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2. Imitating Christ's Humility
1If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, 2make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; 3doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; 4not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. 5Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. 9Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; 10that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. 14Do all things without murmurings and questionings: 15that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, 16holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain. 17Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all: 18and in the same manner do ye also joy, and rejoice with me. 19But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state. 21For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. 22But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel. 23Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me: 24but I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly. 25But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need; 26since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick: 27for indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy; and hold such in honor: 30because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.
Praise of Timothy and Epaphroditus. (a. d. 62.)
19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. 22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. 23 Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. 25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Paul takes particular notice of two good ministers; for though he was himself a great apostle, and laboured more abundantly than they all, yet he took all occasions to speak with respect of those who were far his inferiors.
I. He speaks of Timothy, whom he intended to send to the Philippians, that he might have an account of their state. See Paul's care of the churches, and the comfort he had in their well-doing. He was in pain when he had not heard of them for a good while, and therefore would send Timothy to enquire, and bring him an account: For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. Timothy was a non-such. There were, no doubt, many good ministers, who were in care for the souls of those for whom they preached; but none comparable to Timothy, a man of an excellent spirit and tender heart. Who will naturally care for your state. Observe, It is best with us when our duty becomes in a manner natural to us. Timothy was a genuine son of blessed Paul, and walked in the same spirit and the same steps. Naturally, that is, sincerely, and not in pretence only: with a willing heart and upright view, so agreeably to the make of his mind. Note, 1. It is the duty of ministers to care for the state of their people and be concerned for their welfare: I seek not yours, but you, 2 Cor. xii. 14. 2. It is a rare thing to find one who does it naturally: such a one is remarkable and distinguished among his brethren. All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's, v. 21. Did Paul say this in haste, as David said, All men are liars? Ps. cxvi. 11. Was there so general a corruption among ministers so early that there was not one among them who cared for the state of their people? We must not understand it so: he means the generality; all, that is, either the most, or all in comparison of Timothy. Note, Seeking our own interest to the neglect of Jesus Christ is a very great sin, and very common among Christians and ministers. Many prefer their own credit, ease, and safety, before truth, holiness, and duty, the things of their own pleasure and reputation before the things of Christ's kingdom and his honour and interest in the world: but Timothy was none of these.—You know the proof of him, v. 22. Timothy was a man who had been tried, and had made full proof of his ministry (2 Tim. iv. 5), and was faithful in all that befel him. All the churches with whom he had acquaintance knew the proof of him. He was a man as good as he seemed to be; and served Christ so as to be acceptable to God, and approved of men, Rom. xiv. 18. "You not only know the name of him, and the face of him, but the proof of him, and have experienced his affection and fidelity in your service," that, as a son with a father, he hath served with me in the gospel. He was Paul's assistant in many places where he preached, and served with him in the gospel with all the dutiful respect which a child pays to a father, and with all the love and cheerfulness with which a child is serviceable to his father. Their ministrations together were with great respect on the one side and great tenderness and kindness on the other—an admirable example to elder and younger ministers united in the same service. Paul designed to send him shortly: Him therefore I hope to send presently, as soon as I shall see how it will go with me, v. 23. He was now a prisoner, and did not know what would be the issue; but, according as it turned, he would dispose of Timothy. Nay, he hoped to come himself (v. 24): But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. He hoped he should soon be set at liberty, and be able to pay them a visit. Paul desired his liberty, not that he might take his pleasure, but that he might do good.—I trust in the Lord. He expresses his hope and confidence of seeing them, with a humble dependence and submission to the divine will. See Acts xviii. 21; 1 Cor. iv. 19; James iv. 15; and Heb. vi. 3.
II. Concerning Epaphroditus, whom he calls his brother, and companion in labour, and fellow-soldier, his Christian brother, to whom he bore a tender affection,—his companion in the work and sufferings of the gospel, who submitted to the same labours and hardships with himself,—and their messenger, one who was sent by them to him, probably to consult him about some affairs relating to their church, or to bring a present from them for his relief for he adds, and who ministered to my wants. He seems to be the same who is called Epaphras, Col. iv. 12. He had an earnest desire to come to them, and Paul was willing he should. It seems, 1. Epaphroditus had been sick: They had heard that he had been sick, v. 26. And indeed he was sick, nigh unto death, v. 27. Sickness is a calamity common to men, to good men and ministers. But why did not the apostle heal him, who was endued with a power of curing diseases, as well as raising the dead? Acts xx. 10. Probably because that was intended as a sign to others, and to confirm the truth of the gospel, and therefore needed not be exercised one towards another. These signs shall follow those who believe, they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover, Mark xvi. 17, 18. And perhaps they had not that power at all times, and at their own discretion, but only when some great end was to be served by it, and when God saw fit. It was proper to Christ, who had the Spirit above measure. 2. The Philippians were exceedingly sorry to hear of his sickness. They were full of heaviness, as well as he, upon the tidings of it: for he was one, it seems, for whom they had a particular respect and affection, and thought fit to choose out to send to the apostle. 3. It pleased God to recover and spare him: But God had mercy on him, v. 27. The apostle owns it is a great mercy to himself, as well as to Epaphroditus and others. Though the church was blessed at that time with extraordinary gifts, they could even then ill spare a good minister. He was sensibly touched with the thoughts of so great a loss: Lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow; that is, "Lest, besides the sorrow of my own imprisonment, I should have the sorrow of his death." Or perhaps some other good ministers had died lately, which had been a great affliction to him: and, if this had died now, it would have been a fresh grief to him, and sorrow added to sorrow. 4. Epaphroditus was willing to pay a visit to the Philippians, that he might be comforted with those who had sorrowed for him when he was sick: "That when you see him again you may rejoice (v. 28), that you may yourselves see how well he has recovered, and what reason you have for the thankfulness and joy upon his account." He gave himself the pleasure of comforting them by the sight of so dear a friend. 5. Paul recommends him to their esteem and affection: "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such in reputation: account such men valuable, who are zealous and faithful, and let them be highly loved and regarded. Show your joy and respect by all the expressions of hearty affection and good opinion." It seems he had caught his illness in the work of God: It was for the work of Christ that he was nigh to death, and to supply their lack of service to him. The apostle does not blame him for his indiscretion in hazarding his life, but reckons they ought to love him the more upon that account. Observe, (1.) Those who truly love Christ, and are hearty in the interests of his kingdom, will think it very well worth their while to hazard their health and life to do him service, and promote the edification of his church. (2.) They were to receive him with joy, as newly recovered from sickness. It is an endearing consideration to have our mercies restored to us after danger of removal, and should make them the more valued and improved. What is given us in answer to prayer should be received with great thankfulness and joy.