Philippians 2:19-30: 19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothyʼs proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Paulʼs brief comments here about Timothy and then Epap are not casual remarks. Paul knows heʼs writing a letter that is Scripture (from the Lord Himself) and is being led by the Spirit to be intentional with all of his words. Heʼs trying to capture our attention and finish off his train of thought that began in 1:27 with the charge, “Only let your manner of life [as citizens of the kingdom] be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
He then unpacks what it looks like to let your life be lived in a manner worthy of the gospel in the midst of the pagan Roman world they are living in. For starters, stand “firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27). Donʼt be “frightened in anything” (v. 28) and it has been granted them to “not only believe in
him [Christ] but also suffer for his sake” (v. 29). This is the kind of resolve that the
Philippians are to have as they live in this world.
Then in 2:1-4, Paul very specifically tells the Philippians how to live lives worthy of the
gospel within the fellowship of the church (the body, Gk. soma). Namely, be humble: “Do
nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than
yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of
others” (vv. 3, 4).
Humility was so important to Paul within the life of the church that He goes on to quote an old hymn about the humility of Christʼs coming to be a man, His life, His death, and His exaltation before God and man in 2:5-11. Christ, the ultimate example of humility!
Then, in 2:12-18, in light of Christʼs humble example, Paul refocuses his call for the
church to walk worthy of the gospel of Christ: “work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (vv. 12, 13). If the church indeed heeds Paulʼs words, it will be the glue that holds our society together the way itʼs supposed to be because of what Jesus commands us to be in Matthew 5:13-16:
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be
restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under
peopleʼs feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light
to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they
may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Salt was a plentiful resource in the Mediterranean world, as it was farmed from the
Dead Sea that has so much salt in it that nothing lives in the sea and you can actually
float in it. Salt had several uses such as fertilizing to flavoring to preserving. But Jesusʼ
general point is that just as salt was essential to life and survival, so are Jesusʼ disciples
essential to the well-being of the earth. Jesus is essentially saying, “Christians, you hold
your community together.” Are you seeing this be true today among you?
Then Jesus says you are the light of the world. I imagine I could go on and on about the
purpose of light, but in the same way salt has many purposes, at the core, light is
essential to life and survival. Without it, we could not continue to live on this planet. God
is light, and his Son is light, who brings enlightenment to all people (John 1:4, 9). We
are to be instruments of this enlightenment. Again, we are essential to the well-being of
the world. Do you view your faith in Jesus as essential to the well-being of those
I would like to argue that being salt and light is at the core of what it means to be
a Christian, itʼs at the core of what Paul is getting at in this letter, and it is at the
core of what Jesus expects of those who call themselves followers of Him. This
means we are not here for ourselves, and that there is a great cost to being salt
and light (exist for the well-being of others and this world).
This is why 2:19-30 is actually a summation passage to bring full circle what Paul is
getting at. Paul gives flesh-and-blood examples of the selfless conduct to which he is
calling the Philippian church to. Here are men who live lives “worthy of the gospel of
Christ”; “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (2:20); “for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” (2:30).
Timothy and Epap were great men and great models for the Philippian church and the church in Philippi needed them back to help continue to create the DNA it takes to plant the gospel in such a way that it flips a neighborhood, city or nation upside down.
The sad thing is that there was “no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for
your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” I know
Paulʼs goal was to multiply himself (follow me as I follow Christ) and he was after the
same thing with Timothy…and this is the same thing that I am after here at Kineo, for the
fame of Jesusʼ great and glorious name! Men and women with the character of Timothy!
It is said of Mary of Oignies (1177-1213): The grace of the Holy Spirit shone out in her
face from the fullness of her heart to such a degree that many people were spiritually
refreshed by her appearance and moved to devotion and tears. In her face, reading the
anointing of the Holy Spirit as though in a book, they recognized the power that came
out of her…. (cited in McGinn 2006, 65).
The cost of discipleship starts with not living for yourself, but for Christ and His kingdom,
which is much more than anything else we could ever venture to try to live for…ever!! And a major part of this cost comes because of the very thing that brings Paul the most joy and hope, and brings God the most glory…PARTNERSHIP.
As we have seen, fellowship in the Philippian church was not of the ice cream social
variety but was rather the fellowship of people bound together by a great spiritual quest.
The Greek root word for fellowship occurs six times across the brief chapters of
Philippians, rendered variously as “partnership” (twice), “partakers” (once),
“participation” (once), and “share” (twice).
And each occurrence emphasizes a different aspect of the Philippiansʼ fellowship or participation with one another: 1:5 emphasizes “partnership in the gospel”; 1:7 describes the Philippians as “partakers . . . of grace”; 2:1 lists their “participation in the Spirit”; 3:10 records Paulʼs desire to “share” in Christʼs sufferings; and 4:14-15 employ the words “share” and “partnership” to stress fellowship in giving — “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only” (4:14, 15).1
This is exactly what the Philippian church did when it raised the funds to support Paul
in prison to have food, clothes, and writing materials (which the Romans did not supply
any of those things in prison…you either get help from the outside or you die). They
raised funds, sent Epap and the team and on the 800 mile trek to Rome, Epap got
very sick, but stayed the course because he knew it was his assignment for the sake of
Paulʼs life and welfare. Epap counted the cost of partnership, realized it was not gonna
pay out for his best interest and partnered none the less because Christ was his all!
Listen to the words that Paul uses when he describes Epap: my brother; fellow
worker; fellow soldier; your messenger, minister to my needs; risking his life to
complete his commitment to the partnership in the gospel.
This is a glimpse into what partnership in the gospel looks like. This is a glimpse into what the cost of following Jesus looks like. This is what it looks like to be the church. Is this you?
Over the course of chapter 2, Paul has gone to great lengths to get the Philippian
church past themselves which started with verses 3-4: 3 Do nothing from selfish
ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let
each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
He lifted up the full-time pastor (Timothy) and the volunteer worker (Epap) as examples of how the church needs to function and partner for the sake of Christ, not personal gain. What about those who have public ministry gifts? We know that public ministry gifts must be used to display the beauty and worth of Jesus in looking out for the interest of others. We know that God sees everyoneʼs gifts and where they are holding out, and He will hold us accountable for our lack of partnership.
But what about the quiet, not-so-talented Christian, who feels socially awkward or
embarrassed to themselves out there? Do they get a pass? Not hardly! Actually, those
who hide or bury their talents are going to be held accountable with what theyʼve been
given as well. We shouldn’t neglect what Jesus says in Mark 4:24-25: 24 And he said to
them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to
you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Partnership in God’s mission is not optional for the believer. God is on mission and He is using His church to fulfill it. Missions is not something you do, it is what humans were created for. Ever since the beginning when God gave Adam and Eve the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue so that this God would be made much of, he has been on mission. We could even say ever since He began creating…
Then in Genesis 12 God tells Abraham: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (12:2-3).
He tells Moses to tell the people in Exodus: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (19:5-6)
He says in Malachi: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.” (1:11)
He says this just before He ascends to heaven after He paid for our right to be purified, forgiven and reconciled to God on the cross: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20); and in Acts 1:8 He says: you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Then in the final days: “after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” (Mark 13:24-27)
God has always been a God of mission and mankind has been the vehicle with which he seeks to fulfill his mission. The church is never supposed to be off mission. It is sad that we had to create the term missions to clarify someone who leaves their hometown to go to another people group to be witnesses of the gospel. Since when did missions become an overseas thing solely? We are overseas to other people!
We have lost sight of mission. We need more Timothy’s and Epap’s who partner with others in the gospel in such a way that they are willing to be missionaries in every context and in every way. Timothy was sent to a couple different nations, not sure about Epap. But they were on mission because that’s what it means to be Christian.
I’m tired of people saying they want to be missional. Stop saying it and be it. Right now, where God has you, be on mission, be incarnational. If God raises you up to move somewhere else, be on mission when you go. Some of you will be called to go where the gospel has never been known and may be killed because of the mission.
Others will be sent to places where the gospel has been known, but not in its fullest. And still others will be called across the street to those neighbors who seem to have it all together on the outside, but they desperately need Jesus. Are you willing to count the cost of following Jesus and start living on mission today, at lunch, at work, at home?
Think about Jesus. He lived over 30 years on earth in relative obscurity, virtually unknown by those outside of the city He lived. Are you willing to be insignificant for Jesus’ sake? Are you willing to plant where you are and love on people long enough for them to believe that you love them and Jesus is trustworthy because you’ve love well?
Want to be missional? Plug in and stay there for the long haul. We need partners here at Kineo. Would you count the cost of living a life of obscurity and loving people like Jesus and showing them a glimpse of the kingdom? This is missional! This is incarnational ministry! All for Jesus I surrender, All to him I freely give!
Have you been disobedient in the way you use your time, talents, and abilities?
What in your life do you need to cut out in order to make partnering in the gospel a
What are your gifts that you feel God is calling you to use for the building up of the church?