Faithlife Sermons

Who's #1?

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Paul's continuation of his letter and his living examples of Christian character.

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Philippians 2:19-30 “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. 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, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed 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. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 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.


Who is number 1? We are, of course. Isn’t that the chant you here when your team wins, your side is victorious? In terms of national pride don’t we take the same stand? Our country is #1! In terms of faith doesn’t that permeate our particular sect? Christians are #1. Baptists are #1. Even if we are “humble” enough not to say it out load?
I remember when I was in college. I had been a physics major, switched to engineering and, in the middle of my junior year, was considering moving to education. My mother helped me stay where I was by pointing out that I needed a degree that would allow me to support a family. I needed to be “practical.” In other words, I needed to look out for me and my future mine.
In the business world I learned that you are only as good as your last success. That if you didn’t blow your own horn, no one else would. You had to convince everyone that your were #1 in order to get a promotion, a raise, a new job. Don’t even get me started about resume writing.
In contrast to this, we will see today what the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, has to say about, “Who’s #1?”


As we continue in our sermon series in Philippians, we come to a seeming disjunction in Paul’s thoughts. The last few sermons have focused on chapter 1:27 through chapter 2:18 where Paul exhorts the Philippians on Christian character and behavior. This section also contains the beautiful description of Christ’s example of humility. So this sudden jump into a travelogue might leave you scratching you head.
It’s not that confusing if you realize that this part of the letter logically flows from chapter 1:1-26. Paul, apparently, felt the need to discuss Christian character was important enough to interrupt the logical progression of the letter. I, for one, don’t disagree with that interruption.
Let’s take a moment to see this at work.
I also want to take a moment to briefly discuss the order of our passage today. It seems to be backwards because Epaphroditus is being sent immediately and Timothy will be sent some time in the future. But they are presented in reverse in the passage.
However, if you consider their focus, you see that Timothy is being sent because pf Paul’s concerns of what is happening in Philippi and by his wish to be cheered by the news in Philippi. Those concerns can wait as he has more pressing needs right now. Epaphroditus, on the other hand, is being sent to pacify the Philippians concerns for him as well as his own longing to be home. More than likely, he is carrying this letter. Since Epaphroditus has been with Paul and has Paul’s letter this is enough to satisfy Paul at this time.

Timothy's character

In the passage, Philippians 2:19-24 , Paul speaks of his intent to send Timothy to visit the Philippians. It is not planned immediately, as Paul wants to wait until the conclusion of his imprisonment. As he does in many of his letters he provides the commendation for those he is sending in his place. How is Timothy commended?
In verses Philippians 2:20-21 “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” we see that Timothy is genuinely concerned for the Philippians. His attitude and character are the example of Paul’s admonition to think of others more highly than yourself. He is compared to those are are out for their own interests.
There is discussion about whom Paul is speaking but it seems that these selfish ones dovetail with those in 1:15 who “preach Christ from rivalry,” whether in actuality or in character. Whoever they are, they are motivated by their desire to look out for number one - themselves. They only seem to care for others in order to make themselves look good or perhaps for financial gain. Paul says not that they don’t care about others but they, ultimately, don’t care anything for Jesus Christ.
In contrast, Paul tells the Philippians that Timothy truly cares for the welfare in the manner of Jesus. He then reminds the Philippians that they themselves know Timothy’s character and worth. How his relationship with Paul is analogous to a Father and Son that are like minded and unified. That Timothy lives his life in “…a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”
All the characteristics we studied in 1:27 - 2:18 Paul says are evident in the life of Timothy. Humble, like-minded, unified with other believers, considering the needs of others before his own, having the mind of Christ. In other words, Timothy recognizes that Jesus is number one and others are a close second.

Epaphroditus’ character

In Philippians 2:25-30 we meet Epaphroditus. He was sent by the Philippian church to bring Paul a gift. Somewhere, on that journey, he fell ill and was close to death. Because this news got back to the church they were truly concerned for him.
Paul describes Epaphroditus as, “…his brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier.” Again, we see the familial analogy of the Christian life. Paul and he are more than friends - they are brothers in the truest sense of the word. As it says in Proverbs 18:24 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Epaphroditus is that friend/brother.
He is also a worker for the Gospel and, as Paul loves military metaphors, a fellow soldier. This reminds us of Philippians 1:27-28 “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
But Epaphroditus was prepared to go further. His illness was so severe that he almost died. The grace and mercy of God brought him back to health so he could continue his ministry. Even though he was near death and was far from home, he still continued on to come to Paul and minister to him. This reminds me of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” Epaphroditus was will to die for the Gospel and for others.
Paul knows that the Philippians are worried and he knows that Epaphroditus longs to return home. So Paul sends him with this letter to allay their concerns and to enrich their rejoicing. Epaphroditus willingly returns, once again, as a minister of the Gospel and for the sake of others.
Both Paul and Epaphroditus show they count Jesus as number 1 and others a close second.

Our character

I want to read a passage from The Word in Life Study Bible.
10,000 Sermon Illustrations (What is Our Calling?)
What is Our Calling?Is your significance tied too closely to achievements—building buildings, reaching business goals, acquiring material possessions, climbing career ladders? There’s nothing inherently wrong with these. But if you lost them, would your confidence completely crumble? If your sense of worth depends on them, what happens when you reach the top of the ladder, only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall?
The problem is that our world has a system of values that is upside down from the way God determines value. It lacks any sense of what Scripture describes as “calling,” or what Christians later termed “vocation”—a perspective that God has called and equipped people to serve Him through their work in the world. Instead, our culture encourages us to climb a work/identity ladder that is ultimately self-serving, and often self-destructive.
Above all else, believers are called to character development, service to others, and loyalty to God. These can be accomplished wherever we live or work, whatever our occupational status or position in society. If we pursue these, we can enjoy great satisfaction and significance. No matter what happens on the job, we can join Paul in saying, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), p. 180
We come up against God’s teaching through the words of Paul. Christian lives and character are to be shaped by “the mind of Christ” which we have. Our lives are to be ones of humble service and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Obedience to the Word of God. Proclamation of the Gospel. Unified, of like mind, in one spirit, in one body, fighting for the Kingdom in word and deed.
How many of you have heard of the movie, or the web site, “I Am Second?” I went to their web site and would like to read you their introductory story.
“Our Story
It all began as an experiment. We wanted to challenge the status-quo in people’s lives in one city, our hometown of Dallas. So in 2008, we launched as a local nonprofit aiming to reach our city with the stories of a different kind of life.
At the time, the steep rise in online video content was just beginning to gain traction. We joined that early movement with a unique message of our own through a series of 20 short films. Each film captured the true and authentic story of an individual whose life had been changed. At the end of every story, the person summarized their new life with one singular statement:
“I Am Second”
We plastered the words everywhere. We put up billboards, aired commercials, and rolled out a website. The real people in these stories came from a mix of backgrounds but their theme rang consistent. Like so many people, they had tried living for themselves, but it left them addicted, alone, purposeless, and lost. Only when they put Jesus first in their lives, did they find peace and freedom.
The rawness of their struggles and the hope they found soon inspired millions. The films spread all across the city and then quickly across the country and even the world. What began as a local experiment quickly became an international movement.
We added to these films many tools and resources designed to help people experience the same kind of life change and hope that is described in the films. We connected people to others who could talk them through these changes and begin to Live Second.
Today we still tell those raw and real stories through more than 140 films on our site. But we’ve also gone beyond the short film format through full-length documentaries, mini series, and even books. These are the stories as told by athletes, musicians, business leaders, addicts, survivors, and your next-door neighbor. These stories are from people like you.
And while our tools and resources have been updated in many different ways, we still provide many ways for individuals, churches, small groups and families to experience hope for themselves. Whether it’s daily challenges, discussion guides, or an online coach that can help you best, we’ve got you covered.
Because of the bravery of the people we film, and all those that partner with us, our content has been viewed more than 150 million times by people in over 230 countries/territories. Everyday we receive personal messages about the kind of impact these stories make in the lives of individuals who are looking for something more. What they find here is hope and we trust you will, too.
This is a Christian site and they understand that Jesus is number one. For all the good they do and have done getting the Gospel out I can’t help but think second is the wrong place for a Christian.
Mark 9:33-35 “And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.””
Matthew 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
Jesus is number one for any true Christian. Others are a close second.


As you think about the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus, listen to this short reading titled “For His Glory.”

For His Glory

How oft have you sought some reward for a task you said was “for the Lord?” How oft have you felt a stinging slight and felt that you were not treated right? How oft have you said “I quit, I am through. Nobody says ‘thanks’ for the things I do.” How oft have you felt the precious thrill that comes from just being in His will? How oft did you count earth’s glory dim compared to the joy of serving Him? What is it your heart has longed for? Does praise of men or His smile mean more?

We are not number 1. Even as unsaved sinners we were never number 1. That is a lie from the depths of Hell and the lips of Satan that cursed God’s Creation. Adam and Eve were told, “You can be…strike that…You should be number one!” We have been paying for that hubris ever since.
The real number one, the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in their love and wisdom planned for Man to regain his proper place in Creation. That plan was the one that Paul described in Philippians 2:5-11 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Our lives and our character are shaped by the fact that as redeemed sinners our God and Savior are number 1. Others are a close second.
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