Finding Fruit in Philippians
an SK Bible Study
Week 4: Working Together as the Body of Christ
Philippians 2:12-30 (NIV)
(12) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
(14) Do everything without complaining or arguing, (15) so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (16) as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (17) But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (18) So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
(19) I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. (20) I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (22) But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. (23) I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
(25) But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. (26) For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. (27) Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. (28) Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. (29) Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, (30) because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.
As I was reading this passage, my mind quickly divided it into three parts: the first being Paul encouraging and challenging his individual partners (vs. 12-18), the second part is Paul sending out his partner to observe and participate in specific ministries (vs. 19-24), and the third part is Paul sending back the helper that the church had sent to him.
Paul is reminding and discipling his partners in these first few verses. He is encouraging each person, each individual, to take it upon him/herself to “do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure…” so that as “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life”. Paul’s words apply to us just as much today as they did for the Philippian church to whom he wrote this letter because of the fact that our generation also is “crooked and depraved”. How many times do we see people arguing for “what they deserve”? How many times a day do we see people complaining about everything under the sun? How many times have you complained today? This week? Life without Christ is always going to be feeling like it is missing something – no satisfaction, no peace. People try to make up for that “something” by complaining, arguing, trying to get ahead, and/or looking out for #1. Paul is reminding us that we should be “shining like stars” – brilliant reminders of God’s peace and tranquility to life.
The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness, even as the light-house warns mariners to avoid rocks, and directs their course into the harbour. Let us try thus to shine. (commentary)
In verses 19-24, Paul is sending Timothy to the church at Philippi – an opportunity for Timothy to participate in the ministry of the local church as well as send updates to Paul. Reading this comes at a timely fashion in my life (but that shouldn’t be a surprise since the Lord always gives us the ‘daily bread’ we need!). In a sense, I feel at the same place as where Paul was in these verses. He was sending out his ministry partner to represent the two of them and to further the ministry of the gospel in other areas. In the next two months, Max will be traveling to two different countries, both to represent the two of us as a ministry team as well as to further the ministry of the gospel. I realize that Paul probably felt many of the emotions that I am sensing with the need to “send out” Max. However, I look forward to being “cheered when I receive news about…” (vs.19) the ministries that he will be observing and participating in.
The last group of verses, 25-30, also reminded me of a personal missionary experience. Last year, we had two short-term missionaries stay with us to home school our children while Max and I attended language school and worked through the many steps of transition and official paperwork. Reading these verses reminded me of the blessing that we received in having these two young women sent to us. The local church that “sent [them] to take care of [our] needs” (vs. 25b) supported them in many ways, including financially.
Near the end of their time here, I know they were longing to be with their families and church, just as Epaphroditus was in verse 26 (“He longs for all of you.”) They offered tremendous assistance to us during our time of need; yet, we were also glad to send them back so when their families and church saw them again, they would be glad and I would have less anxiety (vs. 28). Even though they were not our daughters, there was still a deep sense of responsibility to be sure they were healthy and well taken care of, just as Paul eluded in this text concerning Epaphroditus. We are so grateful, both to that local church as well as to both women, for the sacrifice they gave to help us in our time of need.
The body of Christ working together for His glory – what a beautiful thing that is! If we each do our part, His light will shine that much brighter in this dark world.
(When answering, please be sure to first put the number of the question in your comment.)
- Complaining. How can we help to eliminate it – both in our lives and in the lives we are hoping to touch with the love of Christ?
- Describe how Paul was sensing peace in this passage.
- This statement from the commentary really struck me:
The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness.
My tendency at times, when others become perverse or prideful, is to brush them aside and ignore them; however, I am beginning to realize that this is where true humility (loving them just the same) actually begins. What is your thought on that?
Remember to pray for the things that are listed on our Prayer page.
‘See ya’ next week!