Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

Two Examples of Christian Service

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Well, if you're able, please remain standing and let's hear God's Word from Philippians Chapter Two, Verses Nineteen through thirty, Philippians two, nineteen through thirty. I hope in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you, for I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare, for they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know, Timothy's proven worth. How, as a son with a father, he has served me in the Gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. I have thought it necessary to send to you epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier and your Messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed, he was ill, near to death. God had mercy on him, and not only on him, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am that more eager to send him there, for that you may rejoice at seeing him again and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me and God bless his word to us. You may be seated. Well, these verses we have some travel logistics, we have some commands and instructions about comings and goings, very personal instructions from Paul to the Philippians involving some particular people, two men, Timothy and Epaphroditus, men that were living at this particular time. We're known to both Paul and the Philippians, but not known except through the pages of scripture, to us. Now these kinds of passages often occur at the end of Paul's letters and for that reason some people think, wrongly, that this is indication that this letter has been compiled to get together in some strange and odd way, that some redactor did didn't realize or didn't respect the fact that Paul ended his letter at Verse Thirty in Chapter Two and then added on some other kind of thing piecing these things together. But if you pay attention to these verses, you see very quickly that it's much more than travel logistics or some basic instructions. And even in those when we have them at the ends of Paul's letters or in the middle or whatever the case may be, we find that if we pay attention, they're never there in a kind of random way or for no purpose. I'm all of God's Word is profitable for teaching, reprove correction and training in righteousness, including passages like these, but you have to pay attention. You have to think about what Paul, or whoever the author is, is doing. How is it he is I'm weaving these instructions that are to be carried out by these particular people in a particular time and place. How those instructions apply to us, particular people in a particular time and place? We have no timothy to receive. He's dead, same with...

Epaphroditus, same with Paul. And yet there are there are instructions here and even examples that go much broader and do instruct us in a number of things. To see how these things are woven together, how these five how these instructions here to the Philippians about these two men are connected with the rest of the book. I want to do a little bit of review with you and see how Paul is bringing this particular section of the letter to a close. The this section that I just mentioned starts back in chapter one of verse, Verse Twenty Seven, one, verse twenty seven, and he says this. Only let your manner of Life Be Worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come to come and see you or an absent, I may hear that you are standing firm in one spirit and one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. He goes on from there, but focusing on just that first part, this one thing I want to tell you just this. Only let your manner of Life Be Worthy of the Gospel. This is how Paul begins on this section that goes all the way up to this point that we've read this evening. He begins by saying that because of God's salvation, because of this good news about Jesus Christ coming into the world and dying for sinners like me, like you, because of that news, our lives should be lived in a particular way. Our lives should be lived in a way that's worthy of God revealing himself in the world. In other words, when God sheds this or makes manifest a salvation as great as this, we should respond not only in believing the good news about Jesus and his salvation, the salvation that he brings, not only believing it, but in acting in accordance with it. There is this way in which scripture is so clear on this point, that faith in Jesus always flows forth in actions, Christian actions, Christ like actions, and it's because of that that, after this instruction, I'm soon Paul gives us testimony about our savior. He talks to us about Jesus, he gives us his example and shows us. This is the what he this is what he did, this is the humility he bore forth. This is the on the way in which he came into the world. We read it, for example, in verse five, he says, though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in this humble form, this human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Well, this is our great hope, isn't it? This is our very salvation. This is the very reason that we live the lives that we do, that we seek to please and honor God. But it does also, of course, a great example to us of how we ought to live. So, to go back Paul Again, is saying we are to live our lives in a manner worthy of this Gospel, worthy of this salvation, and he gives some specifics about that. How do we live a life, manner, life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ? Well, he tells us in Verse Twenty Seven. He says we are to stand firm in one...

...spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. What do you see, very briefly, what do you see in a passage like that? You see unity, you see direction and you see courage. You see unity in the way that they are standing side by side for the faith of the Gospel. That's what it means to live a life, a man in a way, in a manner worthy of the Gospel. It's not just to live our lives individually in a way wholly to God, but together, corporately as the body of Christ, he says, we are to stand firm in one spirit. There is to be this unity, but also direction. We're not just standing together huddling like a bunch of chicks to sort of wandering around collecting themselves together. We do it with a purpose, moving forward, with a particular goal and sight and vision in mind. And he says what that is. Side by side for the faith of the Gospel. And he's given a number of examples of this too, hasn't he, such as sending out epaphroditus with this gift of sending and helping Paul in his Apostolic Ministry, providing for the means for these ministers to go forth and to spread the Gospel. But there's also in addition to unity and direction, there's courage. It comes out even more clearly in Verse Twenty Eight, Again Chapter One, he says, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. Even suffering, he says in Verse Twenty Nine, is not to be feared but considered something akin and on the something on the same level as the as a gift of God. So this is what living life in a Christian way is like. It's what it means means unity, it means direction, it means having courage, even in the face of opponents, in the face of suffering. Now the converse is also true, and you get the specifics there in chapter two, verses three through four. Instead of standing in addition or complementing, standing firm and together, we are to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. When we see ourselves in Christ, it means seeing our pride slain. It means rejoicing in seeing our pride slain. It means rejoicing and being able to get on our knees and wash the feet of others, to care and love for those in need. To See ourselves in Christ, to know the Gospel, is to see self ambition tossed aside and to praise God for it, to finally be free of oneself so that we might worship God and serve one another. Paul adds another specific to that in verse twelve of Chapter Two. He summarizes some of these things and an adds one thing to it. He says as you have always obeyed. So now, as not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, in light of the Gospel of Christ, in light of everything that God has done for us, in saving us from our selfishness and saving us from our pride and saving us from our brokenness as a people, as humanity, and bringing us together, uniting us together in holy...

...and even holy spiritual love. We have much to be prayed we have meet much to be thankful for, but also to stand before God in fear and trembling for all that he has done. He adds more specifics to this in verse fourteen. No grumbling or disputing, but like shining stars in the darkness of the world, instead of arguing and complaining and tarnishing the Gospel Message by which we have been saved, we are to offer our lives up to God as a sacrifice of worship. Even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of suffering one another, even in the midst of our disunity and our disagreements and our struggles, we are called to offer ourselves up to God and in doing so we become like bright lights in the sky. So, as we hear these various things again, just summarizing and tying them all together in a brief way, we have before US instructions, clear and beautiful instructions, about how we live our lives as Christians. We live our lives as those who have been Gospel fied, to make up a word, as those who have been changed in this way by the Gospel, by this news that has come, news that has not only come to our ears in just a hearing way, but has come to our hearts and changed, changed them the spirit of God working in us to believe, to hope and to see one another in a new light. We live our lives as those who have been Gospel fied. But it means also not trekking out apart on our own, away from Christ and his body, but striving for unity, group, courage and direction because of the Gospel and for the Gospel. So this is what Paul has been telling us, this is what he's been opening up been explaining to us in various ways. Now, Paul, it may seem that Paul has kind of left all this behind for the sake of these travel logistics, but, as I've said, he of course, has not. What has he done? Well, he's given us, in addition to the example of Christ and an existion to his own example, which we've touched on before, he now gives us these examples of these two men, Timothy and epaphroditus. He gives this these examples, as a way to fill out and explain and inspire perhaps even the way forward and the kind of life that he is calling us to live. Personally, I found the very helpful to have role models in my own life, people that I know and I look up to and say that is someone to worth following, and I think that's true for all of us. It's so helpful to not only hear a command be wise, be loving, but to see it in action, but to see it in action, to see it lived out in the all the complications of life. Sometimes we draw directly from it and we say, Oh, I saw ah how she did that, I saw how he did that, I can do the same thing. But sometimes it's not even as simple as that. Sometimes, as we say, it's sort of thinking of ourselves in that person's shoes,...

...kind of situating ourselves and we say, okay, this is a holy person, this is a person who knows what it means to live their lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel. What would they do? What would they do in this kind of situation? These examples that Paul gives us here is yet another one of God's blessings to us. It's yet another one of the ways that God teaches us. The Word of God says that Christ and his ascension poured out gifts on his church, and those gifts are apostles and prophets and evangelists and teachers, men like Timothy and epaphroditus. These gifts, these men holy examples in the world and in our lives to show us the way forward. And that's exactly what we see here in these in these two men, in Philippians too, and Timothy and epaphroditus. Let's take them each in turn and and see what we can learn. First, Timothy. Paul says that he hold to send Timothy to them. Timothy, as we know from here and from other places in scripture, was one of Paul's some companions and and fellow workers, but he's very close to him as well. He knew him for a long time and had mentored him and excuse me obviously thought very highly of him, but notice why he thinks highly of Timothy. Notice the kind of works that Timothy is going about doing and striving after. Paul, amidst all the people that are persecuting him and troubling him, says, and Verse Twenty, I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. Do you see what the Apostle of God prizes? He prizes this one not because he's wealthy or because he's fabulously smart or is able to do some amazing things, but because he is genuinely concerned for the your welfare. He loves the PHILIPPIANS FROM HIS HEART. That is something to be prized. Paul says, I have no one like this, and he gives the opposite, as we sort of saw before. He says, for they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Isn't that interesting how he parallels those two things? There that Timothy genuinely is concerned for the interest of the Philippians, which Paul Parallels with not seeking his own interests but those of Jesus Christ. It is to say that Timothy, in pursuing Jesus Christ, is at the same time pursuing Christ's people. To pursue Christ's people is to pursue Jesus Christ. It is his body after all. Is How the scripture speaks of it and how we speak of it. He then says in Verse Twenty Two, you know Timothy's proven worth. How has a son with a father. He has served with me in the Gospel. Timothy is a hard worker and has treated Paul very well. Learned from him, grown in, grown from him and his teaching, for the purpose not of just becoming a appallite but of serving together. That unity right, even like a father and a son together moving forward. In the Gospel. Then epaphroditus. He calls epaphroditus my brother, my fellow worker and fellow soldier and your Messenger...

...and minister to my need. What probably happened here is that epaphroditus, as he was going from the Philippians to Paul, got really sick on the way and on that way met some kind of messenger who went back to the Philippians and told them epaphroditus is really sick. Epaphroditus continues on his journey to go see Paul, but then, by the time he gets there, they get word that the Philippians not only know that epaphroditus is sick, but that he's very sick and they are very worried. They've sent him out to go take care of this need and and now they hear that he is sick. And Paul says, yeah, he was sick. Indeed, he almost died. Mentions it twice. The the longer passage with more details comes in verse thirty. He says he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service. To me, I'm Paul is not chastising the Philippians here, but he's simply saying epaphroditus was sent out to do a service and he was committed to fulfill that fulfill that service again for the sake of the Gospel. You hear how all of these people, in various ways, are living their lives in a way that is honoring to God. On Epaphrodite is risking his life for the sake of ministering the Paul for serving alongside him as a fellow worker and fellow soldier. Notice also not only epaphroditus is hard work this kind of direction and courage that we talked about earlier, but again also that unity and love in verse. Twenty six for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. He's distressed because they're distressed and they're distressed because he's sick, and everybody's worried, but it's out of love, right. There's genuine concern for each other, there's genuine knowledge of the and unity among the among one another, and so Paul, I'm desiring to be a blessing to them and, having received the gift that they had sent, even though epaphroditus is very valuable to him, ascends him back. And here you see Paul's love. You see Paul's love as well. He's just he has timothy, the only one who is of help to him, and here he's just received epaphroditus, a fellow worker, a fellow soldier, someone who's genuinely concerned about the right things and doing the right things and is a man even willing to risk his own life. And here's Paul in jail, hoping to get out soon, but not nest, not knowing that with any guarantee and he sends both of these encouragers and helpers back to the Philippians. Why? For their sake, you see, how this, the Church of God is, is all together, bowing down to one another, not in worship but in service and in love, seeking to serve one another, seeking the other's interests. And so in these two examples, and Timothy and epaphroditus, and implicitly in Paul and somewhat in the Philippians, we begin to see these these rich, full blooded examples of what it means to live life in the Church with this kind of Gospel, Unity, Gospel, direction and courage, mission love, things that...

...sometimes bring us much persecution, excuse me, and even death. But never mind it, never mind them, the Christian says, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of telling others about Jesus, for the sake of growing together in unity and love. It's more than worth it. It's more than worth it because of what our God has done and the way that's that he blesses us through it. Now, of course, would make sense for Paul to say to receive these men with rejoicing and with joy, and he does that in Verse Twenty Nine. And it would also make for a sense for him to say that they should be honored, but he doesn't say that exactly. Instead, he says receive him. That is epaphroditus in the Lord, with all joy and honor s such men. Here we see that these this command or these examples given are not just for the Philippians and these particular men, but there's something to here, to be learned after on buy all of us to honor these kinds of people, to be joyful about having them in our myths, to to strive to be like them and be them ourselves. In these verses we hear what it is to be prized among God's people. It is not to be that someone with great authority or power, it is not to be someone who a bullies people or has a lot of control or is very knowledgeable in all things, but it is to be one who's filled with love, and genuine, genuine love and service for others, not for the sake of gaining credibility or points with God or being puffed up, but for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of what God has done for us self. Sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel wholly living, courage and love for the brothers. These are the things that God calls us to honor, to see and to strive after. With these kind of examples before us and, of course, others that perhaps you are thinking of people in your own lives, let us respond not with hard hearts and heavy feet, but let us respond with faith. Let us respond and seeing the good gifts that God is giving us, to seeing the gospel not only preached but lived out in the lives of our brothers and sisters, and not only see it and honor it and praise God for it, but to do the same. We hear of these examples, when we hear of the Gospel, respond. Go to your sister and serve her, go to your brother and meet his need and love. Strive to be people like Timothy and epaphroditus and Paul. Follow in their way and follow with confidences, because their way is a gospel way. Paul will say this explicitly later on in chapter three, verse Seventeen, and will revisit some of these things when we get there, but I'll tell read it to you now. He says, Brothers, join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. You See, then, we don't need to be ashamed at honoring and esteeming those who honor and esteem Christ and his ways. We need not be ashamed at imitating them and others like them. Why?...

Because it in doing so we are honoring and esteeming our Lord, because he is, after all, the one they are following. These men and women that God gives to us in our lives, that point the way forward, that point us to Jesus, are ones to be followed, because they're pointing in the right direction. Of course, we don't worship them or or idolize them, but we do follow after them. It is God, Paul reminds us in verse thirteen of Chapter Two, who works in us, to will and to work for his good pleasure. When we see him working in our brothers and sisters, when we see examples like Timothy and Paul and epaphroditus, we are right to give praise to God who is working in them, remembering also what Paul said in chapter one, verse six, that he who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. It's true that we can follow after men, worshiping and idolizing them, and we must not do that. To do that would be to fail to follow the example that they are setting. But at the same time, we must not learn, or we must not fail to learn from the living examples that God gives us to lead, to lead us in the right ways, to go back to where we began. Christ gives these gifts to us. He gives, in our lives and in the pages of scripture, people to point the way, to point the way to the Gospel and to the way of Gospel Living, to show us what it means to believe in Jesus Christ and to live our lives in a manner worthy of that belief, of that good news. May God grant us that kind of faith, that kind of ability to see and to know who to follow and who to strive to be like. Let us pray.

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