SERVING THE INTERESTS OF CHRIST – Philippians 2:19 – 24
SERVING THE INTERESTS OF CHRIST
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 2, specifically, Philippians 2:19 – 24.
Reflection | We move to a very different part of Paul’s correspondence as he briefly discusses the upcoming visits to the Philippian church by two of his helpers. Both of these men will be sent ahead in anticipation of Paul’s eventual return – pending the outcome of his trial in Rome. After the rich theology, the sweeping praise, and the pointed commands that made up the first half of this chapter, this section of the letter might be perceived as less interesting. If we read these verses as nothing more than a bit of housekeeping by Paul, it can be tempting to skip past them.
However, that would be a mistake. For while Paul just appears to be otherwise recounting his future travel plans, he is in fact offering an example of someone who embodies the qualities that Paul was looking for in the Philippian Church. He is providing the Philippians with two practical examples that demonstrate not just the possibility but the actuality of the kind of life he is appealing for them to live. First, Paul does this as he speaks of a man named Timothy.
From elsewhere in the New Testament (Acts 16) we learn that Timothy was the son of a mixed marriage. His father was Greek whereas his mother, Eunice, was a godly Jewish Christian. Encountering Paul on his second missionary journey, Timothy soon began looking to Paul as a mentor in his faith journey – traveling with Paul to among other places, Philippi.
It is out of this relationship of discipleship that Timothy eventually became Paul’s go-to guy, his personal representative for engaging other churches face-to-face while he was in prison. And it is here we learn why Paul had Timothy in such high esteem – because Timothy reflected the character of Christ.
On the one hand, Paul acknowledges how “everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). This harkens back to Paul’s earlier mention back in chapter 1 of how the preachers around the area of Rome were Paul is imprisoned were preaching with the wrong motives — out of selfish motivation rather the benefit of others. Such a self-centered posture, by the way, is something that Paul, only a few verses back, counseled the Philippians not to imitate. With all of this in mind, Paul then points to Timothy as the exception who proves the rule that we can be like Christ in how we engage each other.
Notice how Paul describes Timothy’s motivation in serving others. Timothy wasn’t just serving out of obligation or a sense of duty. He isn’t someone who is just checking a box or fulfilling the job requirement for being a good Christian. No, Paul writes, Timothy “will show genuine concern for your welfare” (v. 20). Timothy serves out of a posture that reflects the interests of Jesus Christ – that of caring and concern for the health and wholeness – of others.
There is something important here we must not miss. Our genuine interest in others, in putting the needs of others before our own, should not eclipse putting Christ’s interests first. We serve Jesus by serving others, but we are to serve Jesus first. This order is crucial. For it is when we put Christ’s will – His purposes and direction – first, that we become free to serve others in a way that we truly help them rather than to enable them in remaining where they are or as they are. When we invert this, when we let the needs of others dictate our life rather than Jesus Christ, we wrongly take the burden of another person’s life upon ourselves. Inadvertently, we position ourselves as the would-be messiah of that person’s life rather than serving and pointing to the one and only Messiah we share in Jesus Christ.
Previously, Paul also had urged the Philippians to be faithful and obedient to his teaching (2:12). And now Paul portrays Timothy as one who serves the Lord in the work of the Gospel “as a son with his father.” (v. 22). As this verse continues, Paul does not say “Timothy served me,” but rather “Timothy served with me.” In other words, Timothy is a kindred spirit. Paul and Timothy are partners in Gospel together, unified (another of Paul’s central themes in this letter!) in their service to and on behalf of Christ.
Timothy is living proof that we actually can become like Christ to each other. More than this, the example of Timothy reminds us of how this transformation takes place in and through us. The snapshot of Timothy that Paul offers us here is that of a person who “has proved himself” – not in the sense of earning, meriting, or somehow contributing to his salvation in Christ. Timothy proves himself in that how he lives his life exhibits Timothy’s absolute and utter dependence upon Christ. The image of one of perseverance and consistency borne of the grace of God. Timothy’s life isn’t about just having a few bright spots when he shines as a Christian. Rather, day in and day out, week by week, Timothy’s life reflects someone who is following and relying upon Jesus every step of the way in representing Him to others.
Consider & Discuss | How are you walking worthy of the Gospel? How do you show genuine concern for others – not just YOUR concern but Christ’s concern for that person? Is your care of others shaped by your interests, their interests, or Christ’s interests? What is the difference between these three orientations?
Prayer Focus | Gracious Father, give us Your grace to rise to Your standards of concern and care for others rather than to fall to our own. Open our eyes to where You are directing us, to what Your interests are in terms of each person we encounter. By Your Spirit, we ask for the continued focus and strength to surrender our will to Your will. Radiate Your amazing grace and unending love through our service to others. When and where we fall short, have mercy on us and help us to continue grow in the faith You have given us. Amen.