Devotional # 127. 3/9/15. Philippians 2:17-24.
Intro. This week we read how Paul cared for the Christians in Philippi. He wants to come alongside them (using a sacrifice analogy), serving and sending. What do we get out of learning what it means to serve God and having a genuine heart for others?
vv. 17-18. When Paul refers to the “drink offering” he’s talking about a practice where a person would pour a drink (usually wine) next to a burnt offering (Numbers 15:4-5; 28:7) making it acceptable*. Since “a burnt offering was the complete destruction of the animal (except for the hide) in an effort to renew the relationship between Holy God and sinful man”, we symbolism here. When God gave the Law He told the people what the different animals that were offered meant and symbolized (Source 2). So what did Paul mean when he related it to himself? It seems that Paul thought his execution was coming soon, so he was relating the giving of his life for the gospel as a “drink offering” that would benefit the Philippian converts who were giving their lives as “burnt offerings”**. Because Paul isn’t interested in a specific animal being sacrificed it’s safe to say that Paul means that Christians should be a sacrifice to point others to the ultimate burnt Sacrifice – Jesus Christ! Jesus gave His life, being completely consumed, “to renew the relationship between Holy God and sinful man.”
I really like what Matthew Henry says about this: “If the minister loves the people, and is willing to spend and be spent for their welfare, the people have reason to love the minister and to joy and rejoice with him” (Source 4).
*“Drink offering” – This was actually common to “both Jews and pagans in their sacrifices. They often poured out wine (or sometimes perfume) either beside (as in the Jewish practice) or upon (as in the pagan practice) an animal that was sacrificed to God or pagan gods” (Source 1).
** Genesis 22:1-13 is a great section for more on burnt offerings. Matthew Henry states that Paul “could willingly be a sacrifice at their [the Philippians] altars, to serve the faith of God’s elect” (Source 4). Guzik agrees, saying Paul thought his execution was going to be soon” (Source 1). Fausset thinks Paul is saying that the Philippians themselves and/ or their “faith” was a sacrifice and Paul’s blood was to be the “drink offering” poured out to make the sacrifice acceptable, referencing Romans 15:16 & 2 Timothy 4:6) (Source 3).
vv. 19-21. Paul says “but” meaning that although he knows his earthly life may be over soon, he’s still involved and taking action in day to day matters. Since he can’t go to Philippi he is sending Timothy. Paul notes that there aren’t any other available Christians who could go and separate themselves from the work of the ministry. Apparently the people that Paul had at his disposal were more interested in themselves then in the will of God and the gospel of Jesus.
I know what it’s like when you know that someone will be a good representation of Jesus and even yourself, to others. Pastors have to be able to gauge a situation and who the audience is in order to put Jesus in the best light possible. There may be an outgoing, mature elderly Christian man who is great for a retirement home ministry but wouldn’t be the best fit for a battered woman’s home ministry. It’s such a relief when you are a shepherd of people to find a good representative who understands the dynamics of the people who will be receiving that representative! So the questions that I ask you are: have you made yourself available to a shepherd of sheep who desperately needs some representatives? Remember that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). Another question is what kind of servant are you? I’m not asking you to change your personality, I’m just asking that you own the gifts that God has given you. What are the things needed and looked for by pastors who need representatives? In the next section we’ll see what qualities Timothy had that were important for the furtherance of the gospel.
vv. 22-24. Paul says Timothy: had a “proven character” (v. 22), “served with [Paul] in the gospel” (v. 22). This coupled with the fact that Timothy was “like-minded” (v. 20) and would “sincerely care for [their] state” (v. 20) gives us four things to consider. It should be said that there are other things that Jesus works into people in order to serve Him well, but let’s look at these now.
A “proven character” (v. 22): In the Greek “character” is dokime (G#1382) meaning “approved by trial” (Source 5). This is the same word as in Romans 5:4. For context here are verses 3-4: “tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Obviously trials produce character in us that can only come because of difficulties. There’s no easy way or shortcut.
“Served with [Paul] in the gospel” (v. 22): This goes hand in hand with being tested and proven, developing character. Jesus said that we’re supposed to be servants. Not servants to anything or everything but to one particular person: the Lord! So Timothy saw Paul being a servant, learned from him and came along side continuing in that servitude.
Being “like-minded” (v. 20): Literally this means “one souled”. “Timothy was one in thoughts, feelings, and spirit with Paul in love for the church” (Source 6).
“Sincerely care for [their] state” (v. 20): The Christian pastor/ shepherd (having learned from the Great Shepherd) cares greatly for his flock. A verse I have had by my work area for the last 10 years is “be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). It is important for a servant leader to genuinely care how the people are doing. People can tell when a pastor doesn’t really care about them.
Paul finishes this section with the hope that he will be able to visit the brothers and sisters in Philippi soon but if not he’s planned ahead with Timothy going (as we’ve seen) and Epaphroditis (as we’ll see next week).
Conclusion. We are reminded of the needs of the body of Christ. Sometimes we’re guilty of being like the Christians Paul was dealing with who were selfish and wouldn’t “sincerely care for” other Christians. It is a good reminder for us to be poured out as a “drink offering” to help others point towards Jesus’ sacrifice. If we have been facing a slump in our walk or trials in our faith it is very encouraging that others have gone through it before us. Not only that but we’re gaining “character” in order to help others out, and as Paul says this will give us “joy” and cause to “rejoice”!
Source 3: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Phl/Phl_002.cfm?a=1105001
Source 4: Matthew Henry, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Phl/Phl_002.cfm?a=1105001
Source 6: John MacArthur, John MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1824.