Title: Model Servants
Series: Philippians (15/20)
Reference: Philippians 2:17-30
If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to open up to the New Testament book of Philippians. We’ve been studying through the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings. We are in chapter 2. The title of today’s message is, “Model Servants.” I’ll begin reading with verse 17, and I’m going to ask if you are physically able, let’s all stand together in honor and reverence, for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The Word of God says in Philippians 2, beginning with verse 17:
“But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me, 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 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. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father 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, 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 because he was longing for you almost 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 upon me so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. So rejoice 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.”
Father, would you add your blessing upon the proclamation of your Word and it is in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. You can be seated.
An old Puritan preacher by the name of Thomas Brook said, “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.” Example is the most powerful rhetoric. That is true. Think about it like this. Do you know what the most powerful rhetoric, or the most powerful argument is that would support the suggestion that Jesus is bogus and all of this stuff about Christianity really doesn’t amount to anything? Do you know what the most powerful argument is that would support something like that? It is example. It is the man or the woman who professes to know Christ, yet remains unchanged by Christ. Example is the most powerful rhetoric. Likewise, do you know what the most powerful argument is that would suggest that Jesus is real, and Jesus redeems, and Jesus restores and gives life that is worth living. Do you know what the most powerful argument for that is? It is the man or the woman whose life has been radically, undeniably, changed by Jesus Christ. Thomas Brooks is correct: example is the most powerful rhetoric.
Now along those lines, Philippians chapter 2 mentions three men: Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. These names come up and we read this passage in Philippians chapter 2, and on one hand we can understand why these three names come up. In the context, they come up because Paul is just talking about his travel plans. He is saying, I am sending Epaphroditus to you. Epaphroditus is a guy who the Philippian church sends to Paul, he delivers that gift to Paul. Paul writes this letter that we know as Philippians, and Epaphroditus takes that letter back to the church. So Paul says I am sending this guy back to you, so receive him well. Honor him. Paul says this guy almost died to get the letter to me, and so he says receive him well and I am going to send Timothy to you as soon as it becomes clear what is going to happen to me. So in the historical context, we understand why we see these three names: Paul, Epaphroditus and Timothy.
But to me the interesting part is that Paul puts his travel plans here in the middle of the letter. Normally, you would see travel plans at the end of the letter. You see that in the letter to the Corinthian church. You’ll see the same thing in Colossians. That would be typical, but yet Paul puts it here in what seems to be right in the middle of the letter, and I would submit to you that the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to record his travel plans here in the middle of Philippians chapter 2 because these three men illustrate everything that Paul has been calling the church to embrace. If you think about what we have learned over the last few weeks together, all the way back at the beginning of chapter 2 Paul begins to emphasize the importance of unity in the church. And remember when we were talking about how Paul makes this case, he says the only way we can be in unity with one another is for us to be in humility with one another. In fact, to the degree that we live in humility with one another, is the degree we will experience unity with one another.
He begins to really drive this home. All the way back at the beginning of chapter 2, Paul says in verse 1: If there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the spirit, if there is any affection and compassion that make my joy complete, by being of the same mind. Do you hear the unity in that? He says maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose, do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do you see the relationship between humility and unity?
And then he points to Jesus. Do you remember that example? Jesus who existed in the form of God. Do you remember the ladder illustration? Jesus who was all the way up there yet chose to come down here and he chose to do that, to serve us, and the Bible calls us to have that same kind of attitude. Philippians chapter 2, verse 5, have this attitude in yourselves which is also in Christ Jesus.
So Paul points to unity, he points to humility, and then in the middle of the movement of this second chapter, Paul says to work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, continue to press on and understand and take hold of everything that God has planted in you when he saved you and he birthed in you new life in you. As we continue to move through the flow of chapter 2, the Bible says to do all of that without grumbling or complaining, and so you take a step back and you see this call to unity. The only way we are going to experience unity is to live in humility. Jesus is the great example of that. We have got to consider one another, the needs of one another as more important than our own needs as we continue to work out who God has made us on the inside and we do all of that, we don’t grumble, we don’t complain, we are keeping our eyes on the prize. It is almost like the Holy Spirit says time out, let me show you some examples of men that are living that out. It is almost like the Holy Spirit takes all of the instruction that we have in chapter two and he says break, pause, before we get to more instruction in chapter 3, here are some examples. Here are some flesh and blood examples of men who are actually living this stuff out in front of you, and this is what true spiritual maturity looks like.
If you are taking notes this morning, I want to point out these men and how the Bible sort of depicts their spiritual service to God here in Philippians chapter 2. Three men who illustrate everything Paul has been talking about. Unity, humility, considering the needs of others as more important than your own personal comfort, and continuing to work on what God has worked in without grumbling or complaining. That’s the heart of these three guys.
So three illustrations, number one on your notes is the example of Paul.
Look what Paul writes in verse 17: Even if I am poured out as a drink offering… That is an illusion to the drink offering in the Old Testament, which was like the whipped topping of the sacrifice. That is kind of weird to think about, but if you know the Old Testament, they would bring their sacrifice. The priest would slaughter the animal, and that animal would be burned up, and then at some point in that sacrifice would be the drink offering. The priest would most commonly use wine or water. There are some examples in the scriptures of honey being used, but he would take that drink offering and he would pour it out on the top of that burning sacrifice and as he did that, immediately the water hits that fire, the honey or whatever, it hits that fire, it vaporizes into this steam and the steam would symbolize the sacrifice moving up being acceptable and pleasing in the sight of God.
That’s the image Paul has in mind here when he says even if I am being poured out as a drink offering… So Paul’s perspective, this is so good for us, this is such a great example. Paul’s perspective is that my life is like an offering that is being poured out for the benefit of others, to the glory of God. That’s what Paul is saying. This is so good for us, this is so instructive for us. Do you know what this is saying? This is what it means to serve God, to pour your life out for the good of others for the glory of God. This is such a great example, not just for me and other pastors, but for you. This is what God calls us all to do, to pour out our life for the good of others to the glory of God, and you see that emphasis Paul said in verse 17 my life is an offering, I am pouring it out, and who is he pouring it out on, verse 17, I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith. This is Christian maturity. Christian maturity is not about being a Christian for 20, 25, 30 years. Christian maturity is not about what you know, it is about what you live. And Paul says my life is like an offering that is being poured out for others. This is what spiritual maturity looks like.
This is what makes Jesus such a great example. Back at the beginning of chapter 2 Jesus, as Paul alluded to, existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. In verse 7 it says he emptied himself, he took on the form of a bondservant, he was made in the likeness of men, being found in the appearance of men he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death upon a cross. This is what Jesus does. This is why you get to verse 9, for this reason also. Because Jesus did what Jesus did, because he lowered himself so low, verse 9 says God exalted him, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Why does God the Father honor God the Son in that kind of way? Because God the Son lowered himself. God the Son literally poured out his life for the good of others to the glory of God. And this is what the Bible calls us to do. Have this attitude in yourself that was in Christ Jesus. This is Christian maturity. Pouring your life out for the good of others to the glory of God.
Some scholars look at this language that Paul is talking about here as his life is a drink offering that is being poured out, they say that Paul is talking about his death. Paul has in view his upcoming death. I don’t think that is the case. I think this is just Paul’s life. Paul’s death is not the drink offering. Paul’s life is the drink offering. Paul has always lived like this for Jesus. Paul’s entire life, before he even comes to Philippi, do you know what Paul was doing? He was pouring out his life for the good of others to the glory of God. When Paul was in Philippi, do you know what he was doing? He was pouring his life out for the good of others to the glory of God. When Paul was even in jail, guess what he was doing in jail. Pouring his life out for the good of others to the glory of God. This was just Paul’s whole manner of life. He saw his life as an offering that was being poured out for the good of others for the glory of God. If life is like an offering, what are you pouring yours out on? Who are you pouring your life out upon? Paul shows us by example that the best way is to pour it out for the sacrifice and the service of others to the glory of God.
Then he says this, he said it in verse 17. I rejoice and share my joy with you all. When I read that this last week for the first time again, I thought well now, hold on a minute. Did Paul say he rejoiced? He has said that his life is like an offering that is being poured out, not on self, but for the good of others to the glory of God, and he said I rejoice in that. There is joy in that. I find fulfillment and satisfaction in that. And listen, it is not a joy in spite of, it is a joy because of. It is not like Paul finds joy in spite of being in prison, in spite of suffering for Christ, in spite of pouring out his life for the good of others to the glory of God, but that Paul finds joy in all of those things because of, right! It is because Paul pours out his life for the good of others to the glory of God, that’s why he finds joy.
Have you ever listened to a missionary, or read about a missionary, and you think man, how can they live like that. How could you sign up for that for life? How could you leave the comfort of what we have in America and go to some other country and sleep on the floor and eat rice every … I mean, how could you do that? How could you suffer like that? How could you live like that? How could you go to those kinds of places? Make those kinds of sacrifices? How do you do all of that? Well, they do that because they view their lives as an offering that’s being poured out for the good of others to the glory of God. And when you have that kind of perspective, as Paul illustrates for us here, then it is almost like the greater the offering, the greater the sacrifice, the more experience of joy with God one gets to have.
This is amazing that Paul would have this kind of perspective. He says I am pouring my life out, not for my good but for your good, and he says, I rejoice in that. I find joy and satisfaction in that and we look at that and you know, it just doesn’t seem logical. It doesn’t seem even possible, but you and I both know that when you follow God long enough and close enough there are a lot of things that God does that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a worldly, or a fleshly, or a selfish way of thinking about things.
When I was at Moody Bible Institute I remember reading for the first time Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Great little book. It is a book that you probably should read. Every Christian should probably read this book at least one time, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. I remember reading all of these accounts about early church martyrs, and how they suffered and died for their faith. How they were tied to stake, burned alive, and yet they could be heard in the fire rejoicing for the privilege of being counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the gospel. They were thrown to lions, they were sawed into pieces, they were covered in boiling tar, and over and over you read about their joy, even in those hard and dark circumstances. You read something like that and you think, how is that even possible!
We look at trials, and hard things, and physical pains, and adverse circumstances and even death, we look at stuff like that and it is this dark evil thing that needs to be avoided at all costs, but the truth is when you get to this place of understanding that your life is just an offering that is meant to be poured out for the good of others, to the glory of God, then nothing is in the dark. Nothing is in the dark. Everything is in the light. Everything has God’s light beaming down on it, casting upon it, over it, enabling us to experience joy even in the greatest sacrifices and one author said this, listen to this, “Perhaps the reason we know so little about that kind of joy is because we know so little about that kind of sacrifice.”
The example of Paul. Life is a sacrifice that is meant to be poured out for the good of others to the glory of God.
Number two on your notes, the example of Timothy. There is so much that we could say and point to here about Timothy, but for the sake of time let’s keep it focused on what does this passage of scripture teach us about Timothy. What do we learn about Timothy, the character and heart of Timothy, just from reading Philippians chapter 2?
Look what Paul says in verse 19. But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly so that I also may be encouraged when I learn … Paul wants to send Timothy. Of course, he wants to go personally, we understand that, but there are some limitations. He is in jail. Paul wants to go personally, he would love to be there himself. There are lots of reasons why a visit to Philippi is necessary, we have obviously picked up on the clues that there is disunity in the church, the harmony in the church is being compromised. There are some ladies we will get to in chapter four that are threatening the unity and the stability of the church. We also know that Philippi is also dealing with some measure of false teachers. Paul will begin to address that in chapter three and he calls them dogs and he says to beware of those guys, stay away from those guys, and we also know that the church was going through a season of persecution.
So they had persecution from without, they had disunity from within, there are some tares sown among the weeds, there’s false teachers that have somehow worked their way into the church and they are beginning to spread lies and deceit, so there are lots of reasons why Paul would want to go to Philippi but the only problem with that is that he is in jail. And so he says in verse 19 that I am hoping to send Timothy to you and he says this in verse 20, I have no one else of kindred spirit.
Now that tells us a lot about Timothy. Paul says I have no one else of kindred spirit. That means like-minded. Paul says there is no one else I could send that is more like me than Timothy. That tells us a lot about the character and the heart of Timothy. Timothy is very much like Paul, which speaks really volumes of Timothy’s character because Paul says there is no one else I can send. Well, isn’t Paul in Rome? Isn’t there a church in Rome? Yeah, there is a church in Rome. Doesn’t Paul have some other Christians around him, and we get to the end of Philippians and we get to chapter four and Paul talks about all the believers in Caesar’s household. There are other believers in Paul’s life there. There are plenty of believers around, but Paul says there is no one else. There is no one else of kindred spirit. No one’s heart quite beats like my heart except for this young fella named Timothy.
So Timothy is very much like Paul. He shares the same convictions. He shares the same passions, the same perspective on ministry. And Paul says this, he goes on to say this in verse 20, I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. Timothy really cares for the church. Timothy is not like the other preachers that Paul talked about in chapter one, who said they were preaching Jesus out of envy and strife. Timothy honestly cares about the church.
I thought about that little letter in I John, how over and over John makes this case that you can’t say you love God while you hate your brothers and sisters in Christ. You can’t do that. If you really love God, you are going to love one another. And he said at the very least you are walking in darkness. He said if you say you are a Christian but you don’t have love for other Christians, you are living in the dark. Nobody can live in the light and at the same time not have affection for his brothers and sisters in Christ. And then he says this in verse 21 about Timothy, they all say about the other preachers and such, they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
I love this connection Paul makes here between, he says here on one hand in verse 20, this guy is really, he is really concerned about you and then in verse 21 he says he is seeking after the interest of Christ Jesus. Do you see that connection? Verse 20, this guy really cares for you, verse 21, he is seeking after not his own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. I love that because we have a tendency in the church to divorce those two things and think that we can love Jesus and be a jerk to one another. That is not the case, you can’t separate those two. You can’t say I love Jesus and be mean to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul makes that connection. This guy loves you, he cares for you, verse 21, he is seeking after the interest of Jesus Christ. Those two are fused together. Following Jesus is about loving and caring for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
So many other good things we could point out about Timothy here. To me this is another good one to me, look at verse 22. He says, but you know of his proven worth. Well, that says a lot right there doesn’t it. Paul says this guy is faithful and you know that. This guy is dependable and you know that. This guy is all about Jesus and you know that. You know of his proven worth. This guy is just like me, he is going to pour into you, he is going to be an addition for you. He will be concerned about you, he cares about you. He is not concerned about building his own little flock that is going to stand behind Timothy above all other people. He cares about you. He cares about the things that Jesus cares about, you know of his proven worth.
And again, Timothy is the model, Timothy is the model of what spiritual maturity looks like. Following the example of Paul, who is following the example of Christ. We could add in there to follow the example of men like Paul and Timothy. Men who are concerned about the spiritual health of others. They are kingdom minded, and gospel focused. And just like Jesus he has a reputation that speaks for itself, Paul says you know of his proven worth. You know this cat is dependable, faithful, loyal, and he is going to be good for the church.
So the example of Paul, the example of Timothy, and then real quick, the last one on your notes: number three, the example of Epaphroditus.
Verse 25 says: but I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus. Look at the three phrases capture Paul’s relationship to this man, and then two phrases that capture this man’s service to the church in Philippi. So three phrases capturing his relationship to Paul: my brother, fellow worker, and soldier. Two phrases capturing his relationship to or his service to the church in Philippi: your messenger and your minister in my name. That all kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it.
Hey, how would you like to have at the end of your life, if you could have those five things said about you. That would be a life well lived for Christ. He was your messenger, he was your minister to my need. He was your brother, fellow worker, and soldier for Jesus! Now that’s a life well lived. What would be the five words to describe your life? If you died tonight, your funeral sometime next week, we have got five words to capture your life. What are those five words? We should be living lives striving to have this to be said of us, my brother, my fellow worker, my fellow soldier, and your messenger and your minister to my need.
Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, three men, three men who got it right. Three men who are just regular guys, empowered by the same Holy Spirit that lives in us. And look how they lived their lives for Christ.
Example is the most powerful rhetoric. I want to challenge you to pray about and think about this question. What is your example saying about your Savior? What is your example saying about your Savior? If we keep the application focused on just the instruction that we have received in Philippians chapter 2, we might ask these questions. Are you focused on unity? Are you relating to one another in humility? Do you consider others as more important than yourself? Are you continuing to work out what it means to be a child of God? Are you pressing forward in spiritual growth? Are you doing what God has called you to do? Are you being what God has called you to be? Are you serving in a way that God has called you and equipped to serve without grumbling or complaining? Are you sacrificing like Paul? Are you serving like Timothy? Are you faithfully laboring like Epaphroditus? What is your example saying about your Savior?
I want to invite you to just close your Bible, put away your notes, put away your pen, and I want to invite you to pray through this question. We will have a couple of moments of silence here, and it is going to feel really awkward and weird because no music is playing and nobody is talking and it is just quiet. But you know sometimes God speaks in the quiet. So here is what I want you to do, just put away all distractions and to close your eyes and meet with God in the sanctuary of your own heart, and I want you to pray through this question. I want you to think about this question and allow God to speak to your heart. In a minute I will pray for us, and then go into our open time of invitation, but between here and there just sit with and think through this question:
If example is the most powerful rhetoric, what is my example saying about my Savior?
Lord, we thank you for this time together. We thank you for your spirit among us, in us, helping us to understand your Word. Father, on one hand, we confess that often Father we put limitations on you. And Lord, we are like Moses, your servant Moses, who looked at what you were calling him to do and sort of put a fence around that based on his own limitations. Father, we know that we are insufficient. Lord nobody has to tell us that, we know we are insufficient. But Lord would you help us to see your sufficiency more than we see our own insufficiency. Would you help us to realize it is not what I am doing but it is what you are doing.
Father, we confess our sin of having a wrong focus, a wrong perspective. We ask that you help us reorient our focus, our gaze, towards you and to be more focused on your sufficiency on what you can do than what we can do. Father, help us to live lives that shine well for Jesus, that reflect well your grace and your glory. Help us to follow the example of these men that are pointed out here in your Word to us, men who poured out their life for the good of others and the glory of your kingdom. Men who faithfully and dependently served and were about the mission. Men whose hearts were beating for the things of God.
Lord, help us to put away whatever distractions we need to put away and have that kind of focus in our lives and to see everything that we do as an opportunity to pour out for the good of others and for your glory. Father, speak to our hearts. Continue to minister and work in us and Lord, help us to be responsive to that. We ask according to the strong name of Jesus. AMEN