But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.
– Philippians 2:22
Beginning in Philippians 2:19, Paul shares about his plans to send some of his ministry partners to Philippi. This is a common feature in Paul’s letters. Paul often updated his readers on whether he or someone else would be visiting them. What is uncommon about this particular travel report is its size and its location in the letter. Paul’s travel reports are usually short (e.g., 2 Corinthians 13:10; Philemon 22). Also, they typically occur near the end of his letters (e.g., Romans 15:22-29). This particular update is unique because of its length, encompassing a full 12 verses, and because of its location at the very center of the letter to the Philippians.
This has puzzled many scholars and has led some to suggest that this particular letter to the Philippians is actually a combination of multiple letters with this travel report marking the end of the first letter. This is not a necessary conclusion because this travel report serves as more than just a future travel itinerary. Falling on the heels of the command to imitate Christ in Philippians 2:1-11, this travel report also highlights individuals who have demonstrated how to have the “same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
This is especially clear in the first half of Paul’s travel report which we will read today. In this passage, Paul writes that he hopes to send Timothy to visit the church in Philippi. In his description of Timothy, Paul points out that Timothy doesn’t look out for his “own interests” but shows “genuine concern” for others (Philippians 2:20-21). Timothy therefore embodies the instruction in Philippians 2:3-4: “In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Paul also points out that Timothy has “served” with Paul in the work of the gospel (Philippians 2:22). In this way, Timothy has followed in the footsteps of Jesus who became a “servant” in his own work of the gospel (Philippians 2:7).
What we learn from this travel report is so much more than the historical facts about the travels of Paul’s ministry partners. It reveals to us that living with a mindset like Jesus is possible, and is perhaps the best way we can encourage and build faith in those around us. This is incredibly relevant for us. The last thing our world needs is more Christians who promote the gospel with their words and undermine it with their actions. What this world craves and pays attention to are authentic people who live by what they say.
TIMOTHY AND EPAPHRODITUS
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.