Philippians 2:19-30 – The Bride and Her Ministers


Text: Philippians 2:19-30
Title: The Bride and Her Ministers
Date: January 8th, 2023
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington

19 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. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. 22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. 23 Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. 25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.


Father we thank you for the example of the Apostle Paul, of Timothy, of Epaphroditus, and the Philippians, and we ask now that You would teach us to imitate them in the ways that we ought, for ask in this in Jesus name, Amen.


When our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, Scripture says that he gave gifts to men. The chief gift was the gift of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out at Pentecost, but together with that Gift, was another gift that might surprise us: Man was given the gift of church government, or what we might call church officers.

  • Ephesians 4 says “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men…He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
  • God gave the church ministers. Christ gave his bride handmaidens to prepare her for her wedding day.
    • Paul speaks this way in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
    • Christ gives us church government, pastors and teachers, to protect the purity and chastity of the bride. To protect his betrothed from the serpent-like deception that corrupts people’s minds.
      • There are many corrupting and demonic spirits of our age, our culture is rank with idolatry, and one of the functions of our worship service (and why we have so much Scripture embedded in it), is because the church is called in 1 Timothy 3:15, “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
      • The teaching ministry of Christ Covenant exists to publish the truth and to refute error. As elders, the ministry of the Word and prayer is our primary duty and responsibility before God.
      • But in addition to teaching, there are other duties that are required of shepherds.
  • And in our sermon text today, we are given a beautiful portrait of what the relationship between a church and its leadership should look like, or as I have entitled this sermon, what are the duties and responsibilities between The Bride and Her Ministers. So that’s the focus of this portion of Philippians.

Historical Context

  • Now in case we have forgotten the historical context, the year is 62 AD, Paul is in prison in Rome, the Emperor is Nero, and Epaphroditus has just traveled 800 miles to bring a gift from Philippi to Paul.
  • So Epaphroditus makes this long and difficult journey (probably took him over a month), and we are told in our passage that as a result of this journey, he gets sick and almost dies. However, God has mercy on him and Epaphroditus recovers.
  • Now we learn in verses 19-30, some important information about Paul’s travel plans and the order of events surrounding this letter.
    • 1. Paul writes Philippians and sends it by the hand of Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus makes that long, life threatening journey again to deliver Paul’s thank you letter to them (vs 28). He’s carrying Holy Scripture and risks his life to get it where it needs to go. There’s a whole sermon right there!
    • 2. Paul intends to send Timothy to check on the Philippians, as soon as he knows the status of his court case. He says in verse 24, “I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.” So Paul is hopeful that he will be released from custody and set free. And if that happens, he plans to visit them himself, but either way, he is going to send Timothy to them.
    • Summary: So the order of events if you are the Philippians is
      • 1) You sent a gift to Paul in Rome.
      • 2) You hear that Epaphroditus makes it but is sick and might die. You are left in suspense.
      • 3) Some time later, Epaphroditus shows up with Paul’s letter,
      • 4) A little later, Timothy arrives to care for you,
      • 5) (Hopefully) Paul arrives himself.
    • So that’s the historical context here, and the way I want to walk through these verses is by answering two questions.
    • 1. What do faithful ministers do?
    • 2. What do faithful churches do?
      • And we will use Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians as our examples.

What do faithful ministers do?

#1. Faithful ministers seek to know the state of the flock.

  • Paul says in verse 19, 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.
    • Proverbs 27:23 says, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, And look well to thy herds.”
  • Paul is a true shepherd, and in imitation of Christ the Chief Shepherd, he cares for the sheep.
    • And this means he wants to know how they are doing. Are they healthy? Are they sick? What problems are they facing? What is their diet? Are they reading Scripture? Are they praying? What questions do they have? Are they holding fast to the truth, or are they wandering into error?
    • A faithful minister inquires to know the state of the flock.
  • In Paul’s situation, he has planted churches all over the Mediterranean, and it would be physically impossible for him to visit every family in the church. And so just as Moses had to delegate responsibility, following his father-in-law Jethro’s advice, so also there is delegation in the church to help care for the sheep.
    • One of the ways we do this at Christ Covenant is by assigning an elder to every member household. And one of the things we are working on right now is the process for how we can regularly check in on everyone as the church grows.
    • In Exodus 18, we see that rulers were set up over thousands, over hundreds, over fifties, and over tens (Ex. 18:21). And so ideally, we would like to have at least one elder for every 10 households in our church. We believe that is good ratio to aim for.
      • Right now there are four elders, and 21 member households. So it is not too difficult to keep track of everyone. But as the church grows, we will need to find ways of maintaining a high level of pastoral care that doesn’t allow sheep to get lost.
      • Some people prefer really large churches because there is often no accountability there. So as much we want the church to grow, we want it to grow at pace where everyone can still be cared for, and this is a perennial challenge for both the church and its ministers.
  • Now in verses 20-22, Paul tells us the kind of man that he trusts to minister to the church. Here’s how he describes Timothy: 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. 22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
  • So the second thing that faithful ministers do is…

#2 Faithful ministers seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s.

  • Back in chapter 1, Paul criticized those preachers who were preaching out of selfish ambition, strife, and vainglory. And here he says that Timothy is nothing like those other preachers.
  • Yes we can rejoice that Christ is preached by them (regardless of their sinful motives), but they are not to be trusted as pastors to care for the flock.
  • Timothy on the other hand is likeminded. Timothy has the mind of Christ. Timothy has been a faithful son to the father. And these qualities of humility, love, and seeking the things of Christ, are what make Timothy a a trusted companion in the work.
    • This is the pattern that elders and deacons and the whole church should aspire to. We should all desire to be likeminded with Christ. To be trustworthy so that if Paul needed to send someone on an errand, he would trust us to do it.
  • Do we come to church to seek our own? Or do we come to seek what belongs to Jesus?
    • Is our first thought, “what can I get out of this?” Or is it, “What can I give to this body? Where does God want me to serve?”
  • Sinful men naturally seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. And so it takes supernatural grace for us to care about someone beyond ourselves, and yet it is possible for this grace to become so habitual in us that Paul can say about Timothy, “he will naturally care for your state.”
    • For the Christian who walks with God, the supernatural eventually becomes natural to us. Our nature is transformed as we follow Jesus. Things that once seemed impossible and difficult, can by God grace, become easy by the habit of grace, even caring for other people.
  • And so faithful ministers are those who seek what belongs to Jesus. Meaning, we care about what Jesus cares about. We do what Jesus does. We prioritize what Jesus prioritizes, such that His mind is in us. So this is what Timothy is like, and….

Paul says in verses 23-24, 23 Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.

  • So Timothy is qualified and he is coming, he will care for you, and Paul himself will come if he is able.
  • In verses 25-30, we get a description of the kind of man Epaphroditus was, and so the third thing we could say faithful minsters are, is that…

#3 Faithful ministers are like Epaphroditus.

  • There are many eminent qualities in Epaphroditus, I will just list a bunch of them and then elaborate on a few of them. In verse 25, Paul calls him:
    • 1. My brother
    • 2. My companion in labor
    • 3. My fellowsoldier
    • 4. Your messenger
    • 5. A minister to Paul
    • 6. We see in verse 26, He longed for the Philippians (he loved them)
    • 7. Vs 27. He was beloved by Paul (his death would have brought immense sorrow to Paul)
    • 8. Vs. 30. He did not regard his life for the work of Christ.
  • These are all admirable and eminent qualities in a Christian, and I want to just highlight 4 of them. First of all Paul calls Epaphroditus…
    • 1. My brother
      • In the Christian life, but especially in the ministry, every man needs someone he can call “my brother.” Paul was no exception.
        • Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “If one prevail against a man, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
        • Psalm 133 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
      • Men, do you have brothers to lean on? Are there godly men you can go to for counsel, advice, prayer, and encouragement when things get hard.
      • In this isolated age, faithful brotherhood is hard to find, and there are many cheap substitutes in the world: gangs, political tribes, secret societies, hunting clubs, sports clubs, car clubs, video game communities, etc. Man is a social creature that craves brotherhood. And while there is a place for some of these, there is no substitute for Christian brotherhood with likeminded men.
      • Psalm 133 says that when godly men gather together and dwell in unity it is good and pleasant, “It is like the precious oil upon the head, That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: That went down to the skirts of his garments.” Meaning…
      • Christian brotherhood is glorious, good, and pleasant.
      • Christian Brotherhood should give us courage to do things we could not do on our own. To say like Jonathan to his armorbearer, “Come, and let us go unto the garrison of these uncircumcised Philistines: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).
      • The promise of the covenant is that “one man could put a thousand to flight, and two men ten thousand to flight.” When the church is united, when brothers link arms in faith, God makes our enemies to flee.
      • We all need to be and to have brothers like Epaphroditus.
        • We need it especially in ministry, but we need it in the rest of our lives as well.
        • In Moscow, we were blessed to have countless men who feared God, worked really hard, started businesses, loved their wives, raised godly children, and so if you needed anything (counsel, advice, a job, a doctor, a mechanic, a lawyer, a mentor, or just someone to help you move), you could easily find a long list of names in the church directory.
          • That doesn’t mean everyone always gets along, but when men and women exercise dominion together for the glory of Christ, it blesses everyone.It raises the quality of life for the whole community.
        • So if we want to see Christianity transform Lewis County, we need brotherhood and friendship, we need one another.
    • 2. My companion in labor.
      • This is a coworker who can be trusted to get the job done.
      • It is hard to find good help. It is hard to find reliable men. But this is what Christians should be known for.
      • If we want Christians in place of power and authority and government, where are they gonna come from? Are we spurring one another on to virtue and excellence?
    • 3. My fellowsoldier.
      • This reminds us that to be a Christian is to be engaged in spiritual warfare. Baptism is our entrance into the heavenly army of God. And ordination for elders heightens that responsibility.
      • Epaphroditus was a fellowsolder in the Great Commission and seeking Christ’s kingdom on earth..
    • 4. A messenger for the Philippians. (ἀπόστολον)
      • To make this journey would have required Epaphroditus to be physically fit, street smart, courageous, and unafraid to take risks. Even to risk his life and health to deliver this message.
      • This is a unique gift and calling that not everyone has. Not everyone should go be a missionary in the jungle, in fact most people should not.
      • But there are some people who God has granted special gifts in their physical constitution, their personality, their tendencies, their station in life, where being a messenger (or missionary) like this, is what God created them for.
      • And so the application for us is to ask: How did God make me?What is my role and function as a member of Christ’s body, and am I healthy? Am I doing my part?
      • For the vast majority of us, you calling will look very “ordinary.”
        • For example, if you are a woman, Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:15, you will be “saved in childbearing.” Meaning, as you embrace your role as a wife and mother and suffer the difficulties that come with running a household, rearing children, that will be part of how God sanctifies and saves you. And Paul adds, “if you continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
          • So for most women, serving the Lord will look like embracing motherhood if and when God gives you a husband and children.
          • And in whatever state you are in (single, divorced, widowed, whatever), living with faith, charity, and holiness with sobriety.
          • If Christian women did this, that “ordinary” work would be an extraordinary witness. Because the world is desperately confused here.
        • For the men, God made us very different than women.
          • Jesus chose twelve male disciples to follow him around, going from town to town preaching. That’s not the life for a woman.
          • Paul sends a man (Epaphroditus) on this arduous journey alone, and not a woman.
          • Whereas women are oriented more towards the home, and are in a very literal sense home for human beings (they are mankind’s first home), Men are oriented outward towards the world, to conquer, to expend ourselves, to sweat and use our superior strength to build things.
          • And so are we working hard? Working hard first to provide a stable home for our wife and children, and posterity, but also to be a blessing to others? Are our efforts aimed at changing things in this county to look more like Christ’s kingdom? To make Centralia/Chehalis a more desirable place for our grandchildren to live in?
          • Are we fighting and working for that? For most of us, that is the ministry Christ has called you to.

What do faithful churches do?

  • As a corporate body, how should the Philippians respond to the ministry of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus? 2 things:
  • 1. Paul says in verse 29, “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation.”
    • Faithful churches receive and hold in high regard faithful ministers.
    • When we visit you, be honest. Tell us what’s really going on. If you lie to the doctor, how can he give you the right medicine?
    • Receive the elders and deacons as they minister to you.
  • 2. Faithful churches pray for the health and protection of their ministers.
    • We see in verse 27 that the Philippians had heard that Epaphroditus was sick and might die, the prayer request had gone out to the church, and they were in suspense as to whether he was alive or not.
    • And so you can imagine their concern, first that the gift reaches Paul, and second that their messenger doesn’t die because of it. This would be devastating for Paul, to see this sacrifice made on his behalf resulting in the death of his beloved brother.
    • And so in this life of risk, and danger, and sickness, and spiritual warfare, the church must pray fervently for its ministers.
    • I thank you for your prayers that have sustained our family as we moved here. Your prayers for one another as we have endured much sickness over the last couple months, especially the elders and their children.
    • Prayer is the language of love between brothers and sisters, and we want to be a church that is constant and fervent in it. Because, God answers prayer.
      • James 5:16 says, “The prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” And if we would seek to be a faithful church, with faithful ministers, we must be a church that prays fervently for one another.
      • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.