Two of a Kind (Philippians 2:19-30) 00:00
I may be accused of being a sexist who is insensitive to the needs of women. It is entirely possible that I use too many sports or movie illustrations and have a hankering for referring to “manly men.” I always strive to be sensitive to women and to balance my teaching with plenty of feminine illustrations and applications. However, if you are looking for me to change, I can assure you that I will not. The reason is simple: I believe that manly men are essential for building healthy churches.” Show “Why Men Hate Church” book.
Now the phrase “manly men” may raise some questions (and some eyebrows) so I need to briefly explain myself. When I speak of manly men, I am not referring to men who like to hunt, fish, barbeque, work on cars, sport chest hair, and watch football. Seriously, I define manly men as men who have a passion for Christ and His church. Such spiritual studs can come in any size, shape, and style; however, they all love the Lord and are serious about building God’s kingdom.
Today you’ll learn about two men who epitomize manliness. Their names are Timothy and Epaphroditus. I’m sure they won’t mind if we call them Tim and Pappy for short. The apostle Paul honors the lives of these two men in Philippians 2:19–30. I must tell you, this is unusual. Paul customarily refers to people by name at the end of his letters. He does so here because these two men serve as models of his argument. Tim and Pappy are living examples of men who have exhibited humility and unity, and who work out their salvation (2:12) based on service to the Lord and to others (2:1–4). Throughout this passage, there is an echo that serves as a resounding gong: Manly men make the ministry. This truth will be apparent as we examine the lives of Tim and Pappy. Two defining principles emanate from their lives.
1. Manly men are selfless servants (2:19–24). A truly manly man is a man whose submissive mind is seen in his servant’s attitude. In 2:19 Paul writes, “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.” Paul’s use of “hope” (elpizo) here is more than a wish—it is a “confident expectation.” The use of the phrase “in the Lord Jesus” is not akin to our contemporary glib comment, “Lord willing.” Instead, it shows that Paul doesn’t make decisions based simply on common sense or on what he thinks is best, but he submits everything to the Lord and His will.5 This ought to be true for every manly man as well. Masculine ministry is achieved as manly men submit themselves to the manliest man who has ever lived—the God-man—the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is confident that Jesus will permit him to send Timothy to the Philippian church. He even says that he expects to be encouraged by their condition. The verb “encouraged” (eupsucheo) is used only here in the NT. In Paul’s day, this word appeared on ancient Greek gravestones and in letters of condolence. The word carries the idea of “may it be well with your soul.” Paul believes the best about this church. What an example he is. Do you expect to find encouragement and comfort from what God is doing in and through your church? Or do you find it easy to be cynical, critical, and pessimistic? As a manly man, you have a responsibility to lead your family in optimism. If you are single, you also have a responsibility in the church to set an example of confident hope and expectation for your church family. Today, what are you believing God for in your church? What do you expect Him to do? How are you trusting God and stepping out in faith? Manly men make the ministry.
In 2:20–21, Paul provides two reasons (“for”) that he is sending Tim to the Philippians: “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” Paul indicates that Tim is a one of a kind. Apart from Paul there is no one else who cares for the Philippians like Tim. There is some question as to whom the “all” refers to. Most likely Paul is contrasting Tim’s selfless servanthood with all people in general. Regardless, Tim was deeply loved by the church and he also was genuinely concerned about the church.
The adverb “genuinely” (gneios) occurs only here in the New Testament. However, a related adjective gnesios occurs four times. It can refer to children born in wedlock (i.e., they are legitimate and “genuine” children). Interestingly, Paul uses this term elsewhere to refer to Timothy and Titus as “true” sons in the faith. Though the stress in Phil 2:20 is on the idea of sincerity, the root idea of “legitimate children” should not be overlooked. Thus, Timothy is genuinely interested in the Philippians because he is a genuine son of Paul. The word “concerned” (merimnao) is often used of negative worry and anxiety, yet here, it is used of genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of the church. Can you say that you are genuinely concerned about your church? How does this concern manifest itself? It’s been observed that believers live either in Phil 1:21 or in Phil 2:21. Those who embrace the truth of 1:21 (“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”) share Paul’s desire to find true profit in seeking the profit of others (see 1 Cor 10:33). Manly men make the ministry.
Paul, again, continues to rave about his boy, Tim. In 2:22 he states, “But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.” Timothy has demonstrated his worthiness as a servant of Christ and of Paul for more than ten years. He had served as the apostle’s fellow worker and as his protégé. The phrase “proven worth” (dokime) refers to a testing of one’s character. This word group is used of assaying ore to see if it is of mixed alloy or pure metal. This is like “gold refined in the fire,” tested, purified, proved. This description of Timothy is fitting since his name in Greek means “he honors God.” Tim is living up to his name. He does not cave under pressure. Instead, he proves himself over time. It has been said that people are like teabags…you never know how strong they are until you drop them in hot water. Timothy’s consistency is evidenced over time as he has worked with Paul like a son with his father, serving together to see the good news of Christ go out and touch lives.
The word “served” deserves special notice. There are several Greek words that refer to serving. But the word “served” in 2:22 is remarkable. It is the Greek verb douleuo, which refers to living out your life as a slave. When we use the phrase, “slaving away,” we use it in a negative sense of menial and undesirable labor. But Paul means it as a humble privilege. To serve the Lord Jesus Christ as His willing slave is a high honor. Is it an honor for you or a chore? A lot has to do with the quality of your love for Christ. If you are just doing church work, that can get old. But if you are slaving away in all that you do for the Lord, there is blessing in this life and the life to come.
Before we leave 2:22 it is important to recognize that “proven worth” doesn’t happen overnight. Too many people want instant spirituality and overnight maturity. God doesn’t work that way. Producing Christian character takes time and effort. Here’s a simple equation: T + D = G. T = Time, D = Discipline and G = Growth. This formula works in every area of life, whether it is weight lifting, piano playing, Scripture memory, or learning to speak Spanish. Nothing worthwhile can be conquered in one evening. You can’t blitz your way to spiritual leadership. You’ve got to do what Timothy did—put yourself under a good leader and then pay the price over time. Are you a flash in the pan? Are you a one-hit wonder? If so, recalibrate your spiritual life and commit for long haul service.
Paul closes this first section in 2:23–24 by saying, “Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.” Paul longs to send Timothy and even make the trip to Philippi himself. He misses his brothers and sisters. It’s been said, “If absence makes the heart grow fonder, some people must really love the church.” However, Paul couldn’t be at church; he was in prison. Men, what is your excuse? One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse and children is to take them to church. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you want to be a manly man, you must–I repeat, MUST–show spiritual leadership in your home by packing your Bible and your family and take them to church. Remember, you are the spiritual thermostat in the home. Most wives and children will never rise above the man in their lives. Your spiritual involvement in the lives of your family members is critical.
Now, I know full well that this is the biblical ideal, and as we know: There’s the ideal, and then there’s the real deal. So if your dad is an unbeliever or a spiritual sloth don’t lose heart. Timothy’s father was a Greek, who evidently was an unbeliever, and his mother Eunice was a Jewish convert to Christianity. Timothy was raised in the Lord by his mom and his godly grandmother Lois (2 Tim 1:3–5) and he turned out to be a phenomenal pastor and a manly man. I have often seen God in His grace do this in the lives of men. He doesn’t even need a godly mom and grandma to work on His behalf. He sovereignly calls men to Himself and makes sure that they grow spiritually. A perfect example of this is Epaphroditus who was not fortunate enough to be raised in a godly home environment. The name Epaphroditus means “belonging to Aphrodite,” the pagan goddess of love. No Christian parent would name a child that. But somewhere along the way Epaphroditus met Jesus Christ, and even though his name remained the same, his allegiance was forever changed, and so was his character. Men, God certainly doesn’t need you, but He wants to use you. What a difference you can make in the lives of your spouse and children. Even if you’re not married or don’t have children, you can invest well in up and coming Timothy’s. If you’re not a manly man, will you decide today to strive after biblical manhood?
[Manly men are selfless servants who put others first. The second defining principle is…]
2. Manly men are willing servants (2:25–30). While Timothy is a marvelous example of service, Epaphroditus is a superb model of suffering. Pappy is a man whose name appears only twice in the New Testament (2:25; 4:18). Timothy, on the other hand, is named twenty–four times in the New Testament. Moreover, Tim is a pastor while Pappy fits more into the mold of a deacon. Yet, note that Paul gives Pappy prominence in this passage and actually devotes more words to his commendation than to Timothy’s. In 2:25, Paul lays out Pappy’s riveting résumé: “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.” Let’s take a closer look at Pappy’s five titles.
o Brother (adelphos). The term “brother” connotes warm personal intimacy and friendship. Paul and Pappy are tight because they are united as brothers in the same spiritual family. I’ve always felt that using the term “brother” is a bit cheesy. I have some Southern Baptist friends who call me “brother” all the time. It makes me want to say, “Oh, brother!” But this term is biblical and honoring of those who are brothers in Christ.
o Fellow worker (sunergos). Pappy is a kingdom workhorse who does whatever is asked of him. Paul is in prison. There are no cities to take for Christ, no glorious mission to the heathen. Just the everyday chores of going grocery shopping, helping with cooking, finding people that Paul needs to talk to and bringing them to his house, and possibly helping him by transcribing letters. But Paul doesn’t trivialize his time in prison. He doesn’t see it as wasted. Instead, he recognizes that Pappy has made a valuable contribution to the mission. He is a fellow worker in the great work of the gospel. Even though he was a behind-the-scenes type of servant, the two were equal coworkers—one in work and dignity. Godly men are bound to one another by kingdom work.
o Fellow soldier (sustratiotes). It is never enough to be just a worker in the ministry; one must also learn to be a warrior. Paul has no illusions about his situation. He is not comfortable in some church that seems to fit like an old shoe. He is a soldier in Christ’s army. He is at war and doesn’t hesitate to remind the troops of their status too. He and Pappy fought shoulder-to-shoulder in Rome. Perhaps Paul has in mind the trademark imperial soldiers’ battle ethic of standing side-by-side, dug in with shields locked solid, swords drawn. Young Pappy is a battle-tested warrior; he is no weekend warrior. Every manly man must recognize the spiritual battle that he is in. Satan will make a quick meal out of a brother and a fellow worker, but he is less capable of devouring a fellow soldier. Fight the fight 24–7 and God will grant you perseverance.
o Messenger (apostolos). Pappy is a messenger of the church of Philippi sent on a mission to help Paul. In Paul’s day prisoners were not cared for by the state, but their “necessities” for life (especially food) had to be supplied by friends or relatives. This is no small thing that they had done. Pappy and the church have helped sustain Paul in prison. It is worth noting that the Greek word for “messenger” is apostolos, however, this doesn’t mean that Epaphroditus is an official apostle (cf. 2 Cor 8:23). The word was commonly used of messengers without extraordinary status. Paul is merely esteeming Pappy and paying him some serious homage.
o Minister (leitourgos). Paul calls Pappy a “minister.” We derive our English word “liturgy” from this Greek term. It is used primarily in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) to refer to the various duties of the Levites, including the actual service at the altar. Pappy’s whole life is worship. Here’s the picture: Pappy is a layman, whom we would never have heard of, were it not for Paul’s brief reference here. He never served in a public capacity. He did not shepherd a flock. He did not take the gospel to an unreached area. He did not receive special revelation. He didn’t even write anything. All he did was deliver a bag of money to Paul and then look after him. Yet he is called “brother…fellow worker…fellow soldier…messenger…and minister.” We must understand that to serve in some unnoticed, unrecognized place in the body of Christ is as much the work of Christ as is public ministry.
These descriptions about Pappy raise an important question: Have you told the Lord, “I’m willing to do whatever you might call me to do, and I’m willing to go anywhere You want me to go”? I remember as a teenager being hesitant to do that, because I was afraid He might say, “Go to Africa as a missionary,” and I didn’t want to do that! But now I pray that I am willing to go wherever the Lord may call me to go, whether that is to Africa or to a church in Arkansas. Can you say the same thing? Are you deeply concerned about the spiritual well-being of other believers? Will you count the cost and serve the body of Christ whenever and wherever God calls. Manly men make the ministry.
Paul includes an amazing fact about Pappy in 2:26–27. He sends Pappy to the Philippians “because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 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, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” Apparently, after traveling 800 miles (six plus weeks) from Philippi to Rome, Pappy fell ill with a serious disease and nearly died. In those days something called “Roman Fever” took many lives. If you’ve ever traveled abroad, especially to a third-world country, you know that you have to take extreme medical precautions. Remember, Pappy faced all the dangers of travel without the benefits of modern medicine. As a result, the disease he contracted nearly took his life. When the Philippians heard about it, they were worried and sent a message to Rome. The remarkable thing about Pappy is that he is more concerned that the Philippians are worried about him than he is about his own condition. He is “longing” for these believers and is even distressed over their concern. The word “distressed” (ademoneo) is the same term used to describe Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33). Epaphroditus was distressed because they thought he was sick. This is truly amazing! Pappy was more concerned about their emotional welfare than his own physical condition. Today, often believers aren’t even touched by the illnesses of others, much less being distressed in the same as Epaphroditus. We see a tremendous heart for people here!
Paul closes this section in 2:28–30 by informing the Philippians that Pappy is heading home and they need to honor him for his service. Paul writes: “Therefore I have sent him [Pappy] all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.” Paul commands the Philippians to receive Pappy in the Lord with all joy and to hold men like him in high regard (2:29). Again, Epaphroditus is not a pastor; he is the equivalent to what we call a layman (even though I dislike the term). He is most likely a lot like you. Paul wants the church to honor the men who are working hard in the trenches who don’t receive a lot of glory and praise like some pastors.
But Paul’s high commendation of Epaphroditus does not come simply because of what he did, great as this may have been. It comes also because of why he did it. His was a self-renouncing motivation. He chose against himself for someone else: “He was sick to the point of death.” Paul wants Pappy to receive honor because he “came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life.” The phrase “risking his life” (paraboleuomai, 2:30) is a verb that means “to expose oneself to danger, to risk.” Thus, from this word alone it is clear that Pappy is no coward but a courageous manly man willing to take enormous risks, ready to play with very high stakes in order to come to the aid of a person in need. In effect, Epaphroditus is like Christ. Paul makes this very clear in the Greek because the phrase that tells us that Epaphroditus “nearly died” (2:30) is exactly the same as the phrase in 2:8, which describes Christ’s coming “to the point of death.” Epaphroditus’ near death for Paul echoes Christ’s real death for us. This young man had the mind of Christ. Manly men make the ministry.
The story is told of two inseparable friends who enlisted together, trained together, shipped out together, and fought in the trenches together during World War I. During an attack, one of the duo was critically wounded in a field filled with barbed wire obstacles and, because of that, was unable to crawl back to his foxhole. The entire area was under enemy fire and it was suicidal to try to reach him. Nevertheless, undaunted, his friend decided to give it a go. Before he could get out of his own trench, his sergeant yanked him back and told him, “You’re mad! It’s far too late. You can’t do him any good and you’ll only end up getting yourself killed.” A few minutes later the officer turned his back, and instantly his mate went after his friend. Shortly afterwards, he staggered back, mortally wounded, with his friend now dead in his arms. The sergeant was both angry and deeply moved. “What a waste,” he blurted out. “He’s dead, and you’re dying. It just wasn’t worth it.” With almost his last breath, the dying soldier retorted: “Oh yes it was, for when I got to him, the only thing he said was, “I knew you would come, Jim.” The lesson is that Jim was there for his friend whatever the cost.
Like Jim, will you be there for at least one other man? Undoubtedly, you can make a difference in at least one man’s life. But I am confident that you can be used by God to transform the culture of your church and touch people all over the world. All that is required is depending upon the Lord Jesus to use you to be His change agent. Will you step up today and become a manly man? If you are already a manly man, will you ask God to take you to the next level of masculine ministry? Your church needs you. They are counting on you. Be a manly man!