Philippians Chapter 2: Serving One another as Christ didNov 2nd, 2009 | By admin | Category: Philippians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Philippians Chapter 2: Serving One another as Christ did
Phil. 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Phil. 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Verses 1 and 2 suggest there was some contention in the class, even though the letter as a whole is peaceful and gentle with little criticism. Philippians 4:2 alludes to the problem: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” Paul was urging two sisters in the class to be of the same mind. Philippians 2:2 is an admonition to the whole class to be “of one accord, of one mind.” Paul was trying to reconcile some friction that existed in the class. Evidently, these two sisters were outstanding in activity and in espousing the doctrine of Christ. Notice that Paul did not criticize the nature of the doctrine itself.
To be “likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” does not refer to doctrine. On the one hand, verse 2 should not be used to justify all being alike when there are serious doctrinal differences and violations of principle. On the other hand, if there is reasonable doctrinal harmony and just a conflict of personality, mannerism, technique, etc., there should be like-mindedness—in fact, it should be striven for.
Verse 2 and certain Psalms are incorrectly used to justify harmony regardless, no matter what, but there are exceptions. Principle should not be compromised. Certain doctrinal differences are permissible, but differences on fundamentals would properly prevent like-mindedness and/or working together.
Phil. 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
For the word “strife,” the Diaglott translation has “party-spirit.” It would be interesting to know what the two women, Euodias and Syntyche, were engaged in, but the Scriptures do not elaborate on the nature of the difference. However, we can assume it was not based on a serious doctrinal deviation. Sometimes differences arise over how something is to be done.
In fact, verse 3 could not pertain to doctrine, for it would be hypocritical to esteem another Christian as better than ourselves because he held a doctrinal view we considered to be wrong. And the more serious the error, the worse it would be to esteem the proponent as better.
Rather, the verse pertains to mannerism, method, etc.—to being engaged in the Lord’s service.
There was a serious enough difference along this line in the Philippian church to divide the class, some being sympathetic to Euodias and some to Syntyche. As long as principle was not involved, the class should have cooperated to further the cause of Christ, looking outward from self to the Lord’s cause.
If two brethren have two different methods of service, they can both be active and yet be harmonious. A problem occurs when one individual or both individuals want to force the issue in a particular direction. If both suggestions are good, let those who wish to, pursue whichever method they choose. Of course reconciling to one method would probably be the most desirable, but if this cannot be worked out, both methods should be allowed, although not in a party spirit. The class should recognize that both brethren are sincerely trying to serve the Lord. The caution is not to devour one another.
Phil. 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Paul wrote from Rome where he was under house arrest. He had observed the characteristic of many brethren to mind the things of their own and not be particularly concerned with the things of others. “Look not every man on his own things [only], but every man also on the things of others.” Brethren were to watch out not only for their own highest spiritual interests but also for the best spiritual interests of others—and hence be “likeminded.” The interests, rights, abilities, talents, and spiritual welfare of others are to be considered.
Phil. 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
In changing the subject here, Paul set an example of how we should be like Jesus.
Comment: A good Reprint article is No. 5810, “A Little Talk by the Way.”
Phil. 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Phil. 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Phil. 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The King James and modern translations give the wrong thought in verse 6 by making it Trinitarian. The Revised Standard Version is good for verses 5 and 6: “Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Verse 6 is also rendered properly in the Diaglott: “who, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God.” And the Diaglott footnote for “robbery” in verse 6 is excellent:
“Harpagmon being a word of very rare occurrence, a great variety of translations have been given. The following may serve as examples:—‘who—did not think it a matter to be earnestly desired’—Clarke. ‘Did not earnestly affect’—Cyprian. ‘Did not think of eagerly retaining’—Wakefield. ‘Did not regard—as an object of solicitous desire’—Stuart.
‘Thought not—a thing to be seized’—Sharpe. ‘Did not eagerly grasp’—Kneeland. ‘Did not violently strive’—Dickinson. ‘Did not meditate a usurpation’—Turnbull.”
It was Satan, not Jesus, who tried to usurp power and be equal to God. Jesus is the example of what to do. Satan is the example of what not to do. The angels were all made in the likeness of God and were “sons,” whereas the word “form” seems to imply the same body. Instead the thought is that Jesus is a spirit being, as are all of the angels and Jehovah Himself. However, there are degrees of spirit life, and only God had the divine nature at that time. Jesus was in a form of God but on a lower or much more subordinate plane. The modern translations try to prohibit such a realization by putting Jesus, before he came down here, on the same level as the Father.
Comment: The context explains verse 6. We were just told to esteem others better than ourselves, and Jesus is the prime example of this humility. If he had tried to be equal with God and had usurped his Father’s power, that action would jar with the whole lesson of humility.
Comment: Modern translations give the thought that Jesus was equal with God and just submitted to the arrangement out of humility. Then, strangely, Trinitarians accept the Scripture that God highly exalted Jesus (Phil. 2:9). If Jesus were God, how could God do this to Himself— and especially when both were supposed to have equal power?
Isaiah 14:13,14 reads, “For thou [Satan] hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High.” Right away this text about Satan’s ambitions exposes a wrong principle, and of course Jesus would not have entertained such thoughts.
Originally, Satan had great power and beauty to even presume to do such a thing. The Prophet Ezekiel pictured him as an anointed covering cherub and as having jewels for a covering (Ezek. 28:12-15). He also had honors, distinctions, and liberties to walk up and down among the stars of God; that is, he had the liberties and capabilities of roaming through God’s universe.
Humans are limited to the earth, to what is physical, but Satan was up high and could come down to lower levels. We can sometimes go down to the level of insects in the sense of observing, studying, seeing, and magnifying them, but we cannot go above ourselves. Satan was strong, beautiful, and brilliant before he fell. His problem was that he lacked proper meekness and perspective in regard to God. It was wrong for him to presume to do something without first checking with the Father.
Satan dishonored God by presumptuously wanting to be a god to the human race and thus not fitting in with the Father’s plans. No matter what the motive, one would have to be invited to play such a prominent role in the divine plan. Jesus took not this honor on himself but was called, as was Aaron (Heb. 5:4). Aaron was made high priest—he did not assume or meditate that position. The Adversary, however, had plans for capturing the human family. He befriended Adam and Eve as a patron, asking, “Did God say to you that if you partook of the tree, you would die?” Next Satan implied that God was lying. In making this suggestion, Satan, who felt he could not die, was acting apart from God without checking. Then he added, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). To prove his statement, he caused the serpent to eat fruit from the forbidden tree. Not only did the serpent not die, but it was the wisest creature in the Garden of Eden. Through Satan’s manipulation, Eve succumbed. By saying that if Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would become like gods, Satan made God’s motive appear impure when the prohibition against eating was given.
The situation with the two sisters in the Philippian church who had a difference of opinion on how to do something was similar. Instead of thinking out their own methods and techniques, they should have checked with the Apostle Paul. By seeking his advice and consideration, they would have solved their dilemma, but instead they acted out of vainglory.
Satan did not want to be above God, for he could see that God had certain prerogatives and powers no other being possessed, but he wanted to be an emperor like God and have a universe of his own. That type of meditation, without authentic encouragement, was a real dishonor to God.
Comment: The two sisters may have been involved only in cooking, serving, and providing lodging for the brethren, yet differences arose, just as they do with us. For example, “Who will put up Bro. A tonight?”
Reply: Bringing in Jesus helps us to see his submissiveness to the Father. If the two sisters had similarly been submissive to the Apostle Paul’s advice, there would not have been a party spirit, and the good of the truth and the brotherhood would have been served.
The careful wording Paul used (for example, Jesus “made himself of no reputation”) suggests that some in the class—at least the two sisters—were acting out of strife and vainglory. It is also possible these two were affecting the whole ecclesia with their differences. If the problem was not settled, there might be a split that was unwarranted.
Therefore, the admonition to be “of one mind” was not along doctrinal lines but pertained to the modus operandi, the manner in which certain things were being pursued (verse 2). It is wrong to use this text for doctrinal matters.
Verse 7 states that Jesus was made “in the likeness of men.” Romans 8:3 says he was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh”—not that he was sinful but that he had the likeness of human beings down here on planet Earth, which is benighted with sin and the curse of death.
When was Jesus “found in fashion as a man” (verse 8)? This experience occurred at Jordan when he presented himself for baptism. At that time, the heavens “were opened unto him,” and the memory of his preexistence with the Father came to him (Matt. 3:16). He fled into the wilderness to meditate on these thoughts that flooded his mind. Surely as a little infant, he did not know about his preexistence. Some feel he would have known at age 12 when he went to the Temple and said, “I must be about my Father’s business,” but being very advanced for his age, he was inquiring about the circumstances of Messiah (Luke 2:49). Many would have told him what the angels said to the shepherds at the time of his birth—that he was the Savior (Messiah). He also would have known about the three wise men who came and gave their treasures, which he, Mary, and Joseph lived off until they could return to Israel.
At the Temple at age 12, Jesus would have inquired, “What about the Savior? What is his mission?” Also, he could read the Old Testament prophecies. However, he did not know about his preexistence until Jordan. He would have heard about Simeon, who was at the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought him as a babe. Although an old man, Simeon was promised he would not die until he had seen the child who would be the ultimate Savior of the world (Luke 2:25-35). All of these unusual experiences Jesus would have known about at age 12 but not about his preexistence. Incidentally, the narration of some of the events used the word “son,” so it was logical, even at age 12, for Jesus to address Jehovah as “Father” (Isa. 9:6).
At consecration at age 30, Jesus was found “as a man”; that is, his mind was unlocked with regard to his previous existence. With these thoughts flooding his mind, he “became obedient unto death.” Before his consecration, Jesus did not know what to be obedient to. After Jordan, he knew he had to obey unto death, unto crucifixion. In other words, Jesus found himself at Jordan. (Verse 8 does not say that others found him.)
Hebrews 5:8,9 reads, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” In other words, Jesus received instructions before he came here, but in carrying out the instructions, he learned certain lessons that perfected him. He came “to give his life a ransom for many,” but his experience down here prepared him in other ways to be that Savior (Matt. 20:28). That the experience would qualify him to be a better High Priest, he did not realize previously. He came to do his Father’s will—period! For example, he was not rationalizing, “Why did I have to be born a little baby?” He just obeyed and learned as he went along. “I thank thee, O Father, … because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matt. 11:25). Jesus had not realized before that God generally chose those with very little education and poor backgrounds to be destined as future kings and priests. He made this statement with spontaneity, for it was a new insight. Thus here is an example of how Jesus had to learn after his consecration, when he was an adult.
Phil. 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
Because Jesus humbled himself and was obedient, God highly exalted him. It is understood that the Father is excepted in this statement, as in 1 Corinthians 15:27, which is a good text to show that the Father and the Son are not coequal. And verse 9 here in Philippians is just common sense, for He who exalted Jesus to such a high position had to possess still superior powers in order to accomplish the exaltation.
Paul started this second chapter by urging the Philippians to all be of one mind. Then he introduced Jesus as the best example of like-mindedness. He traced Jesus’ attitude as a way of telling the brethren in Philippi that their attitudes should be similar. He ended up by saying the Father has decreed that Jesus is to be honored. In the present life, the Philippians were to be like Jesus before his exaltation. After his exaltation, every knee will bow to Jesus, but before that, he had a different spirit, a spirit of humility. The point was, now that Jesus had been exalted, he should also be exalted in their efforts. Then whatever the class did would honor the name of Christ. Jesus is preeminent, and all else should be subservient to that cause. As far as possible, the brethren were to serve with one mind and unity of spirit in honor of Jesus (rather than to serve individual personalities in the class). The danger there was a party spirit.
However, we are to judge actions and personalities. Back there some were masquerading falsely as apostles, and it was necessary to exercise judgment. The brethren could honor Christ by seeing who had the mind of Christ. God does use leaders in certain works, but we are to follow “leaders” only as we observe that they are following the Lord. Even with Paul, the brethren were to follow him only to the degree that he followed the Master. We cooperate with others in proportion as we see they have the mind of Christ, and not on a personality or accomplishment basis. Some people are brilliant and have done great works, but we must make sure they comport with the Word.
Phil. 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
Phil. 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In verse 10, the supplied word “things,” used three times, is misleading. The Diaglott translation has “those,” which is a better rendering. “In order that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those beneath.”
“Under the earth” refers to the grave condition. Those in the grave must come forth in order to bow the knee. This phrase does not prove there is life after death now, for the fulfillment of the verse is future. At present, not all on earth are bowing to Jesus, let alone those sleeping in death.
Notice that the confessing of Jesus as Lord is to the Father’s glory; that is, we honor the Father by honoring the Son. Jesus is the best conceptual image we have of God. He is like God being manifest in the flesh. He is the best example we could have of what God is like. However, the Father would have to be far superior because he brought forth the Son.
One day the veil cast over the minds of the human race will be broken, and all will understand the relationship of Father and Son. It must be a terrific veil because all are blinded with few exceptions. For us to understand is miraculous.
Phil. 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Phil. 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
A transposition gives the correct thought: “Wherefore … as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but work out your own salvation with fear and trembling much more now in my absence, for it is God who worketh in you.” In other words, when Paul was in Philippi, the brethren diligently hearkened, and he could see their responsiveness. Now, in his absence, he desired that they continue in obedience. He wanted them to realize that although he was absent, God was present with them. Their diligence to serve God should persist whether or not Paul was physically there. They should serve not only with fear and trembling lest they lose their crown but also as if being in the presence of God. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. 4:1).
Comment: If Jesus feared and trembled in Gethsemane lest he had displeased the Father, then we who are so imperfect should feel that way even more.
Paul started this chapter urging the brethren to be of one mind and spirit and to esteem others better than self and to be lowly in mind. That thought, coupled with this verse, indicates some of the brethren in Philippi were quite confident. Instead there should have been a spirit of less confidence and a desire to be more submissive and meek.
The word translated “presence” in verse 12 is the Greek parousia. This usage in context is an excellent example of why it is correct to say the “presence of the Lord,” as opposed to his “return.” Parousia means “being present.” The fact that the opposite meaning is given here further qualifies parousia; namely, “presence” and “absence” are opposites, and the two words occur in the same verse.
“For it is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure” (verse 13 paraphrase). The Philippians were not to be dependent on Paul or on any other personality for salvation because God was present with them and worked in them.
Phil. 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
Verse 14, which is another clue as to the condition in the Philippian church, suggests that murmurings and disputations were taking place. For example, if there were two prominent personalities in the class and the class was split as far as some following one individual and the rest following the other, the two sides murmured against each other on certain issues.
However, this condition was evidently not very serious. It was just that Paul saw an incipient danger which, if pursued, could lead to a disastrous situation. Remember, Paul spoke of this class very favorably. We are exaggerating the situation in order to find out what the problem was. Otherwise, Paul would not have said, “Being confident … that he [God] which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Paul had great hopes for this ecclesia. Nevertheless, anyone, no matter how well or long he has run, can still go astray if warning signals are not heeded. Through the example especially of the two sisters, Paul seized the opportunity to give the entire class a lesson in unity and not murmuring.
By nature, some are extraverts and some are introverts, but Paul’s message applied to all of the brethren. All were to meditate on these things, not just the two sisters. Paul did not want the brethren to take sides.
In considering others, we should first consider their good points so that we get a more balanced and rational perspective. We should not hastily enter into disputation, for doing so will harm others, as well as self. Paul followed this procedure in his epistles by first commending the class and then giving lessons and admonitions.
Phil. 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Why did Paul bring in this thought? The behavior of the Philippian brethren as a group was to be radically different from what was being done in the world as far as everyday life was concerned; namely, they were to shine like stars in the world. Therefore, if disputations and murmurings arose and the public knew about them, reproach would be brought on the name of Christ. The exception would be where principle was involved, for that would be a justifiable cause. Even the public can usually understand a clear-cut principle.
The consecrated are observed by the world, and sometimes a rebuke is issued: “But you are a Christian. You should not do that.” Such statements can shock us into realizing we have done wrong—as with Balaam’s ass. Balaam was on his way to get a reward, and the ass stopped in its tracks when it saw an invisible angel. Hence sometimes “dumb animals,” spiritually speaking, can warn the consecrated. They can also be a help under certain circumstances— consider the ravens who brought food to Elijah. However, sometimes those of the world, plus many of the consecrated, do not understand a proper stand. That is especially true with regard to the ecumenical spirit. All “Christians” should not unite and forget their doctrinal differences.
The phrase used frequently today to urge members to remain in their congregations is, “There is no such thing as a perfect church.” The members are urged to stay within their situation regardless of what develops.
We are to shine as “lights” (as the sun and the moon) in the world. A footnote in the Diaglott reads, “Phosteeres is the name given to the sun and the moon in the Septuagint, Gen. 1:16.” That is a powerful shining in contrast to the darkness of the world in sin and degradation. We stand out by not entering into the excesses of the world.
Phil. 2:16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Paul wanted the Philippians to win the prize with him so that he might “rejoice in the day of Christ”—not just because he had run the course faithfully but because his laborers had also gained the chief prize. His joy would be increased to find them in the Little Flock too. “Holding forth the word of life” is a phrase we use in connection with the Table of Shewbread (Exod. 25:30).
Phil. 2:17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
Phil. 2:18 For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
Paul was joyfully laying down his life for the brethren. Should the verdict be death to him as a Roman prisoner, he would rejoice that he had the privilege to die on behalf of Christ and his cause and the brethren. And conversely, the brethren should be happy if he made his calling and election sure. Stated another way, the brethren were to rejoice if Paul died for the cause of Christ. If he was rejoicing, they should rejoice with him.
Phil. 2:19 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.
Phil. 2:20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
Phil. 2:21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.
Verse 19 shows the affection that Paul had for the Philippian brethren. Trusting they were prospering spiritually, he would be of “good comfort” when he learned of their state.
Paul commended Timothy very highly because he and Paul seemed to be the only two brethren who considered others and the cause of Christ rather then self. This condemnation was strong, especially since, generally speaking, this condition existed when the Apostle Paul himself was on the scene. The question would be, Was Paul referring to the general condition in all of the churches, or was he saying that among the brethren there ith him in Rome, this was the situation?
Paul sent this Epistle to the Philippians by the hand of Epaphroditus, who had come from Philippi with a contribution or some other kind of help for Paul. Timothy was there in Rome with Paul, who intended to send him to the Philippians a little later (Phil. 1:1 and verse 19). Also, there was an ecclesia at Rome. From certain statements in the Second Epistle to Timothy, we know that conditions were not too good at this time. For example, “only Luke is with me” and “at my first answer no man stood with me” (2 Tim. 4:11,16).
Of the brethren there in Rome, only Timothy had a proper concern for the church at Philippi— perhaps because of a previous personal attachment Timothy had for the Philippian brethren. (At one point, Paul left Timothy behind in Troas, and Timothy may have spent time in Philippi.)
At any rate, Paul was certainly giving Timothy a high recommendation, even likening him to his own son (verse 22).
However, even though Paul’s strong statement in verses 20 and 21 seems to refer to just the Rome area, this tendency did exist elsewhere, as is stated in 2 Timothy 1:15, “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” There was a great falling away by classes as regards their affection for Paul and the ministry he had performed on their behalf. Classes turned away from him, but individuals were another matter. That has probably been the history of the Church down through the age.
With regard to verse 21, some brethren would have had commitments and thus not been free to render certain kinds of service. Family and marital obligations or health could have been factors, but such restraints are not necessarily an indication of one’s spiritual condition. However, Paul was not referring to mere obligations and earthly mortgages here. He was issuing a condemnation: “All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Whoever the “all” are, Timothy was the exception. Generally speaking, the proper type of dedication was lacking.
Incidentally, when Paul sent Timothy to Corinth, he was not too well received. Paul sent his best man, but the Corinthian brethren did not think too highly of Timothy. One reason was his youth, but in addition, he was not as fluent as Titus. When Titus was sent subsequently, the Corinthians highly esteemed him. Personality was a factor—and wrongly so. Because of various commitments, some brethren might not have been able to go to Philippi, yet they could have been equally concerned if they had a sincere prayer interest for their brethren. However, Paul was saying there was not this kind of interest.
Phil. 2:22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
Recognizing Paul’s superiority as an apostle and also as an older brother, Timothy served as a son assisting his father. Paul possessed age, maturity, and authority.
In what way did the Philippians “know the proof of him”; that is, in what way did they know that Timothy was like a son to Paul? Paul called Timothy “son” twice in the two epistles addressed to him: “my own son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) and “my dearly beloved son” (2 Tim. 1:2). In addition, Paul called him “my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17). When Paul was executed, Timothy was left as the elder at Ephesus, probably the largest church, until the Apostle John came a little while later.
Phil. 2:23 Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi shortly.
Phil. 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.
Paul hoped to be released from house arrest before long and also go to Philippi.
Phil. 2:25 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.
Phil. 2:26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
Phil. 2:27 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.
Originally, Epaphroditus had come from Philippi with a gift (money, clothing, or something else), which was customary for the Philippians to do (Phil. 4:18). Although he encountered much difficulty in the journey to Paul, he was determined to complete the mission. He pressed on even with a sickness that continued unto Rome. And when he got there, it was no small task to find Paul in such a big city. Epaphroditus could easily have given up and gone back home, but he persisted despite what would have seemed like a legitimate excuse. He did contact Paul, and then the sickness was “nigh unto death.” Moreover, Epaphroditus got homesick in a way.
Not only was he concerned for the Philippians because they were concerned for him, but also he desired to be back there. Family could have been a factor too, but the Scriptures do not say.
Because of the diligence of Epaphroditus, Paul likened him to a “fellowsoldier,” a “companion in labour,” “my brother” (personalized), and the Philippians’ “messenger.”
The life of Epaphroditus was spared partly so that he could be a blessing to Paul. If he had died there in Rome, Paul would have had additional grief. Paul appreciated all that Epaphroditus had done on behalf of the Philippians and wanted him to be able to get back home.
The expression “sorrow upon sorrow” shows that Paul had some sorrow of which we are not informed. In the first chapter and early in this second chapter, Paul emphasized a joyful aspect.
He told the Philippians not to sorrow because of his sufferings, for it was his privilege and joy to suffer for Christ. He was ready to die. Here, however, he admitted to some sorrow. Part of the sorrow could have been the lack of cooperation among the brethren, which led him to say, “All seek their own, and not the things of Jesus” (verse 21 paraphrase). Paul was not referring to his physical discomfiture, for that was accruing to his credit in the Kingdom.
Phil. 2:28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
Phil. 2:29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
Phil. 2:30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
It is significant that Paul told the Philippians, “When Epaphroditus arrives with my message, render him honor and esteem.” Paul’s saying this suggests that Epaphroditus may not have been esteemed for doctrinal reasons, but he was willing to be sent as a messenger and in this role showed admirable qualities of character that the brethren should recognize. In other words, Epaphroditus was more than a messenger. Paul was saying, “When Epaphroditus returns to you, give him respect based on my testimony.” He deserved such esteem and probably had not received it previously.
The ending of verse 30 is misleading terminology in the King James Version: “to supply your lack of service toward me [personally].” The Living Bible has, “For he risked his life for the work of Christ and was at the point of death while trying to do for me the things you couldn’t do because you were far away.” Phillips Modern English reads, “For his loyalty to Christ brought him very near death—he risked his life to do for me in person what distance prevented you from doing.” The Revised Standard states, “For he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete your service to me.” These translations give the proper thought, for earlier Paul had commended the Philippians. They were the one class that repeatedly remembered him in various circumstances.
Epaphroditus supplied the Philippians’ incapability to perform because of distance. They could not render personal service, so they sent him with the gift. As a practice, the Philippians remembered Paul and helped him.