Two wonderful men! – Philippians 2:19-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 22, 2018
What qualities do you look for in a friend? Sometimes folks can ask a lot of friendship but give little in return. Winnie the Pooh said, “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”
Paul understood friendship because he understood Jesus. He enjoyed the friendship of many people but there were those who he considered more than friends; Paul saw them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Friends with the common bond of Jesus are closer than any earthly friendship. In his letter to the Philippians he shares about two wonderful men of God who he considered his friends. Let’s see what he wrote about these men…
The world loves itself. It delights in being good and showing others just how wonderful it is. But God tells us that there is more to being good and being wonderful because as wonderful or as good as the world seems at its core it is full of sin. The first wonderful man Paul writes about is…
I. Timothy! (Vv. 19-24)
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 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. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
1. Paul writes the Philippians “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon”. Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. He joined Paul during one of Paul’s later missionary journeys. Paul called Timothy “my true son in the faith”. (1 Timothy 1:2 NIV) Timothy was probably in his late teens or early twenties when he joined Paul and had distinguished himself as faithful to the gospel. He probably responded to the gospel when Paul came through the area of Derbe and Lystra on his first missionary journey, but we don’t know for sure. Timothy served as Paul’s representative to several churches and is mentioned as being with Paul when Paul wrote the New Testament letters of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Paul wrote that Timothy had a “genuine faith,” the same as that which lived in his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:1-5 NIV). Paul decided to send Timothy in order to “be cheered when [he received] news about” them. Paul spoke highly of Timothy and tells them “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” Timothy cared because he first loved the Lord. This is why Paul writes that “everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Paul knew people’s hearts. Those who trust Jesus know the love of Christ and Paul knew that “Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Timothy worked side-by-side with Paul and Paul saw him as his son! Paul knew Timothy’s character and so he hoped therefore “to send him as soon as I see how things go with me”. Paul could send Timothy in his stead knowing he would be a good worker and would care about them just as Paul did. And besides Paul was “confident in the Lord” that he would “come soon” to them as well. Paul trusted Timothy as a wonderful friend!
EXAMPLE: Interestingly Timothy means “precious to God” and it is evident he was. What do you hold precious in life? What character traits do you hold precious in the life of those you call friend? Fred Rogers, who was a wonderful Christian, said that “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” Fred Rogers loved God and we discovered this morning that Timothy also loved God and was a wonderful friend to Paul and a wonderful man of God.
Friendship for the world is often based on “What can you do for me?” Friendship’s foundation is based on emotionalism and selfishness whereas friendship for the believers is founded upon the love of God for us. Friendship is founded on Jesus’ sacrificial love for us and we discover a wonderful man of God in…
II. Epaphroditus! (Vv. 25-30)
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.
1. The next man wonderful man Paul mentions is Epaphroditus and he thought it “necessary to send” him “back to” the Philippians. Notice what Paul calls him. First he writes that Epaphroditus is “my brother”, his adelphos, the one who shared the same womb. Paul’s affection for Epaphroditus was strong. Those who share the same spiritual birth in Jesus share the same spiritual womb and are called brothers and sisters in Christ! Paul goes on to writes that Epaphroditus is his “fellow worker and fellow soldier”. Epaphroditus was Paul’s co-laborer and his co-campaigner for Jesus! They shared in the work and in the battle! Epaphroditus also carried a message to Paul from the Philippians and he was sent to him to take care of Paul’s needs and evidently he had gotten ill. Epaphroditus longed “for all of [the Philippians] and [was] distressed because [they] had heard he was ill and almost died”. Yet Paul had good news for them that “God had mercy on him, but not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow”. Epaphroditus had been sent to Paul from the Philippians with gifts and now Paul was ending him back to them and Paul had grown to like Epaphroditus immensely! Paul wrote “Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” Paul wanted them to be glad, and he wanted to be relieved of all anxiety himself. The believers in Philippi were not to think wrongly of Epaphroditus for coming home and in fact they were to “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” Wonderful men of God sacrifice themselves for the Lord they serve like Epaphroditus. Paul was encouraged and strengthened by a wonderful man like Epaphroditus.
EXAMPLE: Interestingly, Epaphroditus’ name is of pagan origin. It means “belonging to Aphrodite”; the name of this pagan Greek goddess is actually incorporated into his name. This is not unusual for Paul’s day. Parents wanted their children to have any advantage in life they could and thought by giving their children such a name would garner the favor of that deity. Such is the power of the gospel that a man is set free from dead paganism to serve the living God. When Epaphroditus received the gospel, he was “belonging to Jesus,” and the idol had no more claim on him, regardless of his name. The new birth of Epaphroditus overcame his birth name. When a wonderful man like Epaphroditus gives of himself for the sake of God’s kingdom, many people benefit. Such a man is worthy of honor, and his presence is cause for rejoicing! Epaphroditus was a wonderful man of God!
What does it take to be a wonderful man of God? Paul gives us two great examples in Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two men display for us what wonderful men of God are like. They have genuine faith in Jesus, love their fellow believers, and are selfless. Let me ask you are you a wonderful man of God or do you know a wonderful man of God? I pray you are or that you do. Timothy and Epaphroditus are two wonderful men of God.
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.