Philippians 2:19-24 Devotional
Philippians 2:19-24. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 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. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
Reflection. I remember the first time I taught through Philippians I toyed with skipping over the more ‘autobiographical’ sections of Paul’s letter (similarly Galatians 1-2; 1 Thessalonians 2-3). Fortunately I was quickly brought to my senses and included them. For not only was Paul’s brilliant mind behind the crafting of his epistles, but the Christian view of inspiration means that what we encounter in the Bible is also God’s Word. It is brimming with purpose. Therefore we must ask what God intended for these seemingly obscure details and historically specific accounts. So this week and the next we will reflect on what Paul wrote about Timothy and Epaphroditus, respectively, in light of the broader themes developed in Philippians.
Firstly, Paul hoped to send Timothy (2:19, 23). Earlier Paul made it clear that despite his preference to be with Christ he desired to serve the church (1:22-26). Our section ends with him expressing his confidence that he would visit them soon (2:24). We can therefore conclude that Paul’s intended visit and plans to send Timothy were more than social calls. “I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (1:25). Likewise, his purpose in sending Timothy was not to share good tidings. Despite Paul’s precarious position in prison — which made him write, “as I see how things go with me” (2:23) — his concern was for others.
Secondly, and linked with the above point, news of the Philippians would cheer Paul (2:19). If one was feeling pedantic they might accuse Paul of selfishly dispatching Timothy. For he hoped to be cheered by the news he would hear. But as we have seen throughout Philippians, Paul’s delight and joy was located outside of himself. We can hardly label this attitude selfish. Because Paul readily rejoiced in God’s glory and the good of others he is anything but selfish. His example and eagerness is nothing but a challenge to us.
Thirdly, Paul conflates concern and love for others with the interests of Jesus Christ (2:20-21). Timothy’s “genuine concern” for the Christians at Philippi (2:20) revealed that he looked beyond his own interests to “those of Jesus Christ” (2:21). We should not pass over this but rather pause and reflect. Christians readily speak about longing to see Christ glorified. Churches claim to exist for God’s glory in their purpose statements. While none of this is wrong, I wonder if at times we fail to ground it in reality and action—specifically our concern for others. After all, Jesus summarised God’s Old Testament law under the two objects of our love: God and neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40). Therefore those who are appeal to share Christ’s passions and pursue his glory will actively participate in the lives of others.
This is very likely how Timothy “proved himself” (2:23). As he served along Paul it became evident that he imitated their mutual Lord: Jesus Christ. Again and again we can return to Paul’s ‘Christ hymn’ (2:5-11). There we gain a window into the heart of Christ, which should become the ambition of those follow him. Selfless service of and interest in others. Joyful sacrifice because we know where true value lies. Of course, Christians need not do these things to prove themselves to God. Rather, as we appreciate what God has done in Christ our actions align more with his. But following Christ others have set a similar example, respectable copies of Christ’s heart. Timothy was one of these. Desire to be another.