6 October 2014Philippians 2:19-30
“Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus - my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need.” (v. 25)
At first glance, this section of Paul's letter to the Philippians is simply a list of possible travel plans. Paul hopes to send Timothy (verse 19) and Epaphroditus (verse 25) to the Philippians and indeed he hopes that, although he is currently in prison (Philippians 1:7) he will soon be free and able to see them himself (verse 23). However, it is clear that these plans for travel and meeting are actually the practical demonstration of a deep network of relationships within the early Christian community.
The first part of this chapter (Philippians 2:5-11) contains a hymn of praise to the very nature of Christ. Here, in the second half of that same chapter, we see how this understanding of Jesus who took "the form of a slave" (Philippians 2:7) is worked out in the lives of those who seek to be his followers through a deep care for one another.
Paul is aware of the close bonds he has with both Timothy, who has served with Paul in the work of the gospel "like a son with a father" (v. 22), and with Epaphroditus, who has been Paul's "brother and co-worker and fellow soldier" (v. 25) and yet Paul is willing to send these two close friends and colleagues to the Philippians as a very practical expression of the profound care and concern shown by some (but not all - see verse 21) within the early Christian community.
Epaphroditus provides us with an important glimpse into these close relationships. He has come from Philippi with gifts for Paul (Philippians 4:18), but he has been seriously ill (verse 27) and he is "distressed" (v. 26) to know that his friends in Philippi have heard of this illness. The word used here for "distressed" is only used elsewhere in the New Testament to speak of the anguish of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33) and therefore indicates a deep level of compassion and concern which is indeed a reflection of the nature of Christ.
- How might the communities of which you are a part become more fully a reflection of the servant nature of Jesus?
- How might you offer a practical expression of care and concern to someone else today?
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