This sermon was based on Philippians 2:19-30.
Timothy and Epaphroditus
19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
25I 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, 26for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Great Friendships Develop When Lives Have Been Shaped by the Gospel
- When you’ve been shaped or formed by a life changing experience you are able to build deep friendships with others who share that experience (soldiers in battle, AA meetings). Christians have been shaped and formed by experiencing the gospel.
- What is the gospel? The gospel is good news, not about what I need to do but it is good news announcing what God has done for us. What has God done? He has saved us from humanity’s biggest problem, which is a broken-down relationship with God. The gospel is about what Jesus Christ has done to put right our relationship with God.
- Timothy Keller: ‘The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me.’ Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus and the believers in Philippi had experienced the gospel in such a way that they were able to live in sacrificial friendship.
Great Friendships Develop When People are on Mission Together
- Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus and the believers in Philippi were quite literally, on a mission together. They were working together to share the gospel with people all across the Mediterranean region. Sharing the gospel was the focus and purpose of this friendship group. And because of their mission, this friendship group was outward looking rather than inward looking. Their friendship benefited those around them rather than just themselves.
- Because they were all committed to the mission of spreading the gospel, they were able accept their different roles and giftings without letting their own egos get in the way. All of them played their part and fulfilled their role faithfully as they were together on mission for the gospel.
What would it look like for us to be friends who have been shaped by the gospel and to be friends who are on mission for the gospel?
- Even though I think that this passage shows us examples of great friendships, when Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church, he didn’t actually mention the words ‘friends’ or friendship’. Instead, he used words like son, father, brother, co-worker and fellow soldier to describe his relationship with Timothy and Epaphroditus.
- The terms son and father and brother remind us that in Christ we are all part of God’s family. We have been brought into God’s family by the blood of Jesus, by Jesus dying on the cross for us. And nothing can change that. Friendships can come and go and can change depending on circumstances but being blood-related, if you like, cannot change.
- Paul also uses words like ‘co-worker’ and fellow soldier’. Those terms capture that sense of being on a mission and having a shared goal. It’s about asking ourselves how, as a group of friends here at church, we can become more and more outward looking and benefit not just ourselves but those around us.