I’ll start where Paul ends, which Paul’s appeal to the church:
Phil 2:29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men.
In the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians, Paul draws a portrait of three ministry workers. These are the men Paul wished to send to the Philippian church. Paul himself hopes to come soon, but until he is able, or if he is not able, he wishes to send men like Timothy and Epaphrodites to them. He writes that the Philippian church might be willing and ready to receive such men, to wait for them, to welcome them, and to honour them and they serve the Phillipain church in the place of Paul. So here Paul is writing letters of commendation to the church, but also in a sense instructing the church as to what sort of shepherds, pastors, ministry leaders they should be receiving and honouring in their community.
When we consider the quality of ministry leaders we often jump to passages that describe the qualifications we are to look for in them such as Titus 1 or 1 Timothy 3. But as we’re looking for Christ’s servants to lead our churches, here Paul gives us a portrait of three such men, and it is clear that Paul’s hope is that men like these would be found shepherding all of the churches of God, including ours: we have a small portrait of the Apostle Paul, his coworker Timothy, and another man named Epaphroditus, who was sent by the Philippian church to care for Paul’s needs in prison, but now Paul was hoping to send back to the Philippian church. So what sort of men is Paul looking to send?
Look for those who will love you with the affection of Christ
This is exemplified in these three men through various statements. This entire letter is filled with Paul’s affection for the Philippians, as he stated in 1:7-8
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Here even in the passage tells the Philippians how much his own joy is wrapped up - not in his own safety and progress - but in the progress of the Philippians. Paul’s joy was found in the maturation and ongoing progress of the Philippians.
Timothy also, is described here a someone who has a heart filled with the love of Christ.
Phil. 2:19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.
Epaphriditus as well. Paul informs the Philippians how much their friend misses them and how he was personally affected by news that his sickness disturbed them
Phil. 2:25 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, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.
Obviously, this is not a superficial or romantic love dependent upon emotions, but a genuine affection and care stemming from having the heart of Christ for one another.
Look for Those who will serve you in the sacrificial way of Christ
Paul described his ministry in a vidivid metaphor. Remember, this is a man in prison - who chose to lengthen his prison sentence by appealing to Rome, and is not facing a decision of whether he will live or die for the sake of the gospel. He is a man who clearly is not valuing his life above otehrs, and only wishes to live that he might be of more service to the church
2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith,
Timothy displayed the same character: 2:20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
It seems this character is rare, even in a Christian - someone who seeks not their own interests, but the interests of Christ.
Epaphroditus as well: 2:29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
It takes risk to sacrifice for those you love.
Markland Anthony Campbell, known by his friends as Jahiant Janh, was having a great day Friday. He had just received news that day, that his hip-hop group, “Half Size Giants” which had recently reformed after a 15 year hiatus, had just received a big break - the had landed a mainstream radio campaign. Thoughts of media and press rollouts were likely on his mind as he left work at the shaw centre Friday night, but all thoughts of the band left him as he received a text from his daughter, who was in Byward Market and in need of her daddy. She said she was being harassed by some older men and was scared, so Cambell did what a father should do - made straight for the market to help his daughter. Cambell wasn’t looking for an altercation - only to help his daughter. He wasn’t a violent man. In fact, he is known in the city for his anti-violent causes. Campbell had first worked for non-violence in the city when he was sixteen years old, he and two of his friends were moved their hip-hop group, to protest the senseless death of Nicholas Battersby - Ottawa’s first drive by shooting victim in March 1994. Cambell and his group have been fierce anti-violence advocates in the 25 years since. So, now this man who has given his life to peacefully protest violence in the city, is running to the market to defend his teenaged daughter. And you may have heard on the news on Friday night, that less than a mile away from 1994’s tragedy that defined the course of his life, Campbell was maliciously gunned down defending the principle of righteousness he lived by.” That’s a man to honour and to receive. A candlelight vigil for Campbell is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday at the corner of York Street and ByWard Market Square, where he collapsed.
Look for Those who are well-tested in these ministry of Christ
Phil. 2:22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
Phil. 2:25 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, … 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,
In short: find someone who will honour Christ by displaying the character of Christ.
I am struck by how integrated Paul’s commendation of these men is with the rest of the chapter, which earlier we looked at in which Paul has appealed to the philippian church to together and individually have the mind of Christ Jesus, who out of his love for us laid aside his divine privilege in heaven, and came among us taking the form of a servant, and made even the ultimate sacrifice, thinking not of himself, but for us. Therefore, Paul said, God honoured him, seating him in the place of highest honour. No here, Paul says, I’m sending men to you who will love and serve you like Christ, and will make sacrifices for you like Christ, and so receive them and honour such men. In short, look for someone who looks like Jesus. Obviously, not perfectly, but who emulates his love and willingness to sacrifice and has demonstrated that through his life.
Now Paul applied this to the type of men he wishes to send the Philippians. Obviously, these portraits strike me in a personal way as I’ll soon be stepping aside from ministry here at OCBC and I know that you will be praying for and looking for the person to whom this ministry will be passed on to. So this will be my prayer for you as well , that God will lead a man like this to us.
A search for a spouse (dating relationships)
A personal mentor
Your spiritual search
Have you received and honoured Christ Jesus, who has loved with a servant heart and gave himself sacrificially so that those who would trust in him would be honoured with him?
Are you committed to growing in the character and love of Christ, willing to sacrifice whatever he asks for the sake of others?
Who is the Holy Spirit asking you to love with a servant’s heart? What is the Holy Spirit asking you to risk? Who is the Holy Spirit asking you to receive and honour?