Attitude To Other Brethren:
Seeing The Good

Philippians 2:19-30

by
Alex McPherson

INTRODUCTION:

The book of Philippians is full of encouragement. It is impossible to underestimate the power of an encouraging word. Mark Twain said, “I can live a month on one good compliment” (Quoted in: “A Good Word”, by Guy Orbison, Jr., Bulletin Digest, Editor: Jim R. Martin, Sesser, Ilinois, April, 1993, p. 18). “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad” (Prov. 12: 25).

Sometimes we can fail to see the good in others because we are too busy concentrating on their faults. The title of this lesson is “Attitude to Other Brethren, Seeing the Good”. To look for good obviously does not mean to be oblivious to error but good works will be abandoned, Christians will be dispirited, and the Church will not grow as it should if we are constantly critical and never encourage or “consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb. 11: 24). With these things in mind let us examine the text from Philippians 2:19-30 in which Paul speaks highly of two faithful men - Timothy (vs 19-24) and Epaphroditus (vs 25-30).

TIMOTHY.

Timothy’s Background. Timothy was a faithful Gospel preacher (I Tim. 4: 6) to whom Paul wrote two New Testament letters. We first read about Timothy in Acts 16:1. He was from Lystra. His mother was a Jew. and his father was a Greek. His mother and grandmother were faithful Jews and he was taught the Scriptures from his youth (II Tim. 1: 5; 3: 15).

Timothy was “well reported of” (Acts 16: 2), and Paul appears to have taught him the Gospel and calls him his “son in the faith” (I Tim. 1: 2). He often travelled with Paul (Acts 16: 3; Rom. 16: 21; II Cor. 1: 1; Phil. 1: 1; Col. 1: 1; Philemon 1; I Thess 1: 1; II Thess 1: 1) and was in imprisoned at one time (Heb. 13: 23).

Our lesson deals with looking for the good but some could have looked at the worst in Timothy or perceived some inadequacies in him: Timothy was young for which some could have despised him (II Tim. 2: 22; I Tim. 4: 12). He was often sick at least at one time in his life (I Tim. 5: 23). His father was a Greek and as such Timothy may have been viewed with suspicion by certain Jews (Acts 16: 3).

Various defects have been alleged to exist in Timothy’s character. These defects are inferred from the directions and instructions addressed to him by Paul...but these inferences may be wrong, and it is a mistake to exaggerate them (John Rutherfurd, “Timothy”, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, General Editor: James Orr, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 1939, p. 2985).

Of course we all have faults but from the information we are given in the Bible concerning Timothy, we are hardpressed to come up with any flaws in his character. We should be careful when dealing with another person’s faults. Chickens cooped up closely together, as a result of inactivity, begin to peck at each other. When a drop of blood shows up on a weaker chicken, the other chickens attack violently and can kill the weak. (Steve Wilson, “The Lowly Chicken”, Bulletin Digest, Op. Cit., April, 1994, p. 10).

Do not judge hypocritically but judge righteous judgement (Matt. 7:1-5,12; John 7:24). Remember to think the best of someone and not immediately condemn them before the facts are known as love “thinketh no evil” (Prov. 18:13; I Cor. 13:5). Because we want the best for our brethren, sometimes it is necessary to deal directly with faults in the spirit of meekness (Matt. 18: 15-17; Gal. 6: 1-2; I Thess. 3:6,14-15).

Rebuking a brother or sister in order to help correct a fault in their life may be the best thing we ever do for them (Prov. 28: 23; Luke 17: 3). Paul may have seen something great in Timothy when choosing him as a fellow worker.

Who knows how many great men or women may have fallen short if not for the encouragement of those who could see the good in them, perhaps even that they could not see for themselves. Good coaches or talent scouts have the ability to see something in a player that is a mark of future greatness. What if Barnabas had not encouraged Paul or John Mark? What if Jesus had not encouraged Peter? “Almost every time Barnabas is mentioned in the Bible he is encouraging someone. This seems to have been his principal contribution to the growth of the church.” (Tom Kelton, “Everybody Needs a Barnabas”, Bulletin Digest, Anselmo, Nebraska, December, 1987, p. 11).

Remember the power of a good word or a negative word - Dean Jones, the great Australian cricketer remembers his first game for Victoria: Jones said that Ray Bright “proposed a toast to the worst batsmen he’d ever seen put on a Victorian cap. That  wrecked me for two years, that one statement.” (Quoted in: Merv The Full Story, by Patrick Keane, in association with Merv Hughes, Harper Collins Publishers, Australia, 1997, p. 27).

We must be encouragers in the Church of the Lord, it may be our chief purpose - (I Thess. 5: 11)  “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”

Timothy and the Text. Vs. 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.” Timothy, Lord willing, was given the task of going to Philippi and reporting back to Paul on their state of affairs. Timothy would be able to encourage the brethren as well. Paul had sent Timothy on other missions such as this to encourage and help the Thessalonians and the Corinthians (I Thess. 3: 2,6; I Cor. 16: 10).

Vs. 20 “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” Here we begin to see some of Timothy’s great qualities. He had a mind and attitude to these brethren that was the same as Paul’s. He sincerely and naturally cared for these brethren - he had so developed his character for the Lord that it was simply in his nature to be spiritual.

Vs. 21 “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Timothy sought the things of Christ not his own glory (I Cor. 1: 20-31; Phil. 1: 15-16). “Most help only when Christ's gain is compatible with their own” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, A Commentary, Vol III, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 431).

Vs. 22 “But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.” Timothy had spent some time in Philippi and was with Paul when the congregation began there (Acts 16: 1-40). His faith and loyalty was evident because the Philippians had seen his faithful service firsthand.

Vss. 23-24 “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.” Paul was in prison in Rome at this time and Timothy would be able to tell the Philippians the news concerning his trial once the outcome was known. Paul trusted in the Lord for his release and it is generally thought that he was set free for some time and at a later date imprisoned again and killed at Rome.

EPAPHRODITUS.

Epaphroditus’ Background. We don’t have to go far to explore Epaphroditus’ background as the sum of what we know is found here in Philippians (2: 25-30; 4: 18). In Philippians 4: 18 we find that Epaphroditus was the messenger from the Philippians sending a gift to Paul. Either in Rome or on his way, Epaphroditus became seriously ill but recovers and now Paul bids him return to the Philippians probably bearing this letter.

“Epaphroditus made a journey of seven hundred miles over land and sea, exposing himself to great dangers, to bring the gift of the Philippians” (David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Vol IV, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1952, p. 152). No wonder Paul holds Epaphroditus in such high esteem.

Epaphroditus and the Text. Vs 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.” Jim Dearman in the World Video Bible School class on Philippians suggested that had Epaphroditus died because of this illness that his great qualities listed in this verse would have formed a suitable epitaph. His character reference included: Brother - a member of the family of God and signifying the close bond between Christians. Companion in labour - the labour in the vineyard of the Lord is the most important of all our tasks here on earth. Messenger - Epaphroditus was a worthy and responsible choice to be the messenger of the Philippian’s gift to Paul. Fellowsoldier - as Christians we are enlisted in the Lord’s army and must be prepared to fight the good fight of faith (I Tim. 6:12). Minister to Paul’s needs - to visit Paul in prison and to attend to his needs was the practice of pure religion (Matt. 25: 36; James 1: 27). As students of the Philippians class it was suggested that we make special note of these points concerning Epaphroditus as they were likely to appear on the test - they are noteworthy!

Vs. 26 “For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.” Epaphroditus longs to see his brethren and is concerned that their anxiety over him be relieved. One thing that is very impressive about Epaphroditus is his attitude here towards his brethren. He takes this great journey and almost dies with illness and yet he appears more concerned that his brethren may be worried about him than any worries that he may have about his own condition.  (I Corinthians 12: 26)  “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”

Vs. 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.” We see just how serious this illness was and that God had mercy on him. That Epaphroditus survived his sickness was a great relief to Paul who already had enough to deal with.

Vss. 28-29 “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:” Again we see the proper attitudes that we need toward our brethren in these verses. Paul wanted them to see and rejoice with Epaphroditus and their joy would cause Paul also to rejoice. (Romans 12:15) “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” They were to honour such a faithful servant of the Lord.

Vs 30 “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” Epaphroditus hazarded his life for the cause of Christ. He supplied the service of bringing the gift on behalf of the Philippians. ThePhilippians, Philippi being a chief city in Macedonia (Acts 16:12), were known for their generosity (II Cor. 8: 1-5). Epaphroditus, though mentioned only briefly in the pages of the New Testament, is an inspiring hero of the faith.

CONCLUSION

The interaction in these verses between Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians provides us with an enduring example of the sort of attitudes that we need to have toward all of our brethren in Christ. We do well to look for the good in others and let us always be an encouragement to those who are trying to do their best for the Lord.

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