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Philippians 2:19-30 - Walking in the Mind of Christ

Philippians - Joy for the Journey  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:07
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The mind of Christ in you will transform every part of your walk

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Introduction

A couple weeks ago I was walking out in our field with the dog, and was walking through a series of deep drifts of snow as we went up the hill. The girls had been out the day before, and I found myself using their footprints to make my way through—since they had already punched through the drifts it made walking easier for me. The thought did cross my mind of how the roles were reversed—usually it’s the dad that makes a path through deep snow for his daughters to walk through!
In our own way, we’re walking through some pretty deep drifts of our own these days, aren’t we? We’ve been asking the question, “How do we walk through the difficulties and opposition and tyranny of the days that are coming upon us? How should Christians live through these times?” And for the past couple of weeks we have seen the Apostle Paul unpack what it means to “let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).—what it means to have the mind of Christ in unified fearlessness for the truth of the Gospel, the mind of Christ that makes us shine in a twisted world.
But here is one of the wonderful things about your Father in Heaven—He does not just answer your question, “How should we then walk in this world?” by teaching you the concept of the mind of Christ—here in verses 19-30, your Father in Heaven is giving you real-world examples of what it looks like on the ground to live a life that is governed by the mind of Christ! This is how much your Father loves you, that He intends not just to tell you to seek the mind of Christ in your life, but He will walk ahead of you through the example of Timothy and Epaphroditus to give you footprints to follow as you walk like them in the mind of Christ. What we will see here in these verses, Lord willing, is that
The mind of Christ in you will TRANSFORM every PART of your WALK
Now, if you read through Paul’s other letters in the New Testament, you will find that he commonly has a “travelogue” section at the end of his epistles, doesn’t he? He’ll talk about his companions, he’ll talk about his plans to come see his readers, and so on. But here in Philippians he drops the “travelogue” right in the middle of the letter! (This has even led some commentators to speculate that Philippians was actually written as two letters, with this travelogue section marking the end of “I Philippians” and Chapter 3 actually starting “II Philippians”!)
But I believe that Paul is putting his “travelogue section” in the middle of this letter because he wants to show the Philippian church real-life examples of the kind of Christlike humility, selflessness and sacrifice he has been writing about in the past chapter and a half. So, in order to place these verses in their proper context, I want to give a summary of what we know of the background of Paul’s situation from this book and the book of Acts (this scenario is taken from Paul Miller’s excellent book, The J-Curve):
Since a fair trial is impossible in Judea, Paul uses his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar. After a shipwreck, Paul, along with Luke and Aristarchus, arrives in Rome in March, AD 60. Paul learns he needs a large sum of money to pay a lawyer to represent him before Caesar because a delegation from the Sanhedrin has arrived from Jerusalem to slander him. Without a lawyer, Paul faces execution as a “troublemaker” [insurrectionist].
Timothy, Paul’s right-hand man, arrives in Rome in May to help Paul. This allows Aristarchus to return to Greece with news of their deliverance, as well as Paul’s critical need for money. The Philippians immediately take a generous collection and sent it to Rome with Epaphroditus (one of their leaders) and Aristarchus.
During their three-week journey, Epaphroditus becomes violently ill with the “Roman fever” (malaria), which is particularly bad in the summer. He refuses Aristarchus’ advice to rest and instead sends a message back to Philippi by an eastbound traveler while they press on to Rome. Epaphroditus knows that without this gift [of money], Paul could die.
Epaphroditus arrives in Rome near death, and Paul and his team nurse him back to health. Epaphroditus’ gift allows Paul’s case to be heard in court and silences Paul’s internal debate about whether he should even bother defending himself [to die and be with Christ, or to remain…]
Meanwhile, word gets back to Philippi that Epaphroditus is near death, and the Philippians fear he may have died on the way to Rome. To make matters worse, two of the prominent women, Euodia and Syntyche, have been quarrelling, paralyzing the whole congregation.
The Philippians describe their plight in a letter to Paul sent via one of Lydia’s merchant ships. When the letter arrives, Paul and his team are distraught because of the Philippians’ problems. Timothy is especially eager to go help the Philippians.
Paul dictates his letter..., which Epaphroditus carries back via Lydia’s ship. Paul would love to send Timothy as well, but prisoners are totally dependent on their friends. Timothy is crucial for his survival. Paul tells the Philippians that as soon as he knows how his case will go, he will release Timothy. Paul will follow shortly thereafter. Miller, P. E. (2019). J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life (Illustrated ed.). Crossway. pp. 328-329
With this story in the background, let’s look again at these two men who were so important to the Apostle Paul, to see how the mind of Christ in them governed their lives. First, in verses 19-24 we catch a glimpse into

I. The mind of Christ in TIMOTHY’S walk (Philippians 2:19-24)

Look at verses 19-21:
Philippians 2:19–21 ESV
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. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Remember, Timothy was Paul’s “right hand man”—we see in verse 22 (and elsewhere in Paul’s letters) that he calls him his “son”. They were distressed at the news of the quarrels that were breaking out in the church in Philippi, and so Paul wanted to send Timothy—a man he could trust like no other to bring pastoral wisdom and healing to the church. One of the first things we notice is how the mind of Christ in Timothy gave him
A walk of INTEGRITY (Philippians 2:19-21)
I say that because of the comment Paul makes in verse 21: “They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ”. It’s clear that he is referring to some of his competitors in ministry—they can’t be trusted to deal with a church in crisis because they are seeking their own interests. But, Paul says, he trusts Timothy because he is seeking Jesus’ interests for the church, not his own! Because Timothy is characterized by the mind of Christ in his life—not “looking only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4), he is a man of integrity—he can be trusted to do the right thing in the conflict the church was experiencing.
Paul wanted to send Timothy to Philippi to deal with the struggles the church was having in its unity (struggles that he would go on to address with this very letter!), but he was completely dependent on Timothy while he was in custody. And evidently Timothy knew that, because he did not go—he stayed with Paul. His life was
A walk of LOYALTY (Philippians 2:22)
Verse 22 says
Philippians 2:22 ESV
22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
That’s not the way you describe someone who is a mere “co-worker”, is it? The bond between Paul and Timothy was deep. Timothy would no more leave Paul alone in a Roman prison than he would leave his own father—he didn’t think about his own needs, he thought about Paul’s needs. Isn’t this the old formula for JOY that we have heard before? Timothy sought Jesus’ interests first, then Others’ interests (in Paul), and finally his own interests: Jesus, Others, Yourself—J.O.Y.
Timothy sought the mind of Christ in his life—a walk characterized by integrity, loyalty and
A walk of COMPANIONSHIP (Philippians 2:23)
Paul says in verse 23:
Philippians 2:23 ESV
23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me,
In other words, Timothy was going to be there for Paul until his case before Caesar went through. While Paul was waiting in chains to hear whether he would live or die, while he agonized over whether he should even defend his own life or just suffer execution so that he could be present with Jesus, while he waited those long and tedious days to learn his fate—he would not wait alone! Timothy would be by his side!
Think of it: Timothy didn’t consider it “a waste of time” to merely be there with Paul. He didn’t fret and carp: “You know, Paul, you’re going to be fine—but there’s ministry to be done back in Philippi! They need my pastoral expertise back there, and here I sit just holding your hand until Caesar renders his judgment! I could be doing something important right now, instead of babysitting you!” Timothy considered Paul more important than himself. Timothy sat by Paul’s side “without grumbling or disputing”. Timothy had experienced the compassion of Christ coming alongside him to encourage him, and so he came alongside Paul to encourage him in the same wayhe was a man of companionship because he was a man who sought the mind of Christ!
The mind of Christ in you will transform every part of your walk—we see it in Timothy’s life, and in verses 25-30 we see

II. The mind of Christ in EPAPHRODITUS’ walk (Philippians 2:25-30)

Now, as best we know, Epaphroditus was a member of the church in Philippi. We don’t see him outside of this epistle (though some commentators say he may go by the name Epaphras in Colossians 1:7). His name is a form of the name “Aphrodite”, which is the Greek name for the goddess Venus, it means “handsome” or “fair”. So he probably grew up in Philippi in a household that worshipped Aphrodite—but had come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and become a trusted member of the church (A highly trusted member of the church, since he was given a huge sum of money to take to Rome!) And this is one of the things about Epaphroditus that we see in this passage, is that his life was
A walk of COURAGE (Philippians 2:25)
Paul calls him in verse 25 a “brother”, a “fellow worker”, a “fellow soldier”, a “messenger” and “minister to my need”. Imagine for a moment that you are part of the church business meeting at the First Church of Philippi, and you have just voted to send tens of thousands of aureii for a legal defense fund for your missionary. There is no financial system that lets you send money remotely, so the only way to get all that gold to Rome is if someone personally carries it there! A three-week journey (at best!) through dark country roads on foot, on board a merchant ship, at risk from wild animals, bandits, swindlers and pickpockets—if the wrong people got even a hint of how much money you were carrying, you wouldn’t last five minutes!
And there sits Epaphroditus—he’s not thinking of his own safety, he’s not thinking about what might happen to him on the road. All he can think about is, “If Paul doesn’t get this money and doesn’t retain an attorney who can argue his case before Caesar, he’s going to die.” He considered Paul’s life more important than his own; he didn’t consider his safe and comfortable life there in Philippi “a thing to be grasped”—he emptied himself of his comfort and security and took on the form of a vulnerable traveller so that Paul could be saved!
And as the story unfolds we see another effect of the mind of Christ in Epaphroditus’ life—his life was
A walk of PERSEVERANCE (Philippians 2:26-27)
Again—place yourself in Epaphroditus’ shoes. You’re a couple of weeks into your journey to Rome, you’ve covered a lot of ground, and you wake up one morning burning with fever. You try to ignore it and get up and go on your way, but as the days go on every muscle in your body aches, you barely have the strength to stand up. Your body is wracked by gut spasms and diarrhea, and you can’t keep food down. Aristarchus pleads with you to stop and rest—if you don’t, he says, you will die.
And the only thought in your mind is, “But if I don’t get to Rome, Paul will die!” The mind of Christ in you means that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of another; the words of Jesus are a constant voice in the back of your mind as you struggle towards Rome:
John 15:13 ESV
13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
That perseverance that won’t quit no matter how hard the path comes from the mind of Christ in you—it is
A walk of SELFLESSNESS (Philippians 2:30)
Paul says that Epaphroditus risked his life “to complete what was lacking in your service to me”—the same word for service here is the one we saw last week for the “sacrificial offering of faith” of Philippians 2:17. What Paul is saying here is that Epaphroditus’ willingness to die to save Paul was a demonstration of how much the church loved Paul—the whole church was willing to lay down their lives for Paul, Epaphroditus was the representative of their love.
The mind of Christ in you will transform every part of your walk—we see it in Timothy’s life, we see it in Epaphroditus’ life, and here in these verses we see the transformation made by

III. The mind of Christ in YOUR walk

We live in a day when we are routinely told on every side that the worst thing that we can do is expose ourselves to some kind of risk. The world around us runs on the assumption that any amount of risk whatsoever is dangerous, reckless and very probably immoral. (After all, we have spent the last year destroying our economy and our republic over the “risk” of a virus that has over a 98% recovery rate!) But what you see here in these verses is that when the mind of Christ dwells in you, one of the chief characteristics of that mind is
The GLAD assumption of RISK for the sake of OTHERS
What strikes us over and over again in this account is how willingly everyone involved laid down things that our world says you should never risk. When you look at Epaphroditus you see how the mind of Christ in you lets you
Gladly RISK your SAFETY
Our modern-day “risk management” mindset would say, “No, Epaphroditus, you shouldn’t make that journey with all that money—it’s too risky, let someone else do it!” And when he got sick on the way there would have been a very stern admonition: “You cannot risk your life just to take that money to Rome—Paul will be fine, we’ll find another way to get him a defense counsel. He has no right to have you risk your life for him!” But do you see how the mind of Christ that is willing to lay down his life for his friend, who counts Paul’s life more important than his, who knows that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” is a mind that will gladly risk safety and security for the sake of “the work of Christ”? Christian, don’t look at the days ahead worried about risks to your safety—only when you seek the mind of Christ for your safety are you able to gladly risk it for His sake!
See in these verses how the mind of Christ in you frees you to
Gladly RISK your FINANCES
as well. Ancient historians record that lawyers in First-Century Rome charged exorbitant fees—especially lawyers who argued before Caesar himself. The ancient Roman satirist Juvenal once quipped that it wasn’t worth even talking to a lawyer who didn’t have an expensive ring on his finger, eight flunkies standing behind him and ten legal assistants standing in front of him! And given the background of the Philippian church, raising enough money to retain one of those high-powered Roman attorneys would have required them to make deeply sacrificial cuts into their finances—but they were glad to give generously for Paul’s legal defense fund!
Christian, can you see the days coming when you might have to cut deep into your finances for a legal defense fund for a Christian who has been arrested for the sake of the Gospel? Can you see the days coming when you find yourselves in the same situation as the Christians in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 10:32–34 ESV
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
It is only as the mind of Christ lives in you that you can gladly risk your financial situation for the sake of Christ—knowing that “you have a better possession and an abiding one”; the joy that is set before you:
Hebrews 10:35–39 ESV
35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
And see here how the mind of Christ that we see in Timothy and Epaphroditus (and in Paul) shows you how you can
Gladly RISK your HEART
for the sake of others as well. Our modern “risk management” mindset says you don’t ever risk being hurt emotionally—stay away from emotional pain, “guard your heart”, don’t let anyone threaten your happiness. But this passage is just shot through with references to emotional pain and anguish:
The Philippians were anxious over Paul’s imprisonment, and deeply anxious over Epaphroditus’ illness (2:26)
Epaphroditus was distressed over his friends’ anxiety for his health (2:26)
Paul was sorrowful over Epaphroditus’ illness and sorrowful over the prospect of losing him (“sorrow upon sorrow” - 2:27)
Timothy was anxious (“genuinely concerned”) over the state of the Philippian church, and wanted to go to their aid (2:20)
There are far too many Christians today who would look at all of this emotional turmoil and say, “That’s not healthy—we shouldn’t be making ourselves anxious and upset over each other—we should practice “self-care” first!”
And do you know what God’s Word says about the whole concept of “self-care”?
Philippians 2:21 ESV
21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Make no mistake, Christian—the mind of Christ in you is not a mind that centers on YOU. The world’s opinion notwithstanding, your “feelings” are not the most important thing on this planet! Jesus Christ did not leave His glory behind and empty Himself of all His rights to His Divine glory because His priority was on His own feelings! The mind of Christ in you does not shrink from the emotional turmoil and pain and heartbreak of ministry; the mind of Christ in you (as it was in Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus) willingly embraces taking on emotional turmoil and risk of heartbreak as the price of ministering like Jesus did!
If Jesus Christ came to this earth as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with suffering”, then where do you get off believing you have a right to a life where you never have your heart broken because of ministry, where you never suffer emotional wounds for the cause of Christ? If He had His heart broken in ministry, if Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus willingly embraced anxiety and distress and emotional turmoil for each others’ sake, why are you exempt?
Now, this doesn’t mean that you become some kind of stone-hearted Stoic, refusing to feel anything and shutting off any emotional life. But it means that you are not ruled by your emotions—you are not governed by emotional risk-avoidance. It means that you are willing to have your heart broken for the sake of the Gospel. You want to share Jesus with a dear unbelieving friend and you know there is a very good chance they will not only reject the Gospel but cut you off—you gladly risk your heart for the sake of the Gospel. You open yourself up to deep and godly fellowship with your church family, even though you have been badly burned and used by Christians in the past—you gladly risk your heart for the sake of the glory of God revealed in the unity of the church.
The only way you have the strength to gladly risk your heart is by pursuing the mind of Christ in you, and resting in the knowledge that even if your heart is broken, you have the intimate, personal presence of Christ drawing alongside you to comfort you, you have the unbreakable fellowship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling with you, you have the deep and abiding delight and affection of Jesus Christ for you. And you have the promise that whatever “death” you suffer for the sake of Christ will be followed by a “resurrection” in Him!
Beloved, we are travelling through deep drifts of hatred, opposition, censorship and tyranny in this country. You no longer live in the nation that you grew up in. And so in these days you are being called to “let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ”—in your integrity, your loyalty, your companionship, your courage, your perseverance and your selflessness. Seek the mind of Christ so that in Him you may gladly risk everything—your safety, your finances, your heart. Adorn the Gospel by your life, work out what God has worked into you in your salvation
Philippians 2:15 ESV
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
for the glory of your Savior, Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

Read through Philippians 2:5-11, and then read through the description of Timothy and Epaphroditus’ behavior in Philippians 2:19-30. What kinds of behavior do you see in Epaphroditus’ and Timothy’s lives that you also see in your own life because of the mind of Christ living in you?
Consider all of the emotional language in these verses (e.g., “cheered”, “genuinely concerned”, “longing”, “distressed”, “sorrow upon sorrow”, etc.) How does the way these men embrace emotional risk in their lives challenge you? What are some areas in your life where it is hard for you to “risk your heart” for the sake of Christ? What does Paul say in this chapter about dying and rising with Christ that can encourage you in this way?
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