, uncomfortable, troubled, or distressed."
Why was he distressed? Look at the rest of the verse: "was distressed because you had heard that he was sick." He was troubled because they heard that he was sick. He knew they would be sad, and their sadness has greatly affected him - not his sickness - but their concern. He wasn't distressed because he was sick, but because the Philippians had heard that he was sick.
Epaphroditus wanted to go back to Philippi so they would see that he was alright and end their sadness. Paul could have said to Epaphroditus, "Get over it, they'll live. We have work to do, forget about them." But Paul feels bad because Epaphroditus feels bad, because the Philippians feel bad because he is sick. Everybody feels bad, so Paul says, "You've got to go back so everyone will be glad and not sad."
Philippians 2:27 (NKJV) 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.
"He was sick almost unto death" - the word "almost" literally means: "along side of a neighbor, next door." Epaphroditus was at the door of death. How this happened or what his sickness was, we don't know. All we can do is guess.
Philippians 2:28 (NKJV) Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful.
Paul could have still used Epaphroditus, but he cared more about their joy than his own physical needs. This is a self-less man.
Philippians 2:29 (NKJV) Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;
The word "receive" means: "to receive to one's self. They were to receive him "in the Lord." In other words, they were to receive him as the Lord would receive him. He tells them why they are to esteem him in:
Philippians 2:30 (NKJV) 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.
The word "work" is ergon, meaning: "toil, effort, work." Notice that it was the work "of Christ." The words "not regarding" are from the Greek word parabouleuomai. It is a gambling term. It means: "to throw down a stake, to roll the dice." He risked his life as a gambler will take risks for a possible gain. He hazzard his life "to supply what was lacking in your service toward me." This literally means: "to complete your service to me." He is saying, "Epaphroditus is here to do what you can't do because you're so far away."
Epaphroditus loved the Philippians, who he was representing, and Paul, who he was ministering to, so much that he almost lost his life pouring it out in sacrificial service to meet Paul's physical needs.
In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women called the parabolani, the gamblers. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. In A.D. 252, plague broke out in Carthage; the heathen threw out the bodies of their dead and fled in terror. Cyprian, the Christian bishop, gathered his congregation together and set them to burying the dead and nursing the sick in that plague-stricken city; and by so doing they saved the city, at the risk of their lives.
There should be in the Christian an almost reckless courage which makes him ready to gamble with his life to serve Christ and man. You won't die prematurely, so go ahead and take some risks.
What have you risked to meet someone's needs? We don't like risks. There are times we won't help someone in trouble because we're afraid we might get hurt or even killed. Most of us do the opposite of Epaphroditus, we regard our life as a thing so precious that it is to be guarded at all costs. This is not the attitude of Christ.
Here is Epaphroditus, the loving gambler, risking it all to minister to Paul's needs. Paul would have survived without him, but that's not how Epaphroditus saw it.
We selfishly clutch life and guard our own interests when the mind of Christ is to be selfless and sacrificial. That is what God calls us to. This is uncomfortable to hear, isn't it? If we are going to impact our society, if we are going to be effective in our evangelism, we need to quit selfishly guarding our lives and start taking some risks in order to meet the needs of others.
Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus are all example of selfless, sacrificial service to the body of Christ. They are examples that we are to follow. We all need to get beyond our selfishness and give our lives in service to Christ. And please never forget that we serve Christ as we minister to those in His body.
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