Philippians 2:17-30

Study Date -

Study Type - Adult Lesson

Fellowship - Friday Night Salt and Light

Series - Philippians 2014-15

Book - Philippians

drink offering, Epaphroditus, Paul, Timothy

Philippians 2:17-18
17Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul refers to himself twice in Scripture as a “drink offering.” Here in this letter, he is encouraging the Philippians not to be saddened, or ashamed that Paul might be martyred in striving to bring the Gospel to them and instruct them in it, but rather to be happy for him and rejoice with him, knowing that his reward will be great. As we have seen some weeks ago, Paul was most likely released from the imprisonment under which he wrote his epistle to the Philippians, and probably did indeed return to Philippi some time later as he had hoped.
Some years later, near the end of his life, in the last letter we have from him, Paul encourages Timothy along the same lines…
2 Timothy 4:6-8

6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

In both cases, Paul implies that he expects to sacrifice himself soon in serving the Lord, and those whom the Lord has appointed to Paul’s ministries. Yet, although he faces imminent death, likely to be delivered through some brutal torture, Paul tells us he rejoices in the prospect, and encourages his brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. Of course, Paul had already witnessed the joy with which Stephen had faced his martyrdom, along with countless others no doubt both before and after his conversion. The Philippian believers, too, had most likely witnessed similar examples of the manner in which the true believer, assured of future glory in the presence and of the Lord, faces a dismal and bleak immediate future with confidence in a splendid eternity thereafter without the pain, sorrow, regret, suffering, etc. which plague all mankind in this broken world.
Surely, we too should rejoice for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, tortured, and killed for standing fast in their confession of the Lord. It is not that we rejoice in the brutal acts being carried out – God forbid! Yet we do rejoice to see the God-given strength provided to our Christian siblings in their moments of greatest strain…
Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

…and the mighty testimony to unbelievers given by the joy with which they face such daunting prospects. Surely, the proper response is to join them in rejoicing…
Matthew 5:11-12

11Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Nor should we sorrow or feel guilty if a brother or sister in Christ offers himself up as a sacrifice in our own place, or in ministering to us personally. This certainly isn’t what we would choose. Nevertheless self-sacrifice even sacrificing life itself for others is the finest possible act of service, and is highly honored by God…
John 5:13

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Before we leave this verse, let’s take a closer look at the drink offering. Why did Paul (by the inspiration of the Spirit) choose to liken his coming sacrifice to this specific type of offering? The drink offering is first mentioned in…
Genesis 35:9-15

9Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. 10And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob [heel holder or supplanter] your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel [God prevails] shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel. 11Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. 12The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.” 13Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. 14So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. 15And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel [house of God].

Here we see Jacob offering the drink offering along with anointing the stone he had erected at Bethel as a remembrance of God speaking to him there and renaming him Israel. Remember Saul, too, had received his new name – Paul – when he received back his sight after his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road.
We next see God commanding the drink offering as part of the daily sacrifices at the tent of meeting…
Exodus 29:38-46
38“Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. 39One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40With the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 41And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. 42This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet you to speak with you. 43And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. 44So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. 45I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. 46And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.
The drink offering is instituted here as part of the daily morning and evening burnt offerings at the tabernacle of meeting (and later the temple in Jerusalem). The drink offering is also ordained as part of various other sacrifices commanded in Leviticus 23:13 and Numbers 28 & 29. In none of these instances is the drink offering made by itself. It is always a part of a larger animal sacrifice along with a grain offering, and most often along with an offering of oil. Paul’s years of selfless ministry, and the eventual drink offering of his martyrdom would be pointless without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for lost sinners (including Paul himself, of course).
Joel 2:12-14
12“Now, therefore,” says the LORD,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
13So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
14Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him?
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the LORD your God?
Here we see the drink offering as an example of a blessing given by God to one who sincerely repents and turns back to the Lord. Surely such a one was Paul, who turned from being Saul the zealous persecutor of the church to Paul the great evangelist.

Philippians 2:19-24
19But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. 24But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.

As I considered this passage in preparation for tonight’s study, I was struck by the efforts the ancients had to put forth in order to maintain and solidify their bonds of friendship and commerce. The distance we routinely cover from Jerusalem to Rome in just a few hours took Paul nearly an entire year, and was fraught with danger. The average traveler couldn’t afford to go on horseback, and had to walk the entire way. The short distance from Galilee to Jerusalem for the appointed feasts took the pilgrims many days by foot.
Letters were carried by personal messengers like Epaphroditus, and might take weeks, months, or even years to reach their recipients. Successful delivery was by no means assured, which left the sender wondering perhaps for years whether the message had been received. It is humbling to us who have the means of nearly instant communication with practically anyone in the world resting comfortably at all times within our pockets or purses, or on our nightstands, when we consider the lengths to which our ancient forebears went to stay in touch. Think about the Corinthian church anxiously awaiting answers from Paul to their doctrinal questions or Paul wondering whether the Galatian church had received his warnings about false teachers. Think about how you feel when you are unable to reach a loved one for one reason or another. People had to struggle to stay in touch. Maintaining friendships outside of the local village and its surrounding fields took a great commitment.
Do you have a very close friend (not counting Jesus or your spouse), in whom you confide, and with whom you share an especially blessed bond? Perhaps you were drawn together with this person, as often happens between soldiers, through the sharing of a common trial. Timothy was just such a friend and confidant for Paul. Remember we talked about their first meeting at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, just before the church at Philippi was founded…
Acts 16:1-2
1Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.
Yet, for Paul, Timothy was much more than just a friend and brother in Christ. We may assume that Paul was never married…
1 Corinthians 7:8
But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am;
Paul truly considered Timothy to be his son in the Lord. We see this in the tenderness with which Paul greets his “son,” Timothy in his two pastoral epistles to him…
1 Timothy 1:2
To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:2-6
2To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 6Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Certainly, Paul relied heavily upon Timothy throughout their ministry together. We know from the greeting in Philippians 1:1 that Timothy was present with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment when he wrote this letter to the Philippians. Nevertheless, even before this time, in due season, after Timothy had been well grounded in the faith, Paul had sent him out upon his own ministries. Indeed, as we have seen, Timothy eventually served as the pastor of the church in Ephesus until his own martyrdom in 97AD. Even though Paul obviously relied on Timothy’s personal service and companionship, as all good fathers must, Paul eventually had to release his beloved “son” into his own ministry…
1 Corinthians 4:17
For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
The bond between these two remained very close, until the very end. Certainly it must have deeply grieved Timothy’s heart to read the end of Paul’s second letter. Who would not be moved by these final words we have from Paul?…
2 Timothy 4:9-13 & 21-22
9Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. 14Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! 19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. 21Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren. 22The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
Philippians 2:25-30
25Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; 26since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. 29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; 30because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.
Remember that the occasion of Paul’s writing this letter to the Philippians was partially as a “thank you” note to them for practical gifts they had sent by Epaphroditus to help Paul during his Roman imprisonment (house arrest). Later in this letter, Paul will use this vehicle to give a wonderful exhortation to all believers, but for now, Paul is focusing on Epaphroditus himself. Very little is said or known about Epaphroditus, yet what we read of him here fills us with the desire to seek him out and get to know him when we reach Heaven. This should be a great encouragement to those who serve the Lord in seemingly mundane capacities…
1 Corinthians 12
1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
12For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it;or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

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