I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. – Philippians 2:20-21 NLT
What does a real Christian look like? How do they behave? What are the characteristics of their life? In these verses, Paul gives a glimpse into the lives of two men who meant a great deal to him. They were his brothers in Christ and his fellow workers in the mission to which God had called him. Timothy and Epaphroditus, while not household names to most of us, were icons of spiritual virtue in Paul’s mind. He couldn’t have done what he did without them. And he commends both of them to the believers in Philippi as men whom they could not only trust, but emulate. Both were evidently young men, but that didn’t stop Paul from praising their value and virtues as men of God.
Paul described Timothy as one of a kind, who showed genuine care for the people in Philippi. He didn’t view his efforts on their behalf as work, but legitimately cared for their spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. Paul then describes what appears to be a consistent problem among leadership within the early church at that time. “All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21 NLT). I don’t think Paul is saying that there is no one else who cares, but that there is a prevailing presence of self-centeredness among many within the church, especially among the leadership. Sadly, It was a rare thing to find a believer who puts the interests of Christ before his own. Timothy was such a man. Timothy had served Paul well, and had become like a son to him. Paul even referred to Timothy as “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2 NLT). He was a faithful, loving, reliable, godly young man who modeled Christ-likeness and ministered faithfully alongside Paul even at his darkest moments. He was a real man.
Paul describes Epaphroditus as “a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25 NLT). He had visited Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome, bringing a financial gift on behalf of the Philippian believers. Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to them because he was anxious to see his friends and fellow believers back home. And Epaphroditus wanted to put to rest any concerns over his physical well-being, because he had been ill, but had now fully recovered. Upon Epaphroditus’ return home, Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to “welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve” (Philippians 2:29 NLT). Obviously, Paul thought highly of Epaphroditus. He had risked his life for the cause of Christ, having been close to death, all in order to serve Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul appreciated and valued men like Timothy and Epaphroditus. He knew that he could not accomplish the ministry without them. He was under house arrest, unable to travel, and restricted from ministering to the various churches he had helped plant around the world. He had to depend on faithful men like Timothy and Epaphroditus to be his hands, feet, eyes, and voice; delivering his messages and expressing his love for the body of Christ.
The church today needs men and women of character like Timothy and Epaphroditus. There is a shortage of reliable, faithful, loving and selfless individuals who put the needs of the body of Christ ahead of their own. Paul knew that men like Timothy were going to be constantly tempted to compromise their character, and the same thing is true in our day. So Paul warned this young man, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT). The church needs men and women like that today, who have that same attitude and focus. The church needs to raise up and recognize those kinds of leaders, men and women who are willing to risk their reputations, careers, comfort and even their lives for the cause of Christ. While men like Paul were vital to the church in those early days, the spread of the Gospel was dependent upon men like Timothy and Epaphroditus for its long-term survival and success. They were the faithful foot soldiers in the battle for the lives of men. And we need more like them today.
Father, raise up more men and women like Timothy and Epaphroditus today. Show us who they are. Help us to find those who have the selfless, sacrificial attitudes like those men had. Too often, we look for the wrong things in our leaders. Give us the insight that Paul had, so that we might recognize those men and women who have the true heart of a leader – like that of Christ Himself. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men