Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Explanatory Notes: Philippians 2:19-24

After my great delight at finishing Philippians last week, I went through my posts to collect them and discovered that, apparently, I never finished 2:19-3:1. So here is, again, I think, the beginning of the rest of Philippians.
2:19 Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy quickly to you in order that I too might be in good spirits because of knowing the things concerning you.
Timothy appeared in the first verse as one of the senders of the letter, but he has not appeared thereafter until now. Throughout the two intervening chapters Paul has spoken in the first person (e.g., 1:3). Even here, Paul tells about Timothy rather than both speaking as one voice. Paul does not always talk this way. For example, in 1 Thessalonians, "we" is consistently used.

We wonder if Paul includes Timothy in the greeting of the letter because, as we find out here, Timothy will eventually visit them. Or perhaps he served as secretary in the writing of the letter. In any case, as Paul is a representative and ambassador of Christ, Timothy will also go as Paul's representative to Philippi. Timothy will then return to Paul an give him a report of the state of the church there.

2:20-22 For I have no one of the same spirit, who genuinely will be concerned in relation to the things concerning you. For all are seeking the things of themselves, not the things of Jesus Christ, and you know his worth, that as a son serves a father, he served me in relation to the gospel.
While Paul may be a little hyperbolic here (did he not also trust Titus?), certainly 2:20 reflects Paul's trust of Timothy in God's mission to save the world. Not only does Paul trust Timothy as a "son" but he trusts the spiritual welfare of the Philippians with him. The aspect of Timothy's character that Paul most values in this regard is the fact that he is genuinely interested in others--as Paul has been urging the Philippians themselves to act toward each other.

Apparently from the very beginning, even many Christian leaders were self-seeking and using this new born movement as an opportunity for advancement of more than one kind. Paul has possibly mentioned such people already at the beginning of the letter (e.g., 1:16). Paul here assures the Philippians that Timothy is not of this sort. Timothy genuinely has the spiritual advantage of them in view.

Paul describes his relationship with Timothy as being like that of father to son. But he does not necessarily refer here to his affection. Timothy rather "serves" Paul in relation to the gospel as a son might assist a father in his work. Timothy is thus reliable and an extension of Paul's own identity.

2:23-24 Therefore, I hope to send this one as soon as I find out the things concerning me, immediately. And I have come to be persuaded in the Lord that I myself will also come quickly.
Timothy will not be carrying the letter to Philippi. That task, as we will soon see, likely fell to Epaphroditus, who himself had brought aid from the church of Philippi to Paul. Timothy would apparently leave for Philippi as soon as Paul's verdict was handed down, then Paul himself would follow.

These verses, as much as any others in the letter, point more toward Ephesus as the location from which Paul writes rather than Rome. When Paul wrote Romans, he felt as if there was no more room for him to minister in the East (e.g., Rom. 15:23). The popular suggestion that Paul was released after a first trial in Rome is strongly contradicted by Acts 20:25's implication that Paul never returned to Ephesus after going to Rome.

Is it possible that an almost four year ordeal had changed Paul's mind about going west to Spain (cf. Rom. 15:24)? Certainly. It is possible that Paul's ordeal has convinced him to return back east immediately if he is released. It is also possible that he was not released, that his intention to visit the Philippians was never fulfilled.

Yet it fits quite well to think that Paul is in Ephesus, prior to writing Romans, and that his intention is to head north around the Aegean Sea to Philippi and down to Corinth again after he is released. This is the path he takes in Acts 20, although no imprisonment is mentioned in Ephesus. He would indeed visit Philippi almost immediately on release, write 2 Corinthians, then eventually proceed south to Corinth, where he would write Romans. At that time, with Ephesus as scorched earth (remembering that in Acts 20 he goes around the city), and with the church at Corinth perhaps partially unfriendly to him (2 Corinthians 10-13), he senses that he should move west toward Spain.

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