Philippians 2

Christ Our Pattern: Joy is a Result of Humility
Philippians 2
Philippians 2 brings before us the graciousness of the Christian life. This quality is brought out by examples; Christ (vv.5-11) the supreme pattern, then Paul (vv.17-18), Timothy (vv.19-24) and Epaphroditus (vv.25-30). The great secret of collective unity is revealed: having a lowly mind as Christ did on earth. Philippians 2 presents Christ as a humble man on the earth, and Philippians 3 presents Christ in glory as the object for faith. These two aspects of Christ are pictured in the Old Testament typical teaching. The manna was the wilderness food, representing Christ as a humbled man. The old corn of the land of Canaan represents Christ raised and glorified. Read more… Philippians is a wilderness book, and thus we have Christ in glory as the object of our faith, rather than spiritual food. Nevertheless, we have both aspects in this epistle. In Philippians 2 we find that joy, the great theme of the epistle, is the result of having the mind of Christ. Humility results in joy!

Paul’s Desire for Humility, Unity, & the Bond of Love Among Them (2:1-4)

Unity in the Assembly. The assembly in Philippi was going on very well, as Paul had explained in ch.1. They were not divided as the Corinthians were, when one was saying “I of Apollos” and another “I of Paul”, etc. However, Paul detected some dissention among them, and knew that it could lead to the ruin of the assembly there if it was not judged. Again, this was not the same carnal state as was present in Corinth. These dear brethren were laboring for the Lord with all their strength. Philippians 4 shows that the difficulty may have centered around two sisters, Euodias and Syntyche, who were fellow-laborers in the gospel. The dissention was not over petty things, as in Corinth. There was a real disagreement about something, which we are not told. Mr. William Kelly said “in writing to saints in a comparatively good state, even a little speck assumes importance in the mind of the Spirit”.1 If we are not one-minded in the assembly, we have had a failure. We need to be those who can “keep rank” (1 Chron. 12:33, 38).
If then there be any comfort in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and compassions, 2 fulfil my joy, that ye may think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing; vv.1-2 Paul’s Great Desire: Unity. This argument follows from ch.1, v.27. Paul exhorted them that whether he came to them or was absent he might hear of their affairs, etc.; their one-mindedness in the service of the gospel. See how Paul interpreted the Philippians’ gift to him as an expression of their love. The Philippians’ consolation, fellowship, compassion, etc. had been directed toward the Apostle Paul, who had planned to come. The “if” used here is the “if” of argument. The Philippians had shown Paul “comfort in Christ”, they had given him the “consolation of love”, they had shown him “fellowship of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14), they had displayed “bowels [affections] and compassions” to him. Paul says essentially, “If you want me to be completely happy, if you want my joy to overflow, be of one mind among yourselves.” It’s easy to love a laboring servant from afar, as the Philippians did Paul, but it is more difficult to get along with local brethren. The level of unity that is expected is quite astonishing: “that ye may think the same thing”. This means that they were to have the same judgment in spiritual matters. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “Now I exhort you, brethren… that ye be perfectly united in the same mind and in the same opinion” (1 Cor. 1:10). This goes against the liberal notion of every man having his own opinion; i.e. unity with diversity of thought. The unity that is of God is produced by the Holy Spirit. If we have this unity, it will be evidenced by (1) united hearts “having the same love”, (2) united sensitivities and emotions “joined in soul”, and (3) united thoughts “thinking one thing”. How do we have “the same mind”? By “thinking one thing”. And what is the “one thing” we are to think? We are to be occupied with Christ; “this one thing I do” (Phil. 3:13). Note that it is possible to imitate God’s unity though legal oppression. For instance, when you see a company of brethren that are all imitating a prominent leader among them, this is not the unity produced by the Spirit of God. Instead it is an outward uniformity produced by legality, and it is a state that will not last, because the flesh put under legal bondage will eventually rebel.
3 let nothing be in the spirit of strife or vain glory, but, in lowliness of mind, each esteeming the other as more excellent than themselves; 4 regarding not each his own qualities, but each those of others also. vv.3-4 The Enemies and Allies of Unity. Paul then takes up also the enemies of unity, which can easily creep into a gathering of believers. The “spirit of strife” and the spirit of “vainglory” are like the “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song. 2:15). There is so much potential for blessing in a local assembly, but these two attitudes can ruin what would otherwise be happy years. Strife is the attitude of contention with others. Vainglory is the attitude of self-importance. Just about every problem in a local assembly that results in disunity can be traced to one of these two things. The two are connected; “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife” (Prov. 28:25). Paul next speaks of the two allies of unity: humility and respect. Humility is to think little of ones own importance, not seeking a place or position for self. Humility is the inevitable result of grace received in the heart.2 Humility is spoken of as “lowliness of mind”. To have a lowly mind is to have no thoughts of ourselves, and to not insist on our own opinions and rights. On the other hand, we are to have excellent thoughts of our brethren (respect). “Each esteeming the other as more excellent than themselves”. How can we do this? It is something we just convince ourselves of without believing it? No. We are to view our brethren as they stand before God; in all the perfection of Christ. We are to be mindful of our own shortcomings, and we are to overlook the shortcomings of others. The “things” or “qualities” (v.4) that we are to be noticing and appreciating in our brethren are perhaps those things listed in Phil. 4:8, called “these things”. But there is another aspect of esteeming others better than ourselves. In Phil. 1:24, 2:5-8, 2:20, 2:26, and 2:28 we have examples of those who put the interests and happiness of others before their own. That is esteeming others better than ourselves.

The Example of Christ’s Humility (2:5-11)

vv.5-11 The apostle presents a pattern for us to follow. It is the path of humility. It led Jesus to leave a place of glory, to suffer humiliation on earth, and then to be taken up in glory again! The atoning sufferings are not mentioned here because we could not follow the Lord in them. I believe this shows us that unity in the assembly stems from individual humility.
5 For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; v.5 The Mind of Christ. The only way the Philippians could be of one mind was by having the mind of Christ in them. The mind of Christ was humility. All through His pathway we see that quality in perfection. In John 13:3-4 ti says, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself, etc.” This is a beautiful example of His humility. To think that the Lord of glory would stoop down to wash the dirty feet of those fisherman is incredible! Yet it is the same mind that we are to have. Again, when teaching His disciples about humility, the Lord said “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). The entire pathway of the Son is one unending example of humility, from incarnation to the cross. This is the supreme example that Paul sets before us.
6 who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God; v.6 His Humility Before Incarnation. Christ “subsisted in the form of God” in that He is Divine in His essential Being. He is homoousia; of the same essential substance as God. This verse strikes a blow at the denial of Christ’s deity. But Christ, though He was in very nature Divine, did not view His deity as something to tenaciously hold onto. The expression “an object of rapine” refers to something to be tenaciously clung to, as if in fear that someone might take it away. This shows that, even before the incarnation, Christ had a lowly mind. And when He became a man, although the Son never gave up His deity, He didn’t insist on His rights as God. If Christ were anything less than equal with God, it would have been an object of rapine.
7 but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form, taking his place in the likeness of men; v.7 His Humility in Incarnation. Next we have specifically what took place in the incarnation. To be “emptied” is the opposite of being full of one’s self. Some would erroneously teach that Christ divested Himself of His deity in the incarnation. Col. 2:9 will quickly prove that to be a false interpretation. When it says He “emptied Himself” it refers to the veiling of His Godhead glory when He took on flesh.3 He veiled or laid aside His personal, intrinsic glory such that it could not be seen by the human eye, for man cannot approach unto the unveiled glory of God (1 Tim. 6:16). However, by watching Him and contemplating Him, that glory could be observed by those who had faith, as they saw Him walking in the conscious enjoyment of His relationship with the Father (John 1:14). In John 17:5 we find that, upon His glorification as a man, the Father glorified the Son with that same glory again, which He had with the Father before the world was. Christ took “a bondman’s form”, and a bondman is a slave. Christ did not choose to be born into wealth and luxury. He took the lowest occupation: that of a servant. In a past eternity, the Son was not a servant. He never had to obey. But as a man on this earth, “though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Christ took “his place in the likeness of men”. This refers to the humiliation of God (for so He was) becoming man. We cannot fully understand the unfathomable stoop that Christ made in becoming a man. It would be great enough if He had become an angel, but He passed angels, going lower still to the level of humanity (Heb. 2:9). To think of the humiliation of needing to eat, sleep, bathe, and other bodily functions. Think of the humiliation of just taking a physical body. Think of the humiliation of taking a human soul and spirit; of the glorious Son of God, taking on human emotions. “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Heb. 2:6). What grace! All through His earthly pathway, Christ never used His deity to escape the circumstances of His humanity. For instance, He would never turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, although He had the power and right to do so. Amazing humility!
How far? Christ “took part” of humanity (Heb. 2:14), but doesn’t say how for that goes. It says that Christ “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7), but again it doesn’t say how far that goes. We can see from other scriptures that Jesus was fully man (1 Tim. 2:5) and fully God (Col. 2:9). He did not ever empty Himself of deity, and He became a full man; spirit, soul and body. To answer the question; “how far?” we could say “all the way… yet He never ceased to be what He was”. The inscrutable union of the divine and human natures of Christ involved addition only, not subtraction. Read more…
8 and having been found in figure as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross. v.8 His Humility in Obedience to Death. He was found “in figure as a man”; that is, in a place of dependence. This is similar to Rom. 8:3; “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”. He was incapable of sin, but he came in the likeness of sinful men; i.e. He became fully man. Being “found” a man, He humbled Himself further. As God He emptied Himself (v.6), as man He humbled Himself (v.8). It is not natural to the men of this world to humble themselves. Christ was different; and we are to be different as well. It was not false humility. Christ never resented the place He took. He never answered the insults hurled against Him, unless it was vital to the glory of God. In John 8:48, the Jews accused Him of being a Samaritan, and of having a demon. Jesus passed over the first insult because it was personal only. He could not pass over the second insult, because it touched the glory of His Person. Because He never sinned, Christ was not subject to death as a man. Death was something He accepted as a matter of obedience. Christ laid down His life of His own free will, having power to do so (John 10:18). The “death of the cross” here cannot refer to the atoning sufferings, because the apostle is laying out the Lord’s path for us to follow. We cannot follow Him in the atoning sufferings. The “death of the cross” refers the particularly shameful and painful death involved with crucifixion. Read more… The point is that Christ’s obedience was extreme. It would stop at nothing. Christ was the Perfect Servant. There is a remarkable contrast between the first man and the second man. Adam was disobedient unto death, Christ was obedient unto death. The first man disobeyed and it cost him his life, the Second would rather die than disobey! 
9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal beings, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father’s glory. vv.9-11 His Exaltation. These verses are intended for our encouragement. Glory is at the end of a path of humiliation! Christ humbled Himself, and God exalted Him. The same is true for us (1 Pet. 5:6; Luke 14:11). “Wherefore” shows us that the humiliation is the cause of His exaltation. God has “granted Him a name, that which is above every name”. Through Christ took the lowest place, and made Himself of no reputation, God has given Him the highest place. When Christ is manifested to this world in power and glory, the great men of the earth will be completely surprised (Isa. 52:14-15). “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). All will bow “at the name of Jesus” which is Christ’s name in manhood. God will see to it that what was denied while Jesus walked here below is owned by all, willingly or unwillingly. Every knee will bow, and then it enlarges on it; (1) individuals in heaven, (2) individuals on earth, and (3) individuals awaiting eternal judgment. Compare “infernal beings” with “creatures under the earth” in Rev. 5:13. There the creatures “under the earth” refer, to animals who live under the ground; all creation will praise Him. Here in Philippians 2 it is the thought of all created intelligence owning the authority of Jesus as Lord. Every knee will bow, but not all voluntarily. The lost will bow their knees but remain unrepentant. An example is the band that took the Lord in the garden; they fell backward to the ground, but their hearts were unchanged. Also, the nashing of teeth will not go on in the Lord’s presence. When Jesus was in the Praetorium, the soldiers “bowed the knee before him” and with their tongues thet “mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:29). The knees that were bowed in mockery then will soon be made to bow in sincerity before Christ. The tongues that mocked His royalty will be forced to confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. There will be order in the court. The bowed knees and confessing tongues will be “to the glory of God the Father”, because God the Father will be vindicated in the vindication of His Son.
Granted Him a Name. God gave His Son the name of “Jesus” after He was exalted to the Father’s right hand? I thought He was given the name of Jesus at His birth? The idea of a “name” is more than just identity; it it also reputation. You could say, “Abraham Lincoln made a name for himself”. Notice that Jehovah says to Joseph, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus”, but we never hear the Father’s voice refer to Christ in His pathway as anything by “my beloved Son”. At the end of the path, the Lord was hung on a cross of ignominy, shame, and reproach, and a title was written over His head, “this is Jesus”, ‘Jesus the rejected man’. But God was not content with that reputation for His Son, and so upon the glorification of Christ, God give Him that name, the same “name of Jesus”; not now ‘Jesus the rejected man’ but ‘Jesus the glorified man’.

What the Philippians were to do in Paul’s Absence (2:12-16)

12 So that, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much rather in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, v.12 Our Work: Practical Salvation. Paul had been instrumental in the past in the care of the assembly in Philippi. The exhortation is to follow Paul’s instruction now in a time of his absence “much rather”. “You have always obeyed” is a nice commendation. We can sometimes lean on a gifted leader a great deal, and then be dysfunctional when they are gone. The Lord will sometimes, when the time is right, remove these props for the benefit and spiritual growth of the assembly. The Philippians were to “work out” their own salvation or preservation. This is not talking about working to obtain eternal salvation for the individual. Salvation is not always in the eternal sense, as in salvation from the penalty of our sins. Frequently it is viewed as a practical thing; an ongoing process. Read more… Many difficulties faced the Philippians. There was persecution, Judaizing teachers, and the seed of dissension among them. It is possible that the leading issue in the apostle’s mind was the issue of unity, considering the context (vv.1-11). If the Philippians did not work out their own salvation, the assembly would end in division. Disunity in the assembly will not automatically heal itself, we have to do something; although there is a danger of trying to fight the flesh with the flesh. We are to “work out” our salvation “with fear and trembling”. It isn’t the fear of failure, or the fear of Satan’s power, but rather the fear that we might displease and dishonor God. The fear of God should both motivate us to work out our salvation, and govern how we do it. See 2 Cor. 7:9 as an example of working out salvation, particularly in a collective sense.
13 for it is God who works in you both the willing and the working according to his good pleasure. v.13 God’s Work. We are responsible to “work out” our salvation (man’s responsibility), but God is also working in us (God’s sovereignty). How does God work in us? By the indwelling Spirit. Ultimately God gets the credit for our salvation, even though we are involved in it. “Both the willing and the working according to his good pleasure” are God’s work. God gives us the desire to do His will, and then He gives us the strength to follow through.
14 Do all things without murmurings and reasonings, 15 that ye may be harmless and simple, irreproachable children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation; among whom ye appear as lights in the world, vv.14-15 Our Unspoken Testimony. Paul next addresses how the attitude of the saints affects their outward testimony. We are to do “all things without murmurings and reasonings”. Murmuring is a type of complaining that expresses discontent by muttering under the breath. Reasoning is getting into arguments about issues. This might seem like an extremely basic exhortation, but the results of doing all things without complaining or arguing are tremendous. The world is accustomed to doing nothing without complaining or arguing. Having a good attitude in all that we do will set us apart from the world around us. Having a right attitude will lead us to be “harmless and simple”. This means that we will be kind to all, and uncorrupted but the evil around us. The result of this is that we will be the “irreproachable children of God”. How we behave reflects on God, whose children we are. We are living in “a crooked and perverted generation”, which means that our testimony will be a sharp contrast to the character of those around us, much like a candle burning in the darkness; “among whom ye appear as lights in the world”. Our light will be dimmed if we have an un-Christlike attitude. An example of this is seen in Genesis 13, when the herdsmen of Abram and Lot were fighting. It says, “and the Canaanite and the Perizzite were then in the land”. The world was watching.
16 holding forth the word of life, so as to be a boast for me in Christ’s day, that I have not run in vain nor laboured in vain. v.16 Our Spoken Testimony. If v.15 was the believer’s life as a testimony to the world, then v.16 is the believer’s words as a testimony; i.e. preaching. It is beautifully put; “holding forth the word of life”. We are living in a world full of spiritually dead people, who feed on morally dead things, and are heading towards eternal death. But we come to them “holding forth” (like an instrument of Divine power) “the word of life“! Paul concludes by saying that if the Philippians continued to the end with an impeccable testimony, both spoken and unspoken, it would be a tremendous honor for him in the day of manifestation; “in the day of Christ”. Their faithfulness would give tangible value to Paul’s lifelong work; “that I have not run in vain nor laboured in vain”.

Secondary Examples of Humility, Love and Devotion (2:17-30)

Secondary Examples. The supreme example of humility, love, and devotion is Christ Himself (vv.1-8). Yet the Spirit of God saw fit to give us secondary examples as well in this same chapter of Philippians 2. This is helpful because, naturally we might think it was impossible to have the mind of Christ in us, considering that He was the Son of God and we are mere mortals. But Paul had already shown in v.13 that God is the one who gives us the desire and the strength to walk as Christ did. Now we have three examples of men who did follow Christ’s example. The three are Paul the apostle, Timothy his son in the faith, and Epaphroditus who was a brother from Philippi.

The Example of Paul (vv.17-18)

17 But if also I am poured out as a libation on the sacrifice and ministration of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice in common with you all. v.17 Paul’s Probable Martyrdom. Paul speaks of himself as a libation or a drink-offering; emphasizing the willingness with which he would offer himself (2 Tim. 4:6). It refers to the complete sacrifice of himself; to be poured out. A drink offering in the Old Testament was like a condiment (like oil or wine, Ex. 29:40) poured out over a larger sacrifice (like a calf or a bullock). The larger sacrifice Paul calls “the sacrifice and ministration of your faith”. Paul here views the work of the Philippians as the main sacrifice, and he viewed himself as merely the lesser drink-offering poured out on top of the larger sacrifice.4 What humility Paul displays here, esteeming others better than himself! Paul would “rejoice” if God saw fit that his life was given in the service of the gospel, and this would be “in common” with the saints in Philippi. It is amazing that Paul would write from prison, facing the probable outcome of martyrdom, yet encouraging them to rejoice. It means a lot more than it would coming from someone in good circumstances.
18 In like manner do “ye” also rejoice, and rejoice with me. v.19 The Philippians’ Joy. Paul knew that the feelings which he had toward the Philippians were mutual, and the joy they had was shared. It would seem that while Paul esteemed them more than himself, that likewise the Philippians esteemed Paul more than themselves! This is a beautiful display of humility on all sides. Humility on all sides leads to rejoicing on all sides.

The Example of Timothy (vv.19-24)

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus to you shortly, that “I” also may be refreshed, knowing how ye get on. v.19 The Purpose of Timothy’s visit. The second example is that of Timothy, or Timotheus (Greek). Paul hoped to send this younger man to Philippi to know how the saints were doing, and then to return or write to Paul, so that the apostle’s spirit would be encouraged. Paul wanted to do this “shortly”; not wanting to wait a long time before touching in with them. This demonstrates the true character of a shepherd!
20 For I have no one like-minded who will care with genuine feeling how ye get on. 21 For all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ. vv.20-21 The Character of Timothy. Timothy was suited to the errand Paul would send him on. His character was similar to that of Paul; i.e. “like-minded”, having the mind of Christ, along with Paul. Timothy would “care with genuine feeling” about the state of the Philippians. Timothy had a shepherd’s heart (see Neh. 2:10; Prov. 27:13). Timothy would go to Philippi not just because Paul told him to go, but because he naturally cared for them. This was in contrast to everyone else; “For all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ”. In a world where selfishness reigns, and where the Church has become thoroughly infused with worldly feelings, it is extremely rare to find true shepherds; those who seek not their own profit, but the interests of Jesus Christ.
22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child a father, he has served with me in the work of the glad tidings. v.22 The Proof of Timothy. The “proof” of Timothy’s character was that he had served with Paul in the gospel for many years “as a child of a father”. Having worked with Paul, Timothy had learned the mind of Christ. Like the son who works alongside his father (e.g. a carpenter), Timothy had learned by example and by training the character of Paul, who was a spiritual father to him. How wonderful a commendation! Paul’s character was such that, if a young man worked alongside him, it would be a proof to others of a humble and Christlike spirit.
23 Him therefore I hope to send immediately, as soon as I shall see how it goes with me: 24 but I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall soon come; vv.23-24 Plans for the Future. Even though Timothy was a great comfort to Paul being with him in Rome, yet Paul’s love and devotion to the Philippians was such that he would deprive himself of Timothy’s company for their profit and blessing! What a demonstration of “the mind that was in Christ Jesus”. Paul would send Timothy once he knew the outcome of his trial before Caesar; “as soon as I shall see how it goes with me”. The Philippians would want to know how it went, and Paul would send Timothy as soon as he had news. But Paul also had confidence that he would be given sufficient liberty to travel to Philippi (v.24), even if it were under Roman supervision.

The Example of Epaphroditus (vv.25-30)

25 but I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-workman and fellow-soldier, but your messenger and minister to my need, 26 since he had a longing desire after you all, and was distressed because ye had heard that he was sick; 27 for he was also sick close to death, but God had mercy on him, and not indeed on him alone, but also on me, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that seeing him ye might again rejoice, and that “I” might be the less sorrowful.  vv.25-28 Sending of Epaphroditus. Paul would not wait until his trial had concluded before sending this letter, along with another messenger, to Philippi. The messenger was a brother from the assembly in Philippi, whom the saints had sent to Rome with a gift from the saints for Paul who was in great need. Paul speaks of this Epaphroditus as “my brother” in the family of God, and “fellow-workman” in the service of Christ, and “fellow-soldier” in Christian warfare. This was a remarkable commendation of Epaphroditus, and another demonstration of humility on Paul’s part. This one whom Paul esteemed was the “messenger and minister” of the saints in Philippi. Paul was teaching the Philippians about true greatness. This is in line with what Jesus taught, that “whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant; and whosoever will be first among you, let him be your bondman [slave] (Matt. 20:26-27). Paul wanted to send him home to Philippi because Epaphroditus was “distressed” because the saints had heard that he was sick! (Sickness was often a result of traveling in those days, when travel was generally restricted, and people’s immune systems were unable to handle sudden exposure to foreign places.) Here is another example of humility, love, and devotion. Epaphroditus was “sick close to death” (v.27), and what he was worried about was not himself, but the saints in Philippi! If all the saints in Philippi had that same attitude as Epaphroditus, there would be no danger of disunity. God was merciful, not only to Epaphroditus, but also to Paul, in that Epaphroditus recovered from his sickness. If God does not grant mercy in times of sickness, then He will grant the grace to endure the suffering or loss. But here it was mercy, and Epaphroditus recovered. We know that Paul had power to heal people (Acts 19:12), but miracles were never used except as a sign to unbelievers. As believers we do not look for miracles, but we do look for mercy. Paul was spared “sorrow upon sorrow”. Surely, it is right to feel sorrow when we lose loved ones. But we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). When Epaphroditus returned, there would be fresh cause for the Philippians to rejoice (v.28). Paul would be “less sorrowful”, because he would still have some sorrow at being deprived of Epaphroditus, but it would be lessened by the Philippians’ gain of him. 
29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honour; 30 because for the sake of the work he drew near even to death, venturing his life that he might fill up what lacked in your ministration toward me. vv.29-30 Receiving of Epaphroditus. It would appear that Epaphroditus was one that was nothing special in a worldly sense. He was possibly a simple man, though a faithful brother. We do not read of any great gift in preaching or teaching. Just such a one that we might tend to discount. Paul exhorted the saints to “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honour”. In reality, it was the devotion of Epaphroditus to the gospel, and laboring on behalf of the saints in Philippi, that caused him to get sick and almost die. He risked his life to represent them in the service of Christ! However, it is good to note that “your lack” is not a rebuke to the Philippians. The Philippians were doing a tremendous amount of work, but there was just too much work to be done! Not all the saints could travel; only one could go.
  1. Kelly, William. The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians.
  2. There is no humility so deep and real as that which the knowledge of grace produces. – A. Miller
  3. “… It was the joy and triumph of divine grace that He who was God, equally with the Father, when about to become a man, did not carry down the glory and power of the Godhead to confound man before Him, but rather emptied Himself.” – Kelly, William. The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians.
  4. He looks upon all their faith as an offering to the Saviour and to God; looking at them, Christ’s people, as the substance of the offering, the great thing, himself only as a libation — his life poured out upon the offering. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of Books of the Bible.