Models of Ministry – Philippians 2:14–30

Read the Passage: Philippians 2:14-30

Listen to the Redeemed Mind Podcast: Philippians 2:14-30

Paul’s Sacrifice (2:14–18)

Recall that in Phil. 2:12–13 Paul appealed to the idea of concurrence as he exhorted his readers toward good works, reminding the church that it is God who affects both one’s will and one’s works. Therefore, believers are to live their lives without grumbling and complaining. Not only does this reflect confidence in God’s providence, but also it displays a Christlike spirit. Furthermore, when Christians act in a godly manner, they will be both blameless and harmless in the eyes of the watching world, even among “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:14). Since mankind is created to functionally bear God’s image, Christlike conduct resonates even with the unregenerate. Therefore, Jesus taught that right conduct and unity validates the gospel (cf. John 17:20–21) and Peter wrote that good behavior will result in the praise of God at the judgment (cf. 1 Pet. 2:11–12).

Earlier, in Phil. 2:2, Paul noted that his joy was fulfilled when the church displayed Christ-likeness. Likewise, here in Phil. 2:16 Paul writes that he would be able to rejoice “in the day of Christ” (Phil. 2:16) if the Philippians’ behavior was godly, for such conduct would confirm the effectiveness of his ministry. Paul teaches that good works by the church are equivalent to “holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:16), which extends and validates the gospel Paul had delivered to the Philippians. Observe that throughout his epistles Paul notes that he is very careful to do all he can to protect the effectiveness of his ministry (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27; Gal. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:7). Indeed, as Paul writes in Phil. 2:17 his ministry was personally very costly to him; thus, he was encouraged by the visible fruit of his service to the church. Paul invites the church to rejoice over his faithful ministry to them.

Timothy’s Character (2:19–24)

The Philippian church was planted toward the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, likely sometime between AD 49–50, with the actual establishment of the church being narrated in Acts 16:11–40. Paul penned this epistle roughly ten years later during his first Roman imprisonment, at some point between 60–62 AD. Timothy had joined Paul’s mission team just prior to the establishment of Philippian church (cf. Acts 16:1–4); therefore, Timothy was well-known to the Philippian church and had been with Paul for roughly a decade as he wrote this letter. In Phil. 2:19, 23 Paul informed the church that he intended to send Timothy to them shortly, in order to learn about their condition. While Paul anticipated being freed from prison soon (cf. Phil. 1:25; 2:24), the uncertainly of the timing of his release is why he did not send Timothy immediately.

Epaphroditus’ Visit (2:25–30)

In Phil. 2:25 Paul writes that he was sending Epaphroditus to the Philippian church, thus making Epaphroditus the courier of this very epistle. Little is known about this man, as he is only mentioned in Scripture here and again at Phil. 4:18 as Paul concludes this letter. From these two brief references we learn that Epaphroditus was the one whom the Philippian church had sent to Paul in order to deliver a financial gift, as well as to care for Paul while he was in prison (cf. Phil. 2:25; 4:10, 14–18). We can conclude, then, that Epaphroditus was a citizen of Philippi and a member of the Philippian church, perhaps being one of its leaders or even its pastor. While Epaphroditus is not mentioned in the Acts narrative about the founding of the church, over the years he obviously had become well-known to Paul, for Paul refers to him in this passage as a “brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier” (Phil. 2:25).

One reason why Paul sent Epaphroditus to Philippi was that he needed a courier for this letter. A second reason, writes Paul, why he sent Epaphroditus to Philippi was that he was longing to return to the church. Apparently Epaphroditus had become gravely ill while visiting Paul, being “sick almost unto death” (Phil. 2:27). Understandably, then, the Philippian church had become worried when they heard about Epaphroditus’ illness, and their anxiety over his sickness concerned both Epaphroditus and Paul. An important teaching about illnesses is given by Paul at Phil. 2:27, as here we learn that sometimes God heals not only because of His mercy toward the infirm, but also because of His mercy toward others. A third reason why Paul sent Epaphroditus to Philippi was in order to encourage the church. At Phil. 2:30 Paul exhorted the church to honor Epaphroditus for his faithful service.

Application Questions:

  1. How important is it to have a model, mentor, or even a hero in the faith (cf. 1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9)? How has your sanctification been impacted by other believers?
  2. Is the conduct of most Christians blameless and harmless, reflecting a gentle and quiet spirit (cf. 1 Thess. 4:9–12; 2 Thess. 3:12–13; 1 Tim. 2:1–3; Titus 3:2)?
  3. Are you encouraged when you see the effectiveness of your ministry? Does God usually allow believers to see the results of their Christian service?
  4. Why does it seem that God’s plan is for most Christians to toil away in anonymity, being mostly unnoticed, even by those to whom they minister?
  5. How can we appropriately honor those who have faithfully served Christ, often at great personal cost and even while endangering their own lives?