About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 2:1-12    ch. 2:12-19     ch. 2:19-29

 

 

Imitating Christ’s Humility (ch. 2:1-12)

 

There are certain chapters in the Bible that are well known for a particular theme such as 1 Corinthians 13 for love, John 17 for Jesus’ prayer, Hebrews 11 for faith, and Acts 2 for the birth of the church through the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 2 is well known for Jesus’ departure from heaven to His humility as seen on the cross.  This chapter, especially the first part is Paul’s appeal to become a servant of the Lord Jesus as Jesus Himself was a servant of His Father, God.

 

Verse 1 has 4 phrases that begin with the word "if".  They are; "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with His Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…"  Paul uses these 4 "ifs" to encourage his readers to do what he writes in verse 2.  It’s much like the following statement.  "If you have the money, then buy the car."  Or, "If you love him, then marry him." 

 

I don’t believe Paul is questioning the Philippians salvation or integrity by the use of the word "if".  He could have easily said, "because," that is to say, "Because you have fellowship with the Spirit."  By using the word "if" he is making them think.  "It" would cause them to ask themselves if they indeed possess these things.  "Because" would make them think less because Paul would be plainly acknowledging that they do possess these things.  The word "if" causes Paul's readers to reflect on what he is saying. 

 

The 4 "ifs" are 4 important Christian truths.  The first "if" tells us that as Christians we have a great measure of encouragement because of our union with Jesus.  If Jesus really is who He says He is, and He is indeed that, we should feel encouraged in times of discouragement.  It doesn’t mean we won’t feel discouraged.  It means that when we do feel discouraged, Jesus is there to help with His encouragement.

 

The second "if" concerns being comforted with His love.  Love is comforting.  When experiencing love, we all feel comfort.  There are feelings associated with love, although we all know that love is not a feeling.  If we experience Jesus’ love, we will experience His comfort in times of discomfort.

 

The third "if" phrase concerns having
fellowship with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus comes to live within us, but to be accurate; it’s not really Jesus who lives in us because He is now at the right hand of the Father.  It is the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit that comes to us at initial salvation.  We, thus, commune and have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, which in turn is with Jesus, which in turn is with the Father.  The book of John has numerous examples of Jesus saying such things as, "If you see me you see the Father," or "If you have fellowship with me, you have fellowship with the Father."  This is all about the mystery of the Trinity.  On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is often called the Spirit of Christ.  So, in another accurate sense of the word, Jesus does live in us, but through His Spirit.

 

The last "if" phrase concerns tenderness and compassion we receive from being a disciple of Jesus.   This "if" has no words associating the tenderness or compassion with either Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  Jesus in fact is compassionate and tender hearted.  One result of our union with Jesus through His Spirit is a good measure of tenderness and compassion we have towards others.  If we have no such tenderness or compassion maybe we aren’t really united with Jesus, or maybe we are very weak in our relationship with Him.

 

Verse 2 begins with, "Then make my joy complete…"  Paul often sees himself as a father figure, as one who has great love and concern for his children, and in this case, his children are the Philippian believers.  He is simply saying that if the above things are real in their lives, then they can make his joy complete by doing what he is teaching them. 

 

You can see how Paul feels about those Jesus had entrusted him with if you study carefully his second letter to the Corinthians.  In that letter Paul shows his emotions and true feelings more so than in any other letter he wrote.  Paul had strong feelings for his fellow believers, and when they were doing well, he was overjoyed.  On the other hand, if they weren’t doing well Paul was deeply saddened and even to the point of emotional pain or depression as seen in his letter to both the Galatians and the Corinthians.  See Galatians 4:19 as an example.

 

Now what did these Philippians need to do to make Paul’s joy complete?  I might add at this point that when the following things are done in the church, not only Paul has joy but Jesus Himself would be full of joy.

 

The first admonishment by Paul is for these people to be like minded.  Paul is not merely telling his readers to think alike, that is to say, all agree on every issue.  The idea from the Greek is to mind, or attend to the same things.  This has a lot to do with vision and purpose.  Paul is saying that his joy would be complete if these people would attend to the same things in a unity that only can come as a result of them being joined to Jesus.  We cannot use this verse to suggest that we all need to believe the same doctrines, no matter how nice that would be. 

 

I believe all Christians should agree on the basic issues of salvation and Scripture. These are those things that make salvation what it really is, such things as the Deity of Christ, the cross, the resurrection and the ascension, among other things.  Issues such as certain aspects of the return of Jesus are secondary issues which we should have ample grace for others who may not hold to our opinions. 

 

The next thing these people should be doing is having the same love.  Are there different types of love?  In one sense of the word there is.  We often here people say that there is God’s love, human love, and erotic love.  Whatever the case we can take the same thinking as above.  The same love means to attend to the things they need to do with the love of Jesus being demonstrated to one another as they attend to these things.  They should attend to the same thing in the same loving way.  In the final analysis, the only love that God knows is sacrificial love.  As a matter of fact, I would say that if there is no sacrifice in your demonstration of love, there is no love.

 

"Being one in spirit and purpose" is the next admonition Paul gives to his readers.  The word "spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit or any spirit as a spiritual identity.  It’s used in a symbolic way and relates to the word purpose. One spirit and purpose means one direction.  Paul wants to see unity in purpose, unity in goals directions.  He doesn’t want to see his readers all running around off in different directions competing with one another, as so often is the case in today's Christian world. 

 

Paul continues his admonition in verse 3.  He says to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit."   We have already seen in the last chapter that some preached Christ for wrong motives.  Anything we do in the service of our Lord can be done out of wrong motives.  Paul lists 2 wrong motives here.  They are selfish ambition and vein conceit, both of which have been prevalent in the church throughout history and has caused great damage to Christ’s name.  Selfishness is one of the most basic sins of life.  It leads to other sins.

 

Instead of selfish ambition and self promotion Paul tells his readers, and us too, in the last part of verse 3 how we should live.  We are to do all things "in humility, considering others better than ourselves."  To me this is the mark of a mature Christian.  Your position in the church, any special gifts you may have, or who you are means little if you don’t consider others better than yourself.  Jesus told us that the first would be last and that last will be first and that we were called to serve, not to be served.  This is what Paul is talking about here. 

 

Verse 4 continues on with the same thought.  We are not to look towards our "own interests" but to the "interest of others."  Human nature tells us to seek out our own interests first.  Society and the world around us tell us to do the same.  If you live in the United States one of the most well known phrases that you would have heard over and over again across the previous decades is that America must first stand up for its own self interests, and all that America has done has worked to that end.  The problem with such thinking is that often times standing up for one’s own self interests interferes with someone else’s interest, creating conflict. 

 

In verse 5 Paul says it very clearly when he says that our attitudes "should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."  What Paul is now going to show us in the next number of verses is just what Jesus’ attitude was.  Once we see how Jesus lived and thought while on earth, we can imitate Him in these things.

 

The next few verses are also important because they teach us the very nature of Jesus, how He left His heavenly home to live on earth and die for the sins of every human being who has ever lived.  Understanding these verses will go a long way in understanding the One who Christians claim to serve. 

 

As I said, these next few verses are important and they begin with the most important New Testament truth and that is Jesus was found to be "in the very nature of God."  The word "nature" is translated from the Greek word "morphe."   This word as it applies to Jesus speaks to the very essence of who He is.  The essence of anything is the sum of things that makes what that thing is.  Paul says that the very essence, who Jesus really is, is God.  This is one Scripture that clearly tells us that Jesus was when He was on earth God in human flesh.  In Colossians 2:9 Paul tells us that all of who God is dwells in Jesus.  One of the most fundamental Biblical truths we must both believe and uphold is that Jesus, while on earth, was God in a human body.  It was for this reason that the Jews had Jesus executed.  Jesus, claiming to be God was blasphemous to the Jews.     

 

Once understanding that Jesus, while on earth, was God in a human body, leads us to believe that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.  For the first number of centuries the debate raged over the very nature of Jesus.  As a matter, even before the first century was over, the church faced heresies over the nature of Jesus.  It was for this reason why many believe John wrote his gospel account where he so clearly shows us that Jesus was divine.    

 

The verb tense in the first half of verse 6 is also important.  When Paul says, Jesus, "who being," the Greek verb tense is a present active participle.  The present tense would stress that as Paul was writing these words, and that's after the ascension of Jesus back to Heaven, Jesus was God.  So, right now, as I type these words, we must realize that Jesus is God.  Because this is an active participle, you might translate this as "Jesus is the God One."     

 

Verse 6 continues by saying that even though Jesus was God, "He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped at."  The Greek word "harpegmos," translated as "grasped" means "to forcefully seize."  Jesus was in fact God, but, He did not forcefully seize His divinity and make a big deal out of it.  He was secure in knowing who He was.  He knew He was God but He did not seize His divinity.  Instead, He submitted to the divine Father.           

 

Often those with a poorer self image feel the need to go overboard in self promotion.  They act as if they are on a higher level than what they are.  They act this way because they themselves feel they are not who they would like to be.  Jesus did not have to act in this way.  Nothing would change for Him if no one believed He was divine.  He just simply was who He was, and by knowing this He could do what Paul continues to tell us that Jesus did.

 

The word "equality" in verse 6 is important.  It clearly denoted that Jesus and God were equal, and I suggest, equal in every aspect.  The Greek word "isos" is translated as "equal," meaning "to agree."   In short, the very nature of God and the very nature of Jesus were in agreement because in reality there is only one nature in two forms, God the Father and Jesus the Son.    

 

In verse 7 Paul says that Jesus "made Himself nothing."   Some translations say that He emptied Himself, and for good reason because the Greek word "kenoo" that is translated as "nothing" here does mean "to empty."  It is important to clarify what He emptied Himself of.  The verb phrase "became nothing" is an aorist verb.  This means that at one particular moment in time Jesus became nothing, or, emptied Himself.  This moment in time was when He was conceived in Mary's womb by the Holy Spirit.  This is called the "incarnation of Christ."  Jesus was not incarnated, or, become human when He was born but when He was conceived.      

 

So what did Jesus empty Himself of?  One thing He did not empty Himself of was His divinity.  If He had emptied Himself of His divinity Paul would not have just said that He was in fact God in the last verse.  He would not have said such things as all the fullness of who God is dwells in Jesus (Colossians 2:9).  This means that He did not forgo His divine ability.  If that was the case, then He would not have performed the miracles that were common to His ministry.  Jesus emptied Himself of all that He was used to in the heavenly world in which He lived.  Remember, at the cross He could have called upon 10,000 angels for help, but He didn't.  He emptied Himself of that privilege. He emptied Himself of the luxuries, if you can say it that, of Heaven.  Living on earth was no vacation for Jesus.  You can count on that. 

 

Another way in which Jesus emptied Himself by becoming human is that He could no longer be everywhere at all times.  In theological terms this means that Jesus was not omni-present.  He was limited to being in one place at a time.  That would be a real big difference.  I don't believe we can begin to understand the change that took place with Jesus when He was born into humanity.  

 

Jesus, while on earth was nothing like He was before His incarnation.  We need to understand that Jesus as a human being was born at a certain place and time in history\, but, He existed before He entered humanity.  Like God, He had no beginning and no end.  He is eternal.  John 1:1 says that "in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God."  Although there is a distinction between Father and Son, both have the same attribute of being eternal.  To make it clear, even though there is that distinction between Father and Son, their essence is the same. 

 

So, when the "Logos", the Greek word for our English word "Word," became flesh and lived among men, it was as if He became nothing in comparison to what He left.  This is what I believe Paul was speaking of here.  From the eternal God, to a lowly baby born in a cave is becoming nothing.     

 

As a side note, when Jesus returned to Heaven, He returned in what is often called a glorified human body.  It looked human, but it wasn't really human.  It was, or more properly, it is, spiritual and eternal.  Scripture is kind of vague to what His glorified body was really like, and really, what our glorified body will be like.  That being said, when Jesus returned to Heaven, He did not return in the same state He was before His incarnation.  Jesus, out of love for us, changed the outward appearance of who He is for all of eternity.  Again, that' is something we just can't get our heads around.    

 

The Greek word "doulos" is translated as "servant" in our English Bibles.  This is one of two words in first century Greek that can be translated as "servant" or "slave" in our English Bibles.  Doulos means a slave or a servant not by constraint but choice.  People often called this a "bond servant."    

 

The next part of verse 7 says that Jesus took "the very nature of a servant."  As in verse 6 where we see the word "nature" as it relates to Jesus being in the very nature of God, here it is used in Jesus being in the very nature of a servant.  In both instances the Greek word "morphe" is translated as "nature."  Once becoming a man, Jesus became the least of men.  He became a servant, or a slave, and He did this by choice because the word "servant" here is our Greek word "doulos" that I just wrote about.  Jesus was a slave by choice, not by constraint.  He came to serve, not to be served, and this is what Paul is in the midst of telling us to do.  Jesus didn't just take on the duty of a servant.  He became a servant.  That was His life.   

 

Jesus’ attitude and actions were that of one serving others.  He did not appear on earth as one with a great ego.  He was not arrogant.  He was far from

being like the leadership of the day who lorded it over others.  Jesus even told His followers that they should not be as the leaders were in their day who lorded it over their subjects (Luke 22:25).  They were to lead by serving, which in the long run is the most effective way to lead.  People will respond to you better if you serve them instead of lording it over them, but for most of us that is not an easy task.

 

The last phrase in verse 7 says, "Being made in human likeness."  This was part of the emptying process.  Jesus took on the form of a human being.

 

The word "likeness" is translated from the Greek word "homooima" which means to become like something else or actually become something else.  The something else was a human form or a human being.   Jesus no longer was in His heavenly form, whatever that may have looked like, and, He will never revert back to that form as I have  pointed out.  He will for all of eternity live in what we call a glorified body.

 

Verse 8 says, "Being found in appearance of a man."  This phrase is not actually in most original Greek texts.  What is found in these texts is the point that Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death.  The incarnation of Jesus was clearly a humbling process for Jesus.  Serving was a humbling process for Him.  In this humility He obeyed God His Father in every way possible.  He obeyed so much that He gave His life because that was His Father's will for Him.  He did not simply obey His Father in the easy things, but in all things.  

 

Obeying God His Father would have been a humbling process because, as Paul has already stated, He and God were equal, but now, while Jesus was on earth Jesus had to obey.  In one real sense of the word, Jesus, while on earth was in a subordinate position.   

 

The last words of verse 8 say, "Even death on a cross."   Jesus just didn’t simply die.  He was executed as a common criminal.  One who had done nothing wrong, neither in the eyes of Rome or in the eyes of God.  The process of humiliation goes far beyond just becoming human, and just becoming a servant.  He humbled Himself to the extent that He was seen as a convicted criminal deserving the penalty of death.  This is the ultimate humiliation for One who is divine.     

 

The death on the cross is significant because in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 21:28, Galatians 3:13) it states that whoever dies by hanging on a tree is cursed, and, that is exactly the real meaning to Jesus' death.  He was cursed by God.  He was punished for each and every sin of each and every person who has ever lives.  He was the ultimate offering for sin.  It was for this reason that God, His Father, did not rescue Him when hanging on the cross.   

 

Verse 9 begins with the word "therefore" and as so many preachers say, "When you see the word 'therefore,' you should look to see why it’s 'there for'."

 

"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place…"   The fact that Jesus was obedient and humbled Himself to the lowest of low level of humanity, God exalted Him to the highest of highs of to both the spiritual and material universe.  Jesus now sits in a place of supreme authority along side God.  As is often stated in the New Testament, Jesus sits at the right hand of God.  The term "right hand of God" should be understood metaphorically.  In Greek culture this meant that the one who sits at another's right hand sits in the same place of authority. 

 

Jesus Himself, in Matthew 28:18 states that He has been given "all authority."  A close reading of 1 Corinthians 15 shows that once Jesus, who now has ultimate authority, puts all things under His fee, including death, He will hand all things over to His Father.  At that time He will also submit Himself totally to the authority of God His Father, so God Himself will become the final authority.  Until that day comes, God has placed Jesus in the place of final authority.     

 

The next phrase says that God gave Jesus a name that is above every other name.  What name is this?  Is the name Jesus special?  Is there only one man named Jesus?  No, there are many men in the world named Jesus.  There is more to the name of Jesus than just the name Jesus.  Attached to His personal name that was given to Him as a human baby are His two titles of Lord and Christ.  He is the Lord Jesus Christ, and when you place these two titles along side of Jesus’ personal name, there is no one else with this name and these titles.

 

In Revelation 16:19 you see something else that might help explain the name of Jesus that is above all names.  This verse tells us another name of Jesus, and that is "Lord of lords, and King of kings."  Jesus is not just any old Lord.  He is the Lord above all Lord’s, and as verse 10 says, all that is in Heaven, on earth and under the earth, will bow their knees and confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord.  These confessions will glorify God the Father, as Paul says at the end of verse 11. 

 

Another point we might want to consider about the name of Jesus is that in Revelation 19:12 we note that Jesus is given a new name, a name that no one knows but Himself.  Just maybe, this might be the name Paul is speaking about here.  It appears that Jesus will be given a new name that will be His throughout eternity.   

 

There will come a time that everyone will fall and worship Jesus as the Lord of lords.  Some will worship Him in great humility, thanking Him for what He has done for them, while others who had refused to give their lives to Him will worship Him in fear and dread for what will soon befall them.

 

We must remember that Jesus never gives glory to Himself.  As all people of all time fall on their knees and confess Jesus as Lord, all the glory is reflected towards God the Father. 

 

This part of Paul's letter is vitally important for the Christian to understand.  It gives us a bit of a clear picture of whom Jesus is, something that I would say is very important if we want to develop a relationship with Jesus.  This is really good theology, but a theology that enhances our relationship with our Saviour.      

 

 

Shining As Stars  (ch. 2:12-19)

 

Philippians 2:1 through 5 is an admonition by Paul for the believers in this community to be unified.  From verses 6 through 11 he shows how Jesus, who being in the form of God became a servant.  He says this about Jesus in order for the believers to be like Jesus.  That is to say, if they could humble themselves as Jesus humbled Himself church would become as it was meant to be.  Here in verse 12 Paul picks up on that theme once again.  That is why the word "therefore" begins verse 12.    

 

Verse 12 says, "As you have always obeyed, not only in my presence – but now much more in my absence."  The question can be asked.  "What obedience is Paul speaking about here?"  Is Paul speaking about obeying him?  Since he was not with them, obedience to him would make him very happy. 

 

I don’t think Paul is speaking about obeying him.  I believe he is speaking about obeying Jesus, or, obeying the gospel of Jesus.  When Paul was with these people he would have encouraged them to obey the gospel.  Now that they are in obedience to the gospel he is encouraging them to keep moving in the right direction.   

 

The obedience here is not obedience to an apostle, but obedience to Jesus. This is important because over the years some have suggested that Paul is speaking of obedience to apostolic authority.  They teach this so they can gather people under their authority.   

 

Note that Paul calls these believers friends.  I think this is important.  Whether it's a pastor or an apostle caring for people, they should consider those they care for their friends.  Even Jesus did this when He told the eleven apostles that He no longer called them servants but friends.  See John 15:15.  The Greek word "agepolos" is translated as friends here.  You might recognize it from the word "agape," which means, sacrificial love.  The translators could have easily inserted the word "loved ones" or "beloved" here instead of friends.  These words might well be a better translation.      

 

Paule goes on to say, "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling."  The word "continue" means that they have been doing as Paul is encouraging them to do, but now he wants them to continue in this same direction.

 

When Paul says "Work out your salvation," the pronoun "your" as well as the word "friends" are both plural.  This either means one of two things.  Either Paul is encouraging individuals in the church to work out their salvation or else he is encouraging the church as a whole to work out their salvation.  I think the first is more common than the second but I don't believe you can rule out the second, especially since these words are in the plural form.   

 

Working out your salvation has nothing to do with working for your salvation.  Paul is not talking about becoming a Christian by works.  He is speaking to saved people.  These people got saved solely because they had given their lives to Jesus.  Now they are to continue to give their lives to Jesus and faith.  Paul is talking about seriously continuing that which the gospel of salvation says we should become.  A close reading of the book of Galatians, especially Galatians 3, tells us that just as the Holy Spirit is involved in our conversion, He must be involved in our growth as a believer.  It's this growth Paul has in mind here.    

 

Paul says that these believers must work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  This clearly means that growing as a Christian, becoming like Jesus as we are meant to become, is a serious matter.  We don't take it lightly and we certainly don't ignore growing in the Lord as is so often the case.  As far as I am concerned, the western world church knows very little about working out its salvation in fear and trembling, whether that's on a personal level or a community level.     

 

Paul believed in working out our salvation.  Some parts of the church have believed that you get saved by faith but in order to stay saved you work for your salvation by doing good works.  To re-emphasize, Paul is not saying this at all.  We are saved by trusting our lives with Jesus and we stay saved by trusting our lives with Jesus.  It's all about working with Jesus to put into practice the things He wants to see in our lives.      

 

The word "work" is translated from the Greek word "katergazomai."  This is a strong word, and emphatic word meaning "to do."   This implies effort on our part, but again, as Galatians 3 clearly states, this is not human effort alone.  It is the Holy Spirit effort that enables us.  It's co-operating with Jesus to have His life made visible in us. 

 

The last verse in the book of Mark states that the apostles went forth preaching the gospel while the Lord worked with them by confirming their word with miracles.  The fact is that as we grow as Christians, just as this verse in Mark implies, we work, but we work with Jesus.  He has a part to play in our growth and so do we.  This is exactly what Paul says in verse 13 where he says "For it is God who works within you."   

 

The last part of verse 13 says "To will and to act according to His good pleasure."   It is God’s will, God’s good pleasure that needs to be seen in our lives, not our own will or good pleasure.  We have given ourselves to Him for Him to do in us what He wants, not what we want.  This is yet another important truth that is sadly lacking in today's western world church.  We are too much into ourselves instead of being into Jesus.   

 

Now we begin to get down to the nttty gritty gospel.  Verse 14 is not hard to understand.  Paul says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing," two things that are quite common in church circles.  That’s pretty clear, but human nature tends to do both and that is one reason why the western world church is not as effective as it should be.    

 

Verse 15 tells us why we should not complain and argue.  It is so that we can become "Blameless, pure, and without fault in a world that is crooked and depraved."   There are two things to note here.  Paul encourages his readers towards a blameless life.  That’s our goal and we shouldn’t think of anything less than that.  So often you hear Christians say, "I’m only human."  Well, we are only human, but most of us use our humanness as an excuse not to have such a lofty goal of blamelessness.  Besides, we are more than just human.  If we are true Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living within us.  We are a bit more than human.   

 

The other thing to note is that Paul views the world as being crooked and depraved.  This is pure New Testament thinking.  All first century Christians did not have a positive view of the world.  Peter told those listening to him at Pentecost to save themselves from this perverse generation.  The first century church viewed the world systems as something to be saved from, not something to embrace.  That should be our attitude as well, but more often it's not.  It is the love we have for the world that hurts us as Christians.  

 

Then Paul says that if you live as you should "You will shine as stars in the universe."  Christians should clearly be distinguishable from those of the world, and, it is not in the way they dress as I was taught as a child.  It is in the way we live that distinguishes us from those in the world.  If you look around at the Christian world today, at least in western nations, you do not see a clear difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.  We are to be honest, loving, caring, obedience to civil laws, that is, unless they conflict with the laws of God.  We are not to be nasty, argumentative, and proud.  We are to be humble, ready to listen, and, stand up for Biblical truth no matter the cost.                          

 

Verse 16 continues the sentence where Paul says that you will shine as stars.  When you shine as stars you "hold out the word of life."  It’s like you are waving a large flag for everyone to see.  Your flag is the word of life that is clearly seen in your life.  It’s not necessarily the word of God that you preach, but that you live, although preaching is part of living.  Your life should be an invitation for all you meet to come to true life in Jesus.  In other words, there should be something appealing about us that others want in their lives.     

 

In the last part of verse 16 Paul speaks about boasting on the day of Christ.  He did not want to labour in vain.  When Paul meets Jesus on the last day, and when his works are judged, he wants his works to survive the fire of God’s judgment.  He wants what he has done to last into eternity. On that day, all of our works that are done as Christians will be judged as in a furnace of fire.  Those works that were done out of wrong motives will be burned and not rewarded, but those works done out of pure motives will survive the fire and be rewarded for.  Paul wants to stand before Jesus and be able to say, "See Jesus, there are those Philippians. They made it to the end.  They stand before you as redeemed people. I did not work with them for nothing."

 

Paul suffered greatly in his service for Jesus.  I think he just hated to see his work done for nothing.  Labouring in vain, for Paul, was not acceptable.  He suffered way too much and he did not want this suffering or his work to come to nothing.  I can certainly understand that.

 

Verse 17 shows us a bit of what Paul is going through as a servant of Jesus.  He suffered a lot as I have just said.  He feels like he is being poured out as a drink offering.  That's a clear Old Testament style phrase.  Jesus felt the same while on the cross, and of course, He should have because that is exactly what He was.  Jesus was a sacrifice.  Jesus was a living drink offering.  He poured out His very life and soul as a sacrifice to His Father on our behalf.  Paul felt that his life was being poured out of him as well, but as he continues to say, "I am glad and rejoice."  Paul rejoices, even though at times he is devastated with troubles and sorrows.  His joy is over the fact that these people are walking with Jesus, and it was for this reason that he poured out his life until the day he died at the hands of a Roman sword.  All of what Paul went through for these people was not wasted.

 

Verse 18 ends this section with Paul telling his readers that they should rejoice along with him.  He is joyful, so they should be joyful too since all is well with their souls.  I would think that if these people really appreciated what Paul did for them, they would then rejoice with him.   

 

Timothy And Epaphroditus (ch. 2:19-29)

 

Verse 19 begins with the words “I hope in the Lord”.  The word “hope” is important in Scripture.  We sometimes think that hope is not very spiritual, but more of a human quality.  We then think faith is the spiritual quality.  But Paul links hope with Jesus in this verse as he does elsewhere.  We should not underestimate the place of hope in the Christian life.  As it is often said, “the hope of the church is the return of Christ”.  Faith is important, and so is hope.  There is nothing wrong with hoping, especially if we “hope in Jesus” as Paul does here.

 

What is Paul hoping for?  He is hoping to send Timothy to Philippi soon.  Why is Paul hoping to send Timothy to these people?  He wants to tell them how well he is doing in Rome and that he has hope of being released from house arrest.  He also wants to hear from Timothy upon his return how well the Philippians are doing. 

 

The NIV uses the word “cheered” in verse 19 while the KJV uses “good comfort”.  This is the picture.  When Paul here’s that these people are doing well in the Lord, he will be comforted. His heart will be at peace, be comforted and cheered up.  A serious reading of 2 Corinthians will show you how important this is to Paul.  When those he has led to Jesus are doing well in the Lord he is very comforted, but when they aren’t he is very disturbed, and sometimes on the brink of depression. This is one of the major theme’s of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. 

 

In verse 20 we see why Paul is sending Timothy.  It’s because he has no one else “with a genuine interest” for these Philippians.  Does this mean that Paul had no one else with genuine concern for the work of the Lord?  Not really.  He doesn’t seem to have anyone who has “genuine concern for the Philippians, at least for the moment. 

 

In verse 21 Paul states why Timothy is the only one with this concern.  He says that “everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ”. In context the interests of Jesus is the welfare of the Philippians. What appears to be happening here is that all the people that are close to Paul at the moment in Rome are involved in their own lives.  There is nothing wrong with that in itself.  Yet Paul seems to be saying that since they are so involved in their own lives, they don’t have a any time for things that interest Jesus and things that interest Jesus are brothers and sister in Jesus, and especially the Philippians at this point.

 

In verse 22 Paul is reminding his readers that Timothy has proved himself to be a good worker in the Lord.  Paul knows this because he’s been like a son to him.  Timothy has been by Paul’s side in the work of the Lord and has not let his own interests distract him from the work of the Lord.

 

What this is saying to us here is that the work of the Lord is important, especially if one is called to a specific ministry as these men were.  We know that family is important, and that is part of every Christian’s ministry, yet at the same time we do need to balance our lives out with the things Jesus would want us to do that are beyond family, friends and work. Finding this balance is sometimes hard.

 

Paul might not be talking about all Christians in Rome at this point.  He might not be saying that all Roman Christians are looking out for their own interests and don’t have time to serve Jesus.  Paul could well be saying that at the moment, those who have a specific call by Jesus in the apostolic work are busy at the moment with their own things. We do know that Paul had other hard working men with him at times, Luke being one.  But these men may have been in other cities at the moment.

 

In verse 23 we see when Paul will send Timothy.  As soon as Paul knows that things will go well for him in Rome , Timothy will leave for Philippi . Once again, we see the word hope here, and again, there is nothing wrong with hoping in the Lord.  It is certainly not a lack of faith as some Hyper Faith teaching may teach.

 

In verse 24 Paul uses the word “hope”.  In verse 25 he uses the word “confident”.  He hopes to send Timothy, and he is “confident” that things will go well for him.  So we need to understand that Paul has both hope and confidence in his life.  Hope suggests a desire for things in the future to turn out well.  Confidence suggests a certainly that things will turn out as expected.  Both hope and confidence are important for the Christian.

 

Verse 25 speaks of Epaphroditus.  Who is he?  He was a Philippian sent from Philippi to Rome with a gift for Paul.

 

Paul calls Epaphroditus “a fellow worker, fellow soldier, and a brother”. So it is clear that Paul thought very highly of Epaphroditus.   We also see the great apostle Paul speaking of himself on the same level as this young man.  Paul uses the word “fellow”, as in “fellow worker”. Paul does not view himself higher than others. 

 

By using the words “worker and soldier” we see a little about how Paul views his ministry.  It is work and this work is like a soldier.  When I say it is work, I don’t mean Paul simply views his ministry as a job.  He views it as hard work.  He also views it similar to being a soldier.  It is clear that to do what Paul did you needed to be very disciplined as a soldier would be.  You’d have to be willing to be captured by the enemy, as both soldiers would be and Paul was.  You’d need persistence to keep going and not give up.  A soldier is a good analogy for the work of the Lord except for the fact that the soldier of Christ uses different weapons than a military soldier would use.

 

In verse 26 we see that Epaphroditus has been “ill” and that in this illness he felt concern for his friends back in Philippi who knew he was ill.  This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  One is that even though this man was ill, he was not thinking of himself.  He was thinking of his friends back home. Often when we are ill we are consumed with our illness, but this did not appear to be the case with Epaphroditus.

 

The other interesting thing is that this man was ill and in Paul’s presence, a man that had healed many people in the name of Jesus.  Now Paul is considered a real man of faith, especially by the Hyper Faith Promoters.  Why was Epaphroditus ill?  Was Epaphroditus weak in faith?  I believe the very fact that this man was sick and especially in the presence of one of the greatest Christians in history tells me that hyper faith doesn’t prevent us from getting sick and in fact hyper faith is not New Testament thinking.

 

Paul says that Epaphroditus “longs for” these people in Philippi . Like Timothy, he has a great concern.  Paul also says that he is “distressed”.  In modern terms, Epaphroditus is all stressed out over the fact that his people back home don’t know how he is doing. I guess good Christians can and do experience great stress at times.

 

Yet in verse 27 we see that Epaphroditus did get better.  Paul attributes this to God, but he did not get better until he almost died. God does allow people to come close to death.

 

Also in verse 27 Paul says that “God had mercy on Epaphroditus”.  God’s mercy was seen in his recovery.  Yet Paul went on to say that God had mercy on him as well so he wouldn’t have sorrow upon sorrow.  God saw what Paul was going through and he spared Epaphroditus’ life so Paul wouldn’t have exceeding sorrow.  Once again, if you read 2 Corinthians you will see that Paul was a very emotional man.  At times he was full of sorrow.

 

In verse 28 we see that Paul is eager to have Epaphroditus go back home.  Not to get rid of him but so both Epaphroditus and the Philippians will be full of joy and comforted. I’m sure that Paul could have benefited from having Epaphroditus with him but he was happy to give him up if the Philippians were comforted as a result.

 

Another reason why Paul is sending him back is so that he “will have less anxiety”.  Does Paul, the man of faith has anxieties?  Apparently so. His anxieties were over the fact that both Epaphroditus and the Philippians were stressed over Epaphroditus’ illness and if their anxieties could be relieved, so would his be relieved.  So we learn here that even Paul had his anxious moments.

 

In verse 29 Paul encourages the Philippians to welcome Epaphroditus when he returns, something I’m sure they would do.  But Paul also says to honour such men as this man. Any man that has the same qualities as Epaphroditus should be honoured.  The qualities that we know Epaphroditus had was genuine concern for people, a heart of a servant, and a man willing to work hard for and with Jesus.  These things can be seen in the context and I’m sure there’s more that could be said that don’t appear in the text.

 

In verse 30 Paul says that Epaphroditus “almost died for the work of Christ”.  We don’t know what illness he had, but he got ill because of his mission to Rome to help Paul out. It sounds to me that if Epaphroditus had stayed home, he would not have gotten sick. He got sick while serving Jesus, which is an interesting fact in itself.

 

The chapter ends with Paul saying that Epaphroditus “risked his life” to make up for the help that the Philippians couldn’t give Paul.  This simply means that the whole church at Philippi couldn’t come to help Paul in his time of need.  That was neither possible or practical.  So they sent Epaphroditus on their behalf. He could help Paul for the rest of the church. Paul recognized this and was very thankful.   

 

This section concerning Paul, Epaphroditus and the Philippian is circular in nature, and is all about caring for each other.  This is what I mean. The Philippian Christians care so much for Paul that they'd all like to come and help Paul but that is not practical so they send Epaphroditus.  Epaphroditus got sick while helping Paul and so the Philippians worried about him, and in response Epaphroditus worried about his friends back home because they were worried about him.  Then Paul joins in on the worrying, thanking God that Epaphroditus finally got better so his anxiety would be relieved, and so he wouldn't have worry upon worry.  The whole point to this is that everyone was caring for everyone else.   

 

And also note, Paul the great apostle is seen here as one who was extremely caring and on an equal level as everyone else.  He is not seen as an apostle over his people in a place of great authority as some see the roll of an apostle.    

 

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