Timothy and Epaphroditus
Philippians 2:19-30
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly to you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.…


1. His mission "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state." He looked forward to sending Timothy to them in the not-distant future. This hope he entertained in the Lord Jesus. It was not the hypocrite's hope, which is like the spider's web. It had to do with his being spared; but that, not based on worldly scheming to secure an acquittal at his approaching trial, but based on the need for doing more work for the Lord at Philippi. It was a hope that was made to rise within his heart by an impulse from the Lord. It was to the Lord that he looked for the realization of the hope. It was particularly the hope of performing a friendly office to the Philippians. In order that friendship may be turned to good account as a force in the advancement of the cause of Christ, it is necessary that there should be an honest endeavor to keep up intercourse. Where long distance intervened, flint was a more difficult matter than it is now. We have readier means of communication with the mission field. There can be more frequent transmission of letters, an easier going and coming of missionaries. In that respect we are better placed for friendship, and for using it as a force in the extension of Christianity. The apostle had to contend with difficult means of communication, and he found it possible to keep up friendly intercourse with distant Churches. He was presently incapacitated himself, but he had it in view to send Timothy as his special messenger to Philippi. This was with the friendly object of knowing their state. Timothy would be able to supplement the information concerning Paul's state taken by Epaphroditus, and in that way would cause them to be of good comfort. But he also expected to be of good comfort (he the sender, as well as they the receivers) when Timothy returned with news front Philippi. He does not seem to have heard to any purpose (although there had been some communication) since the coming of Epaphroditus, and he did not expect to hear until Timothy brought him back word. He was always pained, when he was long in hearing from any of the Churches. It would put him out of pain, it would cause him to be of good comfort, to have good news from Philippi. In our day it might have been sufficient to have sent a letter. We are not accustomed to such long painful intervals, although we have had experience of them too, as when Livingstone was lost in the center of Africa. In view of the Philippian Church being lost to Paul for a period at the least extending over a year, he hoped to scud Timothy to find them, as Stanley was sent to find Livingstone. It is much easier sending a letter; but more interest attaches to such special personal sending, and there is more satisfaction in the end. It was a richer manifestation of friendliness on the part of Paul, that he had it in his heart to despatch his delegate. Would not his prayers and good wishes go forth with him? Would he not then, as he hoped, rejoicing in freedom, see him on board ship at Osta or Puteoli? Would he not send kind messages with him? Would he not remember him during his journey, and calculate the time of his arrival at Philippi, so as to be present in spirit with him and with them? And would not the coming of Timothy be an event of the utmost consequence to the Philippian Church? It would be looked forward to with the greatest interest. After the painful suspense on their side, his arrival would be hailed with manifestations of joy. Their thoughts would at once go back to him from whom he came? How was it with the veteran soldier of the cross? If liberation was the word that fell from Timothy's lips, what a thrill of joy would pass through the hearts of all! And then, as Timothy delivered himself of the messages with which he was laden to each, how would they drink in comfort, and think they had ample compensation for their fight of afflictions! And then, as Timothy stood up and preached to them the old gospel, with a savour caught from long association with Paul in imprisonment, how earnestly would they listen! how greedily appropriate its comfort! and how determinedly they would resolve to win the crown of faithfulness! And then, when the time came for Timothy to depart, how sorrowful they would feel! how they would scud their congratulations to Paul, and their hope for his speedy coming among them! how this one and that one would wish it to be reported to Paul that they were determined to hold by Christ even to death! how some of them would go down to Neapolis and accompany him to the ship with tears! And then, when the delegate was met by the apostle again at Ostia or Puteoli, or wherever he had meantime gone to labor, what comfort there would be in hearing all that Timothy had to report to him!

2. His fitness relative to Paul. " For I have no man like-minded, who will care truly for your state. For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." Travelling from Rome to Philippi would be attended with not a little inconvenience and risk. With the work associated with the journey, it would probably mean, to the person who undertook it, an absence of months. It is to be remembered that even emperors then did not charter their own vessels or have command of their own movements. Advantage had to be taken of coasting vessels engaged in commerce, and with delays at ports and with winds net always favorable, travelling by sea was generally slow. We read of a journey which Paul made from Philippi to the coast of Palestine in the seven weeks that intervened between the Passover and Pentecost. A journey from either of the harbours of Rome to Philippi would not be so formidable an undertaking; but Scylla and Charybdis had to be passed, the point of Italy rounded, the Ionian Sea crossed, the Grecian archipelago passed through, and the Aegean Sea encountered as far as Neapolis. There would probably be waiting at some Grecian port for a vessel for Philippi. There was always the danger of a storm by sea, and there was, especially to the messenger of the cross, the danger of persecution wherever he prosecuted his labors. The apostle was ill placed for fit men to undertake such a journey. There was such a general disposition, even among those who professed to work for Christ, to place their personal comfort and convenience before the claims of Christ on their' service. Of those available there were none (with only one exception) who could stand the test of such a journey. There is a side light thrown here on one of the trials of Paul in his imprisonment. As all, when it came to the crisis, forsook Christ and fled, so Paul was so isolated as to be at a loss to find a delegate of the right stamp for this mission to Philippi. "All," he has to say, "seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ." In no haste, in all sobriety, does he bring this heavy indictment against them. They were all so afflicted with selfishness that they could not, at the call of Christ, brave a journey from Rome to Philippi. And before we cast a stone at them, let us ask if we could have stood the test ourselves. Do we habitually place the claims of Christ before personal comfort and convenience? May the same charge of selfishness not be brought home to very many still? If there was, even among those who profess to be Christ's, a willingness to set aside comfort and convenience for Christ, would there not be a hundredfold more of men and of money for Christian work? The one exception, the one unselfish man of those who might have gone to Philippi, was Timothy. He is commended as like-minded, or like-souled, with the apostle. And this is to be explained by the fact of his spiritual parentage. The language used in various places is "son," "my own son," "my beloved son," "my dearly beloved son." It is common to see the features of the father repeated in the son. This is true, not only of the bodily features, but extends even to the mental and spiritual configuration. Timothy had been moulded by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois in the Jewish religion, and no doubt they had left their mark on him. But in his conversion to Christianity He had so completely come under the formative influence of the apostle that there was a kind of natural assimilation to him in what he cared for. With his father's instincts, is Chrysostom's explanation of the word "truly" that is used here. Because Paul cared for the state of the Philippians, Timothy his son could not help caring for their state.

3. His fitness relative to the PhiIippians. "But ye know the proof of him, that as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel." Timothy had been with Paul at Philippi, as is borne out by the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, and his qualities had been there put to the proof. Their experience of him was this, that - as a child serveth a father, so he had served with Paul in furtherance of the gospel. It is an excellent arrangement, by which the younger is made to serve under the elder. It is beautiful to see a son free from opinionativeness and self-will, and spending his time and employing his powers as the father, in his larger experience and superior wisdom, directs. Soldiers who have plenty of strength and courage, when they go into battle are placed under the best military skill that is obtainable, and thus in the result it is as though each had the skill of his commander. It will be a source of strength for ns, the men of this generation, to be guided by what has been proved to be good by the men of former generations, especially by those principles of religion which have stood the test of the ages, and have had the approval of the wisest and best of our race. Timothy must have been a very young man when working at Philippi, and very unaccustomed to the work. Some years after the date of this Epistle, Paul wrote to him in these words: "Let no man despise thy youth." In his inexperience in the work of furthering the gospel he had grace given him to take the course marked out for him by Paul; and thus he was preserved from many a fall, and was able to work to the best advantage. In this he was an example to a junior pastor serving with a senior. Blessed are those who, filled with a sense of their own imperfections, value the assistance of the wise in the direction of their energies.

4. Time of his mission. "Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me." He hoped shortly to send Timothy to them; he hoped, therefore, shortly to see how it would go with him. As soon as he saw the result of the trial, which he was confident would be his liberation, forthwith, without any loss of time, would he send forth Timothy, that the Philippian and other Churches might rejoice.

5. The mission of Timothy was not to supersede a visit from himself. "But I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly." In the same spirit and sphere of confidence, he gives them to understand that, while thus writing of the mission of Timothy, he does not forget his promise to pay them a visit himself, on his liberation. It might not be an immediate or a prolonged visit; but he held himself bound (God willing) to include Philippi in his plan of visitation.


1. The Christian.

(1) In relation to Paul.

(a) Common sympathy. "But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother." Paul was not without natural attachments. we do not read of his being married; but we read of his sister and his sister's son. And he seems to have interested himself in the highest form in his relations; for we read of several of his kinsmen sending their Christian salutations to the Church at Rome. But especially did he form noble attachments in connection with his work. If he had no brother after the flesh, there were many toward whom He exercised brotherliness. Epaphroditus, we may conclude, was a Philippian, of a different race, of a different nation. Thrown into contact with the apostle, and converted to Christianity probably through his instrumentality, they were closely drawn together on the ground of sympathy on the great subject of salvation. Their acquaintance had been renewed at Rome, and now, in parting with him, Paul affectionately names him to the Philippians as his brother. And it is only on the ground of a common Christian sympathy that the idea of the Christian brotherhood can be wrought out. This sympathy must be real, active, else it will prove to be inefficient. It is only when it is no mere matter of courtly phrases, but when, in genuineness, we feel drawn to one another in Christ, that we shall be able successfully, unmistakably, to get over difference of race, difference of class, difference of pursuit, difference of ecclesiastical connection. Let, then, the brotherly feeling be in us, with its roots deeply struck into Christ.

(b) Common work. "And fellow-worker." Christians are organized into a society, not merely on the ground of common sympathy, but for common work. Our impression of the apostolic Churches is that all the members were workers, male and female. If they did not all preach the gospel or serve tables, they worked in trying to induce friends and acquaintances to go with them to hear the gospel. And it was because there was so much movement, interest manifesting itself in all kinds of work, in those early Churches, that they prospered so wonderfully. Paul knew how to take advantage of men who were fitted for special work. He called such a man as Epaphroditus to his side, and, with Epaphyoditus at his side and working with him, he felt stronger and gladder. Union makes us stronger; we each count more than one when we all work side by side. Union makes us gladder. "What makes the harvest-field so cheerful a scene? Because each is cheered by the other's alacrity, word, and song."

(c) Common warfare. "And fellow-soldier." We have to conquer men's hearts for Christ. We have to conquer the world's evils - sensuality, intemperance, mammon-worship, carelessness, infidelity. We must fight, for there is a subtle and powerfully aggressive influence from the world; and if we do not conquer the world, the world will conquer us. It becomes, then, all who are true soldiers of the cross to stand side by side, that they may act to more purpose against the common foe. Paul felt more raised above his personal temptations, and a braver soldier against the heathenism of his day, when he had such soldiers as Epaphroditus and Archippus at his side. We should come up to the idea of the Theban sacred band. Thebans, making common cause with Thrasybulus and his Athenian co-patriots, set out together, resolved to dethrone the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, or die in the attempt. "That is what God means his Church to be: a band, not of friends merely, but of brothers, united heart to heart and hand to hand, and going forth resolved never to yield up the warfare till they are called to he down in death or see victory crowning their efforts."

(2) In relation to the Philippians. "And your messenger and minister to my need." Epaphroditus seems to have been a Philippian office-bearer; we may think of him as a Philippian minister, with a gift of preaching as well as of administration. As Timothy was intended to be special messenger from Rome to Philippi, so Epaphroditus had come as special messenger from Philippi to Rome. He was undoubtedly, personally, in sympathy with the special object of his mission - ministering to Paul's need. As the love of Christ, as it takes possession, opens the heart to the need of all mankind, so it must have opened the heart of Epaphroditus to the need of his spiritual father, of the founder of the Philippian Church, of the truest and bravest of Christ's servants. For his sake he was willing to leave beloved friends in Christ behind, and to brave all the dangers of the deep. And it would be with peculiar tenderness that he would hand over to the chained apostle the contribution of the Philippian Church.

2. Reason for his return in his own stale of mind. "Since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick." This was the necessity of the case. The Philippians had heard of his sickness; apparently they had not heard of his recovery. This, somehow coming to the knowledge of Epaphroditus, threw him into a state of sore trouble, or dividedness. He knew how he stood in their affection, and that they would be anxious about him. How could he remain longer away from them? He must go and relieve their anxiety. And so he took a longing for them - what is known as home-sickness.

3. Information regarding his sickness and recovery. "For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on trim only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow." The report of his having been sick was correct, and his sickness had been of a very serious nature - he had been sick nigh unto death. But God had recovered him, and, in recovering him, bad mercifully considered, not one but two. The Philippians are not included, because they were not on the spot. Paul writes as one who was with Epaphroditus through his sickness, or was kept regularly informed of his condition. And therefore we are to think of the locality of the sickness as Rome, and not on board ship on his way to Rome. God mercifully considered Epaphroditus, who was more immediately concerned; to whom he gave more life, even as he gave to King Hezekiah. He who has the ordering of all lives in his hands suffered him not to be stricken down away from his home. He set this mark of his favor on his servant, that he brought him back from the gates of death, so that he could say with one in like circumstances, "The sorrows of death compassed me. I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." But God also mercifully considered Paul. It would have been a severe blow to have had one of his companions stricken down. It would have been the sorrow of a peculiar bereavement upon the sorrow of imprisonment. But as God considered the children of Israel when they sighed by reason of the bondage, so he considered his bond-servant Paul, and ordained that it should not be that Epaphroditus should die, were it only for Paul's sake. No additional burden must be laid on him, already burdened enough. And so, not to inertia but to alleviate his sorrow at that sick-bed in Rome, he who made the seven stars and Orion mercifully turned the shadow of death into the morning.

4. Reason for his return in Paul's state of mind. "I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." The Philippians, He felt, were to be considered. He entirely entered into the feelings of Epaphroditus regarding them. Personally, he would very gladly have kept him with him at Rome for a time, until perhaps the time of the liberation, when he would have returned to Philippi with the news. But, however useful and comforting he found him, he must deny himself for the sake of the Philippians. He must give them the pleasure of seeing their pastor again after all their anxiety about him. And, while giving them pleasure, he would really be alleviating his own sorrow. With more haste, therefore, than he would in other circumstances have shown, he sent him to them.

5. He bespeaks for Epaphroditus a good reception. "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy; and hold such in honor: because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me." There is no reflection on the Philippians in the concluding words. They had done their utmost in service in giving Paul what he characterizes as an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, welt-pleasing to God. What was lacking in their service was what they could not supply in the distance, viz. personal service to Paul. They supplied it representatively in Epaphroditus. It was the very height of their interest in Paul that they could deny themselves the service of their pastor for a considerable time, in order that, besides supplying him with money for his personal use and for carrying on the work, they might have the luxury in him of personally waiting upon him in his imprisonment. Epaphroditus was the substitute of each Philippian, who would gladly have taken his turn in waiting upon the apostle. And it was in seeking to render in the fullest measure what was thus lacking in their service, that he brought on an illness which proved well-nigh fatal. He is called a soldier, and he had the spirit of the true soldier in heroic devotion. A soldier must not consult his ease, he must not linger beside wife and children, he must not count his life dear unto himself. He must, at the call of his commander, be willing to undertake difficult and even perilous service, to form one of a storming party who have to march "in the cannon's mouth." Verily he must endure hardness. And so the good soldier, Epapbroditus, for the work of Christ, in the battle carried on by Paul at Rome, in undertaking difficult service against the enemy there, came nigh unto death, hazarding his life. They were to receive him then in the Lord, with all joy, in fellowship with the Lord and in gratitude to the Lord who had mercifully dealt with them in giving him back to them as from the dead. And they were to hold him in honor, the ground of their honoring him being, not that he was in office among them, but that in working for Christ in their name he had risked his life. They were to heap honor upon him as upon a soldier who had distinguished himself in battle. And Epaphroditus was only to be taken as a specimen of a class. Hold such, says Paul, in honor. Whom are we to honor? It is not those who have lived to indulge themselves. It is rather those "who have walked in a rugged path, and clung to good and great ends in persecution and pain; who amid the solicitations of ambition, ease, and private friendship, and the menaces of tyranny and malice, have listened to the voice of conscience and found recompense for blighted hopes and protracted suffering in conscious uprightness and the favor of God." Hold in honor the Christian brother, like Archer Butler, who nobly lost his life in volunteering to visit the infected houses during a visitation of cholera in Dublin; and the Christian sister who, resigning the comforts of her home, devotes her life to caring for the bodies and souls of patients in a hospital. Ilold in honor the Christian missionary who, leaving his people and civilization, gocs forth to a distant land and submits to isolation and a trying climate and peculiar difficulties of work, that he may bring the ignorant to the knowledge of the Savior. And hold in honor all who can be unselfish in the place which Providence has assigned to them, and do not grudge the sacrifice of their time and comforts in giving, in praying, in working, in order that Christ may be magnified. - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.

WEB: But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered up when I know how you are doing.

The Value of a True Comforter
Top of Page
Top of Page