Following on from the "grumble" post, I was looking at the next section of Paul's letter to the Philippians (ch2v19-30) as part of my job (what a great job to have!) and thought there were a few things worth noting from Paul's commendation of Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Most of Paul's greeting and commendations about individuals come at the end of letters yet here in Philippians we have a detailed description of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Why?
They are living examples to the Philippians of what Paul has been teaching and exhorting the believers in Philippi to be doing. He is sending them to Philippi with commendation.
Timothy has served with distinction "as a son with a father" in the work of the gospel. He has the interests of Jesus Christ at the centre rather than his own. In those ways Timothy is the embodiment of things Paul has been exhorting. Timothy is servant-hearted not self-promoting or self-centred. Just as Paul has declared that as Jesus was an humble servant, he is showing the Philippians a close to home example of how this is lived out. The believers there know Timothy.
Epaphroditus is one of them. He came from Philippi to minister to Paul's need. He too is a very close-to-home example. Someone who the Philippians know and who they can watch and witness with their own idea. He has been a brother to Paul, a "fellow worker and fellow soldier." Epaphroditus "nearly died for the work of Christ." This guy demonstrates what it is to live a life worthy of the gospel, he is willing to suffer for the sake of Christ and even die if that be God's will.
Paul's priority has been clear all the way through the letter from the start. The gospel is to be preached, and if it is being preached faithfully he will rejoice. His attitude is also clear, he looks to the interest of the gospel first, which means setting aside his own preferences for those of others for the sake of furthering the work of Christ.
If the Philippians were thinking, "this is ok for you Paul, you're an Apostle and showing us Jesus, well He was the Messiah," Paul has given them two people they can very very easily relate to.
Finally, Paul calls for the Philippians to "honour such men" as Epaphroditus. We too today I think should honour, respect and look to godly, gospel-centred, Christ-exalting people. I'm not saying we should put them on a pedestal but we all need examples to follow, and where there are godly people who are imitators of Christ we can follow their lead. Thank God for the works of grace in their lives and pray that He will keep them strong in that grace.