Living a Life of Joy 6) Recieving Others with Joy

Receiving Others with Joy

Text: Philippians 2:19-30

 

Paul has said some pretty full-on things in this letter to the Philippians. Earlier in this chapter he said that our ‘5 …attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5)’ Really? Our attitude should be the same as Jesus’! All the time, even when people annoy us? But Jesus was perfect, how are we meant to live up to that? And then last week we looked at how we are meant to shine like stars in the universe, how we are meant to be ‘blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation. (Phil 2:15)’ Really? Blameless and pure? Without fault? Paul raises the bar impossibly high. And yet in our text this morning Paul gives us three examples of people who have committed themselves to living this impossible life, who have committed themselves to having the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who have committed themselves to shining like stars. This morning we’re going to take a look at each of these three examples and see how they challenge us to have Christ’s attitude. But even more than that we’re going to look at how we should receive such examples with joy, and how we are to honour such people. I decided to call this sermon ‘Receiving others with Joy,’ because as we look at these people, what we are really doing is looking at what Christ is doing in and through them, and besides, that’s what Paul commands us to do in verse 29, to ‘29 …welcome [such people] with great joy. (Phil 2:29a)’

 

1) Receiving Paul’s attitude of Submission

So let’s take a look at Paul’s first example of someone who has the same attitude as Christ Jesus, and it’s none other than Paul himself. It’s easy to think this passage is all about Timothy and Epaphroditus, but Paul constantly refers to himself in this passage. 11 times he says ‘I,’ and 6 times he says ‘me’ or ‘my.’ We learn a lot about Paul in this passage, how he feels, what he thinks, and his priorities. This morning I want to encourage you to receive Paul’s attitude of submission.

a) Paul’s hope in the Lord Jesus

Paul starts our passage this morning with the words, ‘19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon... (Phil 2:19a)’ Paul’s hope is in the Lord Jesus. When it came to planning the course of his life, Paul puts his hope in Jesus Christ, not in his plans. Sure he wanted to send Timothy to Philippi, but ultimately Paul submits himself to Jesus Christ. Paul is an example to us of Jesus, who ‘8…humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Phil 2:8b)’ Paul is an example to us of Jesus who came down from heaven ‘38 …not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (Jn 6:38b)’ What we see in Paul, is a deep awareness of Jesus’ sovereignty, and a complete submission to God’s leading. Jesus is in control of his circumstances and so he puts his hope in Jesus. Like Paul do you put your hope in Jesus Christ? Like Paul do you trust that Jesus is in control of your circumstances? We often throw in the phrase ‘the Lord willing,’ but do we really believe it?

b) Paul’s joy in others

Secondly, Paul is an example to us of finding joy in others. The reason Paul wants to send Timothy to Philippi is ‘19 … that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. (Phil 2:19b)’ Paul wanted to find out how they were going, whether they were standing firm in the faith, and whether they were stilling contending as one for the faith of the gospel. Paul wanted to hear so that he may be encouraged, or ‘cheered,’ as the NIV puts it. That word is a very unusual word. It’s only used here in our text. Literally it means to be of good soul. Knowing the welfare of the Christians in Philippi was good for Paul’s soul, it cheered him up, it encouraged his spirit, it filled him with joy. Paul is an example to us of what should cheer us up, and it’s being concerned about others. Earlier Paul writes ‘8 …how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:8b)’ Paul is an example of Christ’s love for his people, of the affection Jesus has for us, of the joy that Jesus experiences when we are trusting in him and walking with him. Like Paul, does the welfare of your brothers and sisters in Christ fill you with joy? Is the welfare of others good for your soul?

c) Paul’s confidence in the Lord

Thirdly, Paul is an example to us of confidence in the Lord. In verse 24 he says, ‘24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. (Phil 2:24)’ Paul’s hope was to send Timothy, a hope founded on Christ. But here Paul expresses his confidence that he will come himself, and again his confidence is founded on Jesus Christ. Earlier he talks about how he wouldn’t be executed but was, ‘25 …convinced [that] I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Phil 1:25)’ Paul also mentions how he is ‘6 …confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6b)’ And later on the flip side Paul talks about how Christians ‘3 …put no confidence in the flesh. (Phil 3:3d)’ If nothing else Paul wanted the Philippians to know about his confidence, no this confidence in himself, but his confidence in Jesus Christ. Why is Paul so confident? Because his confidence is on the fact that his plans aren’t about himself and his desires, but about Jesus Christ and his glory. Paul is confident that God will complete his work, not just in the lives of the Christians in Philippi, but in his own life and ministry as well. Paul is confident that Jesus will bring about God’s will for his life.

What about you and me this morning: do we submit ourselves to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like Jesus humbly submitted himself to God’s will, like Paul submitted himself to God’s will, do we submit ourselves to God’s will? When you make decisions, whether it’s a new job, or which University you’ll choose, or who to marry, or how to spend your money, or what to do with your retirement, do you submit those decisions to Jesus? Do you make plans with humility, putting your hope in the Lord, not your plans? Do you make your plans with confidence because your plans aren’t about you, but about God’s purposes? Do you share Paul’s heart for the welfare of others? Is the spiritual health of others good for your soul? Paul shows us what it looks like to submit oneself to Jesus. This morning I want to encourage you to receive Paul’s example as something you can follow.

 

2) Receiving Timothy’s attitude of Service

The second person that Paul holds up as an example for us to follow is Timothy. Paul meet Timothy in a city called Lystra on his second missionary tour. Timothy had a Jewish mother but a Greek father, not someone Paul would have hung out with before he became a Christian. But Timothy travelled with Paul and became Paul’s apprentice. In fact, Paul talks about Timothy like he was his own son, he actually calls him, ‘2 … my true son in the faith… (1 Tim 1:2a)’ In our text this morning Paul holds Timothy up as an example of service.

a) Timothy’s equal soul

The first thing Paul says about Timothy is, ‘20 I have no one else like him… (Phil 2:20a)’ That’s a pretty impressive endorsement, ‘I don’t know anyone who is like this guy!’ In the Greek it’s literally, ‘for I have no one of equal soul.’ It’s an extremely rare word used only here in our text. What does it mean that Timothy had an equal soul? Paul uses the first part of this word, ‘equal’ earlier in chapter 2. Like Jesus was ‘equal’ with God, so Paul sees Timothy as equal with himself. And not equal in terms of authority or experience, but equal in terms of his passions, the things that motivate him. Earlier Paul had talked about how as followers of Jesus Christ we were to be ‘2 …like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (Phil 2:2b)’ That’s basically what Paul is talking about here, how Timothy is ‘like him.’ The New King James Version talks about how Timothy is ‘like-minded,’ the Good News Bible about how he ‘shares Paul’s feelings,’ and the New American Standard Bible about how Timothy is a ‘kindred spirit.’ Timothy is an example to us of what it looks like to be one in soul. Paul’s point is just like Timothy and himself were kindred spirits so the Christians in Philippi should be kindred spirits, and so too should the same be true for us. I should be able to say, ‘I have no one like Pat, no one like Sid, no one like Marie, no one like Nico.’ Not because you are exactly like me, but because you all share my passion for the gospel, because you all share my heart for ministry, because you all share my commitment to Jesus Christ. Timothy is an example to us of what it means to be equal in soul.

b) Timothy’s godly concern

Secondly, Timothy is an example of godly concern. What really sets Timothy apart for Paul is his ‘20 …genuine concern for your welfare. (Phil 2:20b)’ The word here is often translated as worry. This is the same word that Jesus used when he said ‘25 …do not worry about your life… 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 34 …do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. (Mt 6:25a,27,34a)’ This is the same word Jesus used with Martha who was ‘41 …worried and upset about many things. (Lk 10:41b)’ In fact, Paul uses this same word later in this letter to the Philippians when he says, ‘6 Do not be anxious (or worried) about anything… (Phil 4:6a)’ On one hand we shouldn’t worry about things, but Paul seems to be suggesting that it’s okay to worry about people. This is a positive worry, which is why the NIV translates it as ‘genuine concern.’ Timothy was deeply concerned about the Christians in Philippi. He knew they were suffering for their faith, he knew they were being persecuted, and he was worried for them. Timothy is an example of how we are to have a godly concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  

c) Timothy’s selfless attitude

Thirdly, Timothy’s attitude is an example to us. Paul highlights Timothy’s attitude in verse 21, ‘21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Phil 2:21)’ Earlier Paul had said, ‘4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil 2:4)’ But here he says, ‘don’t look out for your own interests, rather look out for Jesus’ interests.’ In the previous point Timothy was an example of looking to the interests of others, he was concerned for the Christians in Philippi. But here he is an example of looking to the interests of Jesus, he is concerned about the things Jesus is concerned about. Timothy has a selfless attitude, it’s not about him, it’s about Jesus, it’s not about his desires it’s about Jesus’ desires, it’s not what makes him happy, it’s what makes Jesus happy. Is that your attitude in life? Do you put Jesus before yourself? Are you more interested in the things that concern Jesus then the things that concern yourself? Are you more interested in building God’s kingdom or your own kingdom? Are you more interested in how your wealth can make your life comfortable, or how much your wealth can make an eternal difference in the lives of others? Are you more interested in your comfort or God’s glory? Are you more interested in fitting in or standing out? Do you have the attitude of Christ, the same attitude that Timothy had?

d) Timothy’s gospel service

Fourthly, Timothy is an example to us of service. Paul writes in verse 22, ‘22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (Phil 2:22)’ In ancient times it was pretty normal for sons to follow in their father’s footsteps. Jesus was a classic example, his earthly father, Joseph was a carpenter, and so Jesus became a carpenter. That’s the idea that Paul is expressing here. Timothy was like a son who was following in his father’s footsteps. Like Paul had given his life to the gospel, so Timothy had given his life to the gospel. Even though Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews as he mentions in the next chapter, and Timothy was a half caste, what makes them family is their commitment to the gospel. In fact, Paul makes it clear that Timothy isn’t serving him, as a respectful son would be expected, rather he serves the gospel. This is another instance where Timothy’s soul is equal with Paul’s, they both serve the gospel. This is the same word that Paul uses in the opening verse, ‘1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus… (Phil 1:1a)’ Like Paul Timothy finds his greatest joy in serving the gospel, in proclaiming the Good News about Jesus Christ. Timothy’s heart beats to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ and to grow in that faith.

I want to encourage you this morning to receive Timothy’s attitude towards service as your own. Like Timothy we should have the same soul, our hearts should all beat together for the sake of Jesus Christ. Like Timothy we should all have the same godly concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Like Timothy we should all have the same selfless attitude, it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus. Like Timothy we should all share in the service of the gospel.

 

3) Receiving Epaphroditus’ attitude of Sacrifice

The third person that Paul holds up as an example for us to follow is Epaphroditus. There’s a cool name for you, Epaphroditus! It actually means ‘dedicated to Aphroditus,’ the Greek god of love. This guy came from a pagan background. Later in Paul’s letter we learn that he was actually a member of the church in Philippi. They had sent him to Paul, along with a gift of money to help support Paul’s ministry. Paul’s plan is to send Timothy after he finds out what happens with his trial, but he decides to send Epaphroditus straight away. And he says the most amazing things about this guy.

a) Epaphroditus’ titles

Firstly, he gives him 5 titles. Verse 25, ‘25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. (Phil 2:25)’

i) Brother

Firstly, Paul refers to him as my brother. It’s amazing the sort of people Paul accepts into his family. Timothy the half-cast is like his son, and here the once pagan Epaphroditus is now his brother. Paul is making it crystal clear that in Christ we all belong to the one spiritual family. And this isn’t just a term signifying a new spiritual reality, it’s a term that expresses how we ought to feel about one another. We aren’t just brother and sisters in Christ, we are to treat each other like brothers and sisters, which doesn’t mean we pull each other’s hair and steal each other’s toys. It means that we love and care about each other like family. Bloods thicker than water and Christ’s blood brings us closer even then the blood of our biological families.

ii) Co-worker

Secondly, Paul refers to Epaphroditus as his co-worker. Not only do they have a spiritual connection in Christ, but they have also labored together for the sake of the gospel.

iii) Fellow Soldier

Thirdly, Paul calls Epaphroditus ‘my fellow soldier,’ Not only have the worked together, they have fought together. Paul pictures the Christian life as a battle ground, and Epaphroditus has stood beside Paul in the defense of the gospel. The Good News is that God doesn’t expect us to fight life’s battles on our own, he has given us fellow soldiers who help us and support us and even carry us when the battle gets intense. We are more than just a family we are a band of brothers, we are a company of soldiers, who fight together against Satan and sin and the temptations of the world.

iv) Messenger

Next, Paul calls Epaphroditus ‘your messenger.’ In the Greek the word is ‘apostle,’ or someone who has been sent. That’s exactly what the Church in Philippi did, they sent Epaphroditus to act on their behalf. While Jesus designated 12 Apostles who were specifically sent to be Jesus representatives after his ascension not heaven, the reality is that we are all apostles to a certain degree. We are all sent as Christ’s ambassadors into the world. We are all sent by Jesus with the message of the gospel. And often like Epaphroditus we are sent to support and encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

v) Minister

Finally, Paul refers to Epaphroditus as a minister. The NIV talks about how Epaphroditus was ‘sent to take care of my needs.’ That idea of ‘taking care’ usually refers to the service that a priest would do in the temple. It’s actually the word we get liturgy, or the worship service, from. The reason the church in Philippi had sent Epaphroditus was to minister to Paul’s needs. In fact later Paul refers to the gifts Epaphroditus brought as, ‘18 …a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Phil 4:18b)’ Epaphroditus’ ministry was more of an act of worship than he may first have thought. And the same is true for us. When we minister to the needs of others we are in fact worshipping God. Elsewhere Paul says that when we serve others we are in fact serving Christ (Col 3:22-24). Paul re-introduces Epaphroditus, not as just the guy we sent a while back, but at his brother, his co-worker, his fellow solder, their messenger and minister. And he does that because he wants to hold him up as an example to them. This is what they should aspire to. This is how they should see each other. And this is how we should see ourselves as well, as family through the gospel, as co-workers for the gospel, as fellow soldiers of the gospel, as messengers and ministers of the gospel.

b) Epaphroditus’ longing

I could just leave it there, it’s so awesome. But Paul wants us to see something else in Epaphroditus, his longing for them. Verse 26, ‘26 …he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. (Phil 2:26)’ At some point Epaphroditus got sick and somehow they found out, and they were obviously concerned for him because all Epaphroditus wants to do is get back and reassure them he’s alright. Even though he’s been gravely ill Epaphroditus is willing to make the long journey from Rome to Philippi in order to reassure his friends. Just like Paul ‘8 …long for all of them with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:8)’ so Epaphroditus longs for them. Epaphroditus is an example to us of Jesus’ longing to dry our tears and ease the burdens of our hearts.

c) Epaphroditus’ sacrifice

Finally, Paul highlights Epaphroditus’ sacrifice. Paul goes to great lengths to point out that Epaphroditus wasn’t just sick, but he very nearly died. In verse 27 he writes, ‘27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. (Phil 2:27)’ But then he adds, ‘30 …he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me. (Phil 2:30)’ Three times – he almost died, he almost died, he risked his life. Paul wants us to get the point, Epaphroditus was willing to give his life for the work of Christ. Now you might be thinking, but doesn’t everyone get sick, it’s not like he almost lost his life like Paul almost did, from beatings and whippings and stonings. But that’s the way Paul sees it. The price that Epaphroditus paid to encourage Paul in his work was this illness that nearly killed him. The point is that Epaphroditus was willing to risk his life, to give his life, for the sake of Jesus Christ. The word ‘risk’ literally means ‘to expose oneself to danger.’ Epaphroditus was willing to expose himself to danger for the sake of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus was willing to give up his life for Epaphroditus, so Epaphroditus was willing to give up his life for Jesus.

I want to encourage you this morning to receive Epaphroditus’ attitude towards sacrifice as your own. Like Epaphroditus see the people in this building as your brothers and sisters in Christ as co-workers, as fellow soldiers, as messengers and ministers of the gospel.  Like Epaphroditus I encourage you to long to reassure them with the affection of Christ Jesus. Like Epaphroditus I want to encourage you to give your life for Christ just as Christ gave his life for you on the cross.

 

Three people, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, three examples of what it means it have the same attitude as Christ Jesus, three examples of what it means to shine like stars. Paul finishes by saying, ‘29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him. (Phil 2:29)’ This morning I want to finish by encouraging you to welcome not only people who are like this, but to welcome their attitudes. I want to encourage you to receive Paul’s attitude of submission to Christ as your own. I want to encourage you to receive Timothy’s attitude of selfless service as your own. I want to encourage you to receive Epaphroditus’ willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of Christ as your own. And I want to encourage you not only to honour such people, because they are worthy of honour, but also to aspire to become like these people, because this is what it means to have the same attitude as Christ, this is what it means to shine like stars. So I encourage you to submit yourself to Christ, to not serve your interests, but to serve the interests of Christ, and to sacrifice your life for the work of Christ. Amen.

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