Godly Examples – Philippians 2:17-30

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Grace Bible Church

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Sermon Study Sheets

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

June 6, 2004

Godly Examples

Philippians 2:17-30

How important is your example? Our society, which has a Greek view of education, places is secondary to academics. We, like the ancient Greeks, tend to view the ability to repeat back information as the evidence of learning. We esteem people who earn college degrees, sometimes despite their actual abilities. But Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “a pupil (disciple) is not above his teacher, but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” He was talking about a lot more here than just a knowledge base.

The Hebrew concept of education was very pragmatic. Until a person could actually do the task, they had not learned. Education was practical and not just academic. When a student was fully trained in Hebrew culture, he not only knew what his teacher did about the subject, but he could also follow the teachers example and accomplish the task. Learning included carefully observing and imitating the actions and attitudes of the teacher as well gaining information from hearing and reading. I include attitudes because our own are often an imitation of those we spend time with or admire. Proverbs 22:24,25 states, Do not associate with a man [given] to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, 25 Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself.

Paul, being Jewish, also had this same Hebrew mindset. He placed great value on practical application, which is why though his writing could at times be very deep (Peter says Paul writes “some things hard to understand” 1 Peter 3:15), he also included much practical application in each epistle. Paul was also very practical in his training others for ministry. Even a cursory review of the New Testament finds that Paul was always taking people with him as he went out to minister. This is part of their training process. We meet two of Paul’s disciples here in Philippians 2, Timothy and Epaphroditus. By looking at the example of their lives we can gain some very practical understanding of how we are to live.

This is also important from another point. Sometimes we place Jesus and Paul in such high esteem that we forget that the example of their lives is something we are also to follow. The is a tendency to dismiss their examples as something impossible for us to also do, yet Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:32, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Here in Philippians 2 we find two ordinary men that were doing just that, and it demonstrated itself in their character.

Joyful Paul

(vs. 17-18)

The Source of Paul’s Joy

We begin with a short review of verses 17 & 18 because it is important to be reminded of the godly example that Paul was to Timothy and Epaphroditus. “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 And you too, [I urge you,] rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Timothy was a very young man, probably in his mid to late teens, when he started traveling with Paul. He has now been with Paul for 15 or more years. Epaphroditus had been with Paul in Rome for only a relatively short time, perhaps up to a year or so, but he would have known Paul from Paul’s earlier visits to Philippi. Both of these men were greatly affected by Paul’s example.

As I pointed out last week, the source of Paul’s joy was in seeing the Lord at work. Paul considered himself to be a drink offering being poured out as a sacrifice in the service of their faith, and he rejoiced in that. Paul wanted to be used by God. Remember that Paul was writing to the Philippian believers in part in order to let them what God was doing even though he was imprisoned and there were other professing Christians seeking to cause him distress (1:12-20). Paul’s joy was not dependent on his circumstances, but on what God was doing in the midst of them. Even though Paul’s circumstances were difficult, he could clearly see God working in the midst of them. God was using Paul’s imprisonment to take the gospel to others including the whole praetorian guard and in Caesar’s household. Other believers were encouraged and more bold in their own faith. Even those trying to cause Paul distress were also proclaiming the gospel, so the purpose of Paul’s life was still being fulfilled. God was being glorified and Christ was being proclaimed.

Paul’s Desire for Others to Rejoice (vs. 18)

In verse 18 Paul expressed that his desire for the Philippians to rejoice with him over what God was doing and also to let him know how God was working in their lives. One of the reasons that praise and testimony services are so encouraging is because as you hear how God is working in the lives of other people, you often start to recognize his working in your own life. Our focus is shifted from ourselves and how things may not be the way we would like them to be to seeing God at work in the midst of the circumstances of our lives. I would encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity tonight to do just that as we take time to praise God and pray.

Faithful Timothy

(vs. 19-24)

Starting in verse 19, Paul expresses some his own plans and desires as well as why he was sending Epaphroditus back to them. Paul first explains his plan to send Timothy to them in the future.

But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.

Why Paul Wanted to Send Timothy (vs. 19, 23,24)

To learn of them (vs. 19)

The first reason Paul wanted to send Timothy was so that he could be the means to fulfill Paul’s desire in verse 18 to have them share their joy with him. Timothy would come and find out how they were doing and then return to Paul and let him know what God doing among them. This was not something they needed to fear. Timothy was not coming to spy on them and report on all their sin and weaknesses. Paul anticipated this as being a source of encouragement and joy. He wanted them to share their joy with him.

Please note that this was not something that came just as a whim to Paul to fulfill his own curiosity. Paul’s hope was in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy. He was doing this according to God’s will as he explains further in verses 23,24.

Paul could not come himself (vs. 23,24) – “Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things [go] with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly.”

Paul’s hope was to send Timothy immediately, but first he needed to wait to see how things went with himself. Since Paul was imprisoned he could not come himself. These verses indicate that Paul was expecting to be able to have his case presented before Caesar in the very near future, after which Paul anticipated being freed and able to come himself, or as he mentioned back in 1:20-25), he could also be killed. Caesar, who was probably Nero at this time, was known to be arbitrary. There was no second guessing what he might do. He could dismiss Paul’s case outright. He could delay everything for an undetermined amount of time. He could have Paul executed.

But note that Paul makes no reference or allusion to Caesar, but rather Paul specifically points out that his hope to send Timothy or come himself was in the Lord alone. Paul was physically chained to one of Nero’s soldiers, but Paul describes himself as a bond-slave of Christ. What a great example for any of us that have to place our plans on hold while we wait for someone else to make a decision so that we can get on with our lives. It could be a public official, or a bureaucrat of some sort, or even a doctor. However, regardless of who it is, the Christian looks to the Lord to direct his life. We understand that God is sovereign and that even decisions made by a king are ultimately still under God’s Control. Proverbs 21:1 states, “The king’s heart is [like] channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs 16:1 adds, “The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:9 further adds, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

The Christian is not fatalistic, but rather he is confident in God’s care for and watch over him. We can face the future with an assurance that God is at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure (2:13). We will be used for God’s glory as we will seek out His will and follow it. This is what allowed Paul to rejoice in his circumstances and why he was seeking the Lord’s will, not Caesar’s decision. The same should be true of us. Are you waiting for someone else to make a decision that will affect your life, or are you waiting for the Lord’s will to be revealed through His providence including His moving on the hearts and minds of other people?

Timothy’s Character (vs. 20,21)

Paul describes Timothy’s character in verses 20 and 21. “For I have no one [else] of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child [serving] his father.”

Here we find another example of a godly man. As I stated earlier, Timothy was only in his teens when he met Paul on his first missionary journey and began traveling with him. Even at that young age, Acts 16:2 records that he was well spoken of by the believers in his home area of Lystra and Iconium. Timothy continued to mature and it was not many years before Paul started sending Timothy different places as his representative including Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2), and Ephesus (1 & 2 Timothy).

Kindred Spirit (vs. 20)

The first characteristic that Paul brings out about Timothy in verse 20 is that he has a kindred spirit with Paul. Whatever you would say about Paul’s heart and desires you could also say about Timothy. The word here for “kindred spirit” (isoyucoV //isopsuchos) literally means “equal souled.” It speaks of a man who is a companion, a familiar friend and an equal. Timothy was Paul’s protégé.

Genuine Concern for Others (vs. 20)

The next characteristic Paul brings out about Timothy was his genuine concern for the welfare of others. This may have been particularly true of Timothy’s concern for the Philippians. Timothy was present when Paul first went there and the first church in Europe was established (Acts 16:11f). Timothy also apparently spent quite awhile there while Paul was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:22; 20:4-6). Timothy had a strong relationship with them already, so it is no wonder that he had strong feelings toward them and was concerned for their spiritual welfare.

There are those that can fake being concerned for others. That is often true in highly cultured societies in which people are careful to publically present themselves with the proper decorum, but in private they are something different. In Christian societies is sometimes done by people who say they have been praying for you but they actually have not. They want you to think well of them so they compromise their character even more by lying. Timothy was not like that in the least. His concern for the Philippian believers was true and born out by his actions in demonstrating them. While in our own time traveling to distant cities is easy and safe, it was not so in Timothy’s time. It was difficult, dangerous and very time consuming. Timothy’s willingness to be sent by Paul validates his genuine concern for them.

Sought Christ’s Interests

(vs. 21)

The third characteristic Paul brings up about Timothy is that he sought Christ’s interest. This is done by contrasting him to all others that would “seek after their own interest, not those of Christ Jesus.” Timothy was the opposite of these men for he was single minded in serving Jesus Christ. No wonder Paul refers to him as a kindred spirit.

Paul’s comments here are also very revealing about the sad state of the early church in Rome. Though Paul rejoices that the gospel is being preached there (1:14-18), and that there were some doing it out of good will and love (vs. 1:15,16), the effect of those who did so out of selfish ambition had already taken its toll on the church. Apparently those who did preach out of good will and love were not available for Paul states that Timothy was the only one that he could send that was like minded as Paul seeking the interests of Christ Jesus and who was genuinely concerned for them. Perhaps some of these men were married and legitimately had to be concerned with their wife even as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:33. However, Paul’s statement here more clearly reveals that the real problem with those that should have been available was that they sought after their own interests. Those that serve the Lord with selfish motives quickly limit how much the Lord can use them. How frustrating it must have been for Paul to be surrounded by so many immature believers that Timothy was the only one he could entrust with this task. No wonder he did not want him to go until after he saw how things would go with himself. Yet, in the midst of this he still found reason to rejoice. Why? Because Paul’s interest was on serving Christ and not on his own comforts. If there were immature believers around, then he had the opportunity to help them mature.

Many churches still reflect this kind of lack of maturity. Instead of unity and humility which marks conduct worthy of the gospel, there is spiritual pride and divisions like which occurred in the Corinthian church. While I am grateful for the many here that do place Christ’s interests above their own, our church is not above having this problem. Some lack maturity simply because they are young in the Lord and have not had time to fully develop their Christian walk. Others lack maturity because they had not previously been discipled, and so even though they have been Christians for many years, they have only advanced to a grade school level in walking with the Lord. Still others have resisted growing in the Lord because they are still fleshy, as Paul puts it in 1 Cor. 3:3. Their interests are still on the things of this world instead of the things above (Col. 3:2). All of us still have lots of room to grow in our walk with Jesus Christ, and all of us should be actively growing. Do not let yourself remain where you are spiritually. There is no excuse for remaining immature when there is so much help available – books, tapes, videos, large and small group Bible studies, good fellowship, opportunities for service and personal discipleship. You simply have to take advantage of them, but in order to do that, you have to first have to desire to please Christ. If you want to be like Paul or Timothy, and each of us should, then you must develop a kindred spirit to them.

Timothy’s Value (vs. 22, 23)

Paul continues on in verses 22 and 23 to describe Timothy’s value to himself. “But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child [serving] his father. 23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things [go] with me.”

Past Ministry (vs. 22)

Paul begins with his value in the past. Timothy had proven himself in all of his previous travels with Paul and in his carrying out his assignments to various churches. The Philippian believers would have first hand knowledge of this because of Timothy’s previous ministry to them. Paul includes Timothy as a co-laborer or fellow bond-servant of Christ in many of his letters – Romans 16:21; 2 Cor., Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.

It is important to note that Timothy served with Paul, not for him. They were fellow workers. They worked in cooperation with each other for the same cause. They modeled to the Philippians what Paul wanted them to do in being humble and being of the same mind, same love, united in spirit and intent on one purpose. Paul elevated Timothy from his youth and lack of maturity into someone who he valued as an equal, and Timothy never let his pride develop to think that somehow he ever surpassed his mentor. That is the way all of us are to work with one another in the church.

Tragically, in too many churches we find church leaders that view those under them as their own servants instead of the Lord’s servants. They seek to protect their power base instead of encouraging and promoting those that are younger to develop their spiritual gifts and rise up to be true co-laborers. In addition, we also find in too many churches those who are younger who think more highly of themselves than they ought too. They seek to climb and sometimes claw their way up into positions of power. Neither of these things ought to be, but they are because people seek after their own interests instead of those of Jesus Christ.

The future of our own church is tied up in seeing people mature and becoming co-laborers with us. That is a reason we have Elias Carrero here as a pastoral intern. We desire to see him develop his skills to become an effective minister in the service of Christ. That is why we changed the way we are approaching developing Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses. We want to be pro-active in developing men and women that will be mature co-laborers with one another. In this church, there is no issue about positions of “power.” It is all about positions of greater ministry responsibility that we might help one another go forward and be effective in the cause of Jesus Christ.

Present Ministry (vs. 23)

As already mentioned, Paul also valued Timothy’s present ministry to him so much that though he desired to send him to Philippi immediately, he was hesitant to do so until after he knew how things were going to go with himself.

Compassionate Ephaphroditus

In verses 25-28 Paul speaks about the character of Epaphroditus in explaining why he was being sent back to Philippi. “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; 26 because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned [about you.]”

Epaphroditus’ Value (vs. 25, 30)

Paul’s Brother, Fellow Worker, Soldier (vs. 25)

Paul begins explaining why he was sending Epaphroditus back by first talking about his value. Paul did not want them to think even for a moment that there was some deficiency in Epaphroditus. Instead he wanted them to recognize what a wonderful and valuable man he was in the cause of Christ. Paul begins by prefacing his remarks that he was sending back because it was necessary to do so. It was not something Paul desired to do for himself, but rather believed it was something that must be done for the sake of both Epaphroditus and the Philippians.

Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier. Each reveals another facet of his character and value.

Paul accepts Epaphroditus as someone who belonged to the same family as himself, the family of God. This is more than just recognizing him as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. The term also carries with it the idea of intimacy with and commitment to one another. We can see from the rest of what Paul writes that there is also a personal affection that he has for Epaphroditus.

Paul also calls him a fellow worker. This shows the nature of the relationship they shared. Epaphroditus had been sent to be of service to Paul on behalf of the Philippians (2:30). He had been successful at this and Paul found him to be a partner in ministry. There is an aspect of affection included in this too. It is not just a “co-worker”in the sense of someone you just work with whether you want to or not.

The third title Paul gives Epaphroditus is “fellow soldier.” This title brings out the common struggles they shared in serving in God’s army against the common enemy. Epaphroditus was willing to share in whatever Paul had to go through. Good soldiers look out for each other and suffer the same hardships together (2 Tim. 2:3). Epaphroditus had placed himself at great personal risk to be with Paul as demonstrated by his severe sickness. Epaphroditus has proven himself to be of great value to Paul.

Their Messenger & Minister (vs. 25)

Paul also points out Epaphroditus’ value to the Philippian believers who had sent him. He was first of all their messenger. He brought the financial gift from them to Paul. He was also the messenger of their love to Paul in both word and deed through his service to Paul. He was also a messenger in the sense of being their continual representative to Paul as he ministered to Paul. The particular word for “minister” here (leitourgoV / leitourgos) is a title given to public officials that were highly respected and honored.

Why Paul Was Sending Him Back

Paul explains the specific reasons for sending Epaphroditus back in verses 26-28.

First, he was longing for his friends and loved ones in Philippi because he knew they were distressed because they had heard he was sick. It was a severe sickness that almost killed him (vs. 27), but what Paul says bothered Epaphroditus was not that he was sick, but that the Philippians were distressed about his being sick. He was in emotional turmoil because he knew his friends in Philippi were anxious about him. He greatly desired to be with them in order to comfort them that he was now alright. God had been merciful him by bringing him back to health. Paul adds that this was a mercy to himself as well otherwise he would have sorrow upon sorrow. Sorrow that Epaphroditus had died. Sorrow for his own loss of his services. Sorrow for those in Philippi that would grieve for him.

It should be pointed out here that though Paul had been able to heal other people such as the father of Publius in Acts 28:8, he was not able to heal Epaphroditus. It is not God’s will that every Christian is to always be healthy nor can the Christian claim God’s healing by faith. If Paul could not make such a demand, then neither can we. We pray and ask God for his mercy according to His will. We do not demand from God. Paul specifically states that it was by God’s mercy to both of them that Epaphroditus recovered from his severe sickness.

Paul adds in verse 28 that because he knew the return of Epaphroditus would ease their anxiety about him, they would rejoice. For that reason Paul was eager to have him return to Philippi. Paul also adds that this would lessen his own concerns for Epaphroditus and for them.

Receiving the Godly

(vs. 29,30)

Paul concludes this section with instructions to the Philippians about how they were to treat Epaphroditus. “Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”

Receive with All Joy

First, they were to receive him in the Lord with all joy. They were to welcome him back and rejoice. He may not have been able to have accomplish all that they had originally sent him out to do, but any disappointment should be overwhelmed by having him back with them alive and well.

Hold in High Esteem

Second, Paul tells them to hold him and men like him in high esteem. They should recognize what he has risked and gone through and properly honor and respect him for it.

Epaphroditus had come close to death for the work of Christ, and he risked his life specifically on their behalf. The risk of his life was not just the sickness itself, but all the dangers of travel along the way in order to carry out this ministry.

There are still many that willingly place themselves in harms way in order to serve the Lord and us. At a time when our nation is at war, we certainly recognize the risk our nations soldiers are taking in their effort to keep the battles on foreign soil and remove the threats of madmen such as Saddam Hussein and Osma Ben Ladin. Remember that Romans 13:3,4 calls such people a “minister of God.” The same holds true with those that serve as police, firefighters, rescue workers.

There are also the many chaplains that serve with the armed forces. There are also the many missionaries of various types that place themselves at great risk to help people in distant lands and bring them the gospel. The dangers are not just by military or terrorist action, but also by the dangers of travel, robbers, and disease. We ought to honor and respect such people who risk themselves in such service whether is in distant lands or locally.

What are you willing to risk in your own service to the Lord and others? Are you willing to follow the example of Paul or Timothy or Epaphroditus. They are three different men with different personalities, gifts and abilities, but all of them were greatly used of God because they set serving the Lord as the priority of their lives. What example do you follow?

What example will you leave? What are the priorities you have set for your life? Will they bring eternal reward, or just some temporary satisfaction in this life? God desires to use you for His glory. Are you willing to let Him do so and in that way provide a godly example for those that will follow you.

Sermon Study Sheets



Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned and look them up later. 2) Count how many times references are made to both Timothy and Epaphroditus. Talk with your parents about their example of godliness and how that can help you in your own walk with Christ.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

How important have the examples of others been to you? Give examples. Compare the Greek and Hebrew concepts of education? Do you think the examples of Jesus and Paul are ones that you can imitate? Why or why not? What is the source of Paul’s joy? In what way did he want others to rejoice? How were they to share that joy with Paul? Why did Paul want to send Timothy to Philippi? Why couldn’t Paul go? How did he respond to that fact? How does the Christian’s confidence in God for the future differ from fatalism? What characteristics does Paul point out about Timothy? Explain each of them. How did Timothy differ from all others (Phil. 2:20-21)? Why would a Christian be immature instead of seeking the interests of Jesus Christ? Whose interests do you seek? What was Timothy’s value to Paul? How does Paul described Epaphroditus? What does each title mean? Why was Paul sending him back to Philippi? How should we respond to those that risk themselves in the Lord’s service? Give examples of those that risk themselves now. How can you practically “receive” and hold them in “high regard”?

Sermon Notes – June 6, 2004

Godly Examples – Philippians 2:17-30

Joyful Paul (vs. 17-18)

The Source of Paul’s Joy

Paul’s Desire for Others to Rejoice

Faithful Timothy (vs. 19-24)

Why Paul Wanted to Send Timothy (vs. 19, 23,24)

Timothy’s Character (vs. 20,21)

Timothy’s Value (vs. 22, 23)

Compassionate Ephaphroditus

Epaphroditus’ Value (vs. 25)

Why Paul Was Sending Him Back

Receiving the Godly (vs. 29)

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