If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.

Philippians 2:19-30
Yellow Rose # 5 | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

The first time I led a worship service my knees were shaking like nobody’s business. I was consciously incompetent. Funny thing: I thought I had chosen something I could do better than preach the sermon that Sunday. My friend and I were offered the opportunity to hold “Reading Services” for a small church in Kennett, Missouri.

This church had lost their pastor and wanted to be able to worship. So Jerry, my partner in all manner of life from our high school and college years, and I were given the opportunity to serve them. One would lead the service. The other would “preach.” By preaching would mean we would functionally memorize a sermon from a book of sermons that was provided to us, and then deliver it with little reference to the book or written pages.

I thought preaching would be more difficult than leading the service. But as soon as I got up to lead that first Sunday, I realized how wrong I was. You have to know when to stand up, when to sit down, when to face the altar and when to face the people. And you had to be confident enough to direct the people of the congregation to do that as well!

I had been unconsciously incompetent until I stepped in front of the congregation. Then I learned just how incompetent I was. Thankfully I’ve learned a bit since then.

I’ve preached and led worship for more than 40 years. That gives me some degree of confidence. But more important than all the years of practice is the substance of what I preach and the confidence I have in the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Give me a struggling preacher with great confidence in the truth of God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit before a silver tongued preacher with great eloquence and no reliance on the Holy Spirit any day.

In other words, give me Paul. Some say Paul had a speech impediment. He even alludes to that in 2 Corinthians 11:6. But Paul had a great confidence in God, in Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. He shows that when he says, “And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.”

Paul had much to boast about. He provides a list of his bona fides in 2 Corinthians 11:21-23. But that is not where his confidence lies. True confidence lies in the love of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the goodness of the Father. That was good enough for Paul. It’s good enough for me.

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30

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Yellow Rose #4 | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

“I know God works all things for good, but I could sure use some good right now.” Do you ever feel that way? There’s no gain without pain, but I would sure enjoy some gain right now; enough pain! Is that your refrain? I’m thankful that God won’t give us more than we can bear. I just wish he didn’t have such a high opinion of me. Maybe you’re singing that song.

Paul indicates that Epaphroditus has experienced significant trouble. He had been ill, and near death. Paul himself was uncertain about his future. He was in prison. He had suffered greatly for the sake of the Gospel. He was concerned for both Timothy and Epaphroditus. He was experiencing trouble on every side. It reminds me of two things.

First Paul’s litany of trouble in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28:

…far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

This litany, and his situation now in prison as he writes to the church in Philippi remind me of Jesus’ words to Ananias regarding Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). Paul was living out the promise of suffering, as an extraordinary servant, but in faith seeing God’s faithfulness amidst it all.

We may think that we deserve special treatment as servants of Christ, or sincere believers, or dedicated followers. Some would be tempted to brag, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” (Matthew 7:22).

It won’t work. We have no magic umbrella to exempt us from bad things. We do have the promise of God’s goodness and love that will see us through to the end of time, and which we can hold to for the sake of the Gospel during those times of challenge. And when we see the goodness of God in our days we can give thanks for a foretaste of the perfect expression of goodness in the life of the world to come.

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30

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Another Yellow Rose of Texas | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

I was standing in the hallway of the church I had served for 11 years. I had announced my decision to the congregation that I was leaving to take a new responsibility at the church I currently serve. One of the members there said, “When we call a new pastor here, I don’t think we should call a PLI guy. They just leave when they get the chance.”

I could hardly believe my ears. PLI is an excellent missional training experience. I may be a bit biased because of my experience in PLI and my continuing involvement in leading and coaching pastors through PLI; not to mention that Diane works for PLI. his attitude struck me as selfish. I suppose now – these many years later it might have been hurt or disappointment at my leaving. But still…I urged him to think of it as a kingdom investment – having provided the opportunity for both Diane and I to attend.

My involvement with PLI has offered some interesting insights into the thinking of church members and leaders. On the other end of the spectrum you have people like one of our members who said of the pastor we would call at St. John upon my retirement as senior pastor next January: “He has to be a PLI pastor.”

Whether or not one is a PLI pastor or church leader, there are times we must consider kingdom investments above our personal desires and benefits. Paul is sending Timothy as a kingdom investment. He realizes that Timothy can further the rule and reign of Jesus more if he would go to Philippi than if he were to stay with Paul.

He was saying nearly the same about Epaphroditus. Urging the church in Philippi to receive Epaphroditus graciously when he returned to his people in Philippi. They had sent him to be with Paul out of concern for Paul’s wellbeing. This was another kingdom investment. Now their investment would be returned to them. Paul will send him away so that he can return to the ones he left and loved. 

Sometimes kingdom investments are kingdom gifts. There is no return in like manner this side of eternity. But any investment in the rule and reign of God will yield a return of “all things” according to Jesus: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

PLI was begin in 1999 as a training institute for pastors (Pastoral Leadership Institute) to prepare them to serve larger congregations. Since that time, however, it has gone through three or four major iterations – responding to new and ever-changing needs. Although it is still called PLI, their reach is far beyond pastors and their wives. DCE’s Teachers, church leaders, administrators, and dedicated followers of Jesus are enrolled in one of their three major learning communities: Leadership Essentials (which Diane and I are most involved in), Senior Leader, Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC), as well as PLI International iterations of each of those. It is far less an institute these days as it is a life-changing learning experience. For more information visit PLILeadership.org.

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30

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Yellow Rose with Rose-in-Waiting | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

A friend and colleague of mine once observed, “We know the will of God only in the rear view mirror.” The challenge of parsing that correctly is great. We all have our personal view of what God’s will should be or what is his absolute will and his permissive will.  After all, you know the will of God on the micro level only after the events of life unfold.

Paul speaks of his desire to send Timothy to Philippi with the condition, “If the Lord Jesus is willing.” It might be that God was not willing to have Timothy go to Philippi. There could be a number of reasons for that. It could be that someone else needed to go there and achieve a different result. Perhaps God wanted Timothy to stay with Paul for reasons that would become apparent only later.

God has revealed his ultimate will in clear passages of Scripture:

1 Timothy 2:4
[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Ezekiel 33:11
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

And while we may have a clear sense of what is God’s ultimate will, the path to that ultimate end can be very circuitous. It’s not always a straight line. And sometimes it doesn’t really matter.

For example, does God’s will extend to which sock I put on first in the morning? Does it extend to which color shirt I wear or what kind of flowers I plant in my flower bed? Or does it matter whether I choose to live in one city or another?

It might. And we’ll never know with total confidence what is the will of God on a micro level except to the extent to which we are able to see how it facilitates the rule and reign of Jesus in the hearts of people. Paul displays a clear rule of Jesus in his heart. He is perfectly willing to commend all things – even the mission plans he made. Thankfully, God is able to bring good out of bad (cf. Genesis 50:20), and work all things for the good of those who love him (Cf. Romans 8:28).

 

 

 

If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.

25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.

28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30

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Yellow Rose of Texas | Brenham, Texas | April 2020

He was a true brother in Christ. He had his own peccadillos. He was sometimes crude. He was occasionally prejudiced; though one of his best friends was black. But he had a heart for God, for faith, and for sharing his faith. He was a Kennedy Evangelism partner, and a significant influence on my life. Jerry was a source of spiritual formation and direction for me. So I can understand how Paul felt as he spoke of Timothy – though in many ways I was the Timothy to Jerry.

Our faith can too easily remain a philosophical pursuit. We can believe certain things, hold certain truths, even believe in Jesus as Savior. But sometimes faith must take on flesh. Sometimes we need send away a Timothy to serve another. Sometimes we must urge people to receive a co-worker in Christ. Faith becomes real in those moments.

Paul is writing from prison and very much in doubt about his future. But he is also concerned for the spiritual welfare of the believers in Philippi. He was willing to part with his son in the faith for the sake of the people in Philippi. Faith and love will do that. They will conspire to lead you to sacrifice for the good of another. They will engage in the goodness of God’s will.

That’s why we send our sons off to war. That’s why we urge our best friend to take a Call to a distant place. That’s why we are willing to send a pastor to plant a new church, or head up a new mission effort. We do it not because it’s good for us. We do it because faith is more than a philosophy. It’s a way of life.

Paul urged the people of Philippi to do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. Now he is practicing what he was preaching to these people. He was looking toward not just his own interest but the interest of others (Philippians 2:3-4). That’s when faith becomes real.

Paul must surely have believed that any sacrifice he would make for the sake of the gospel would be worth it. He also knew that God was faithful. And just as he had delivered Epaphroditus, God would deliver him as well. Faith becomes real when we believe the promises, and take the risks for the sake of the gospel. People who live like that have great kingdom impact.

For a PDF version of this study click here.

Philippians 2:5-18 [NLT]
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

 

  1. The Normative Example of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus provides not only an example, but a norm for Christian relationships.

  • The Foundational Identity of Jesus: in very nature God,
  • The Remarkable Humility of Jesus: made himself nothing
  • The Powerful example of Jesus: obedient to death – even on a cross

The Encouraging Vindication of Jesus

  • Exaltation to the highest place
  • The name that is above every name
  • Universal acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

The Ultimate Outcome of Jesus’ Work: the glory of God the Father.

Questions for Discussion/Consideration

  • What are some common norms for people’s behavior today? How are these norms related to Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6?
  • When does a norm become a sin? How do we guard against this on a daily basis?
  • Consider this diagram. Notice how it reflects the phrases of Philippians 2 & the Apostle’s Creed. How do you apply this knowledge to your faith? How does it impact your daily life? How should it?

Humiliation & Exaltation of Jesus - LHM

  • Reflect on this quote:

Len Sweet

The final three verses of this hymn [Philippians 2:5-11] reflect as high a Christology as is found anywhere in the Scriptures. God exalts the obedient Christ and then raises the name – that is, the very essence of Jesus – above every other name. That it is the human name “Jesus” that is exalted at the conclusion of this hymn is also held up as part of the “earthly” understanding of this hymn’s text. Having accomplished the goal of his mission, in his obedient death on the cross, this incarnate Jesus is now raised and exalted to complete Lordship.

Jesus’ fully divine status is revealed by the universality of his dominion. Every knee bends, every tongue confesses, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

  • Consider the glory of God in light of Ephesians 1:6. How does God’s grace relate to God’s glory? What do you make of that?

 

  1. The Working-Out of Our Salvation: a Corporate Calling (Philippians 2:12-18)

“Therefore” (missing from the NLT) ties this call for obedience to Jesus’ example and victory.

“Your” is plural. This is a corporate calling for…

  • Humility
  • Obedience in fear and trembling
  • Cheerfulness
  • Shining Bright
  • Faithful
  • United

For  Reflection & Discussion

  • What do you think of when you read that we are to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling?
  • Which of these above do you personally struggle with? Which is less difficult for you?
  • Which of these above do we corporately struggle with? Which is less difficult for us?
  • How can we begin to work out our salvation together? What practical things can we do together to strengthen our witness (shining like stars) against the dark backdrop of sin and death?

 

Gary M. Burge

After ending the hymn, Paul continues with another “therefore.” In light of the example of Christ, Paul explicitly calls the Philippians to a life of obedience following the example of Christ. In light of his current situation of imprisonment, Paul calls them to obey while he is away, as he has known them to obey when he is there (2:12). Yet this obedience is even more important because Paul is not there. When Paul is there with them in Philippi, the Philippians may have obeyed only out of respect for Paul, not out of a genuine desire to obey God in all things. Thus, when Paul is absent, their obedience is a greater indication of their true character. This obedience is to be seen in their following Paul’s instruction: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). This is an often misinterpreted passage. First of all, it refers to salvation in the sense of the whole community. Paul has been calling the Philippians to unity and a life lived for others, so he would not then call them to think only of working out their own individual salvation. Here he is concerned about the spiritual life and health of the community, which they are to “work at” (which is a better understanding of the phrase “work out,” just as two people “work out” their differences) until all factionalism, disunity, and selfishness are uprooted and overthrown. The phrase “with fear and trembling” is meant to emphasize that even this act of obedience is to be done in humility and reliance on God. In 2:13 the claim that God is the one who works on their will and desires crushes any interpretation of 2:12 that allows people to earn their salvation.

2020-05-17-Bible Study on Philippians 2_5-18