I have found it spiritually rewarding to trace the subject of devotion to God through the Philippian Epistle, particularly when considering the four devoted persons in this chapter. We shall commence our study with an appreciation of:
1. The Matchless Example in our Lord Jesus (vs 5-11).
The phrase, “Who being (‘subsisting,’ J.N.D.) in the form of God,” denotes His preexistent deity previous to His birth and His continued deity afterwards. The Greek word translated “form”, means “properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in he individual and retained as long as the individual himself exists” (Gifford). The words, “Thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (v 6), refer not to His personal equality, which remained unaffected, but to His positional equality. If we follow the R.V, this means that He did not consider His positional glory as a rich prize to be grasped or retained when He came to earth from the Father’s presence, for He was still God. “He made Himself of no reputation” (v 7), “emptied Himself” (R.V. margin); but this could not mean that He emptied Himself of His deity or divine attributes, in any measure, since deity is immutable or unchanging (Mal 3:6, Heb 13:7.) On earth He veiled the glory of Deity in His human form, even though at times it did shine forth, as on the Mount of Transfiguration.
“And took upon Him the form of a servant,” (v 7). He did not exchange “the form of God,” for “the form of a servant”, it was an addition. He veiled the glory of His Godhead. The Son of God became, the Servant (bondslave) of God (Isa 42:1). “And was made in the likeness of men” (v 7c) or “taking His place in the likeness of men” (J.N.D). He took what He never had before, holy humanity with all its attributes. He was a real Man.
“And being found in fashion as a man” (8a), that is, He looked like other men and wore the clothes of that day “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (v 8b). In whole-hearted devotion to the Father’s will, our beloved Lord humbled Himself, and became obedient unto the Father’s will to the point of death, even the shameful and accursed death of the cross. He was the One who was typified by the burnt offering, when the whole carcass of the animal was burnt on the brazen altar, and it rose up to God as a sweet savour. This offermg was not for the exhibition of the exceeding hatefulness of sin, but it spoke of Him who in His wholehearted devotion found His unutterable joy in doing the Father’s will.
No wonder God has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name that is above every Name, and that every created intelligence will yet own His authority, bowing the knee and publicly confessing that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. What glorifies the Son, glorifies the Father.
2. Paul, The Devoted Apostle (vs 17-18).
Paul manifested an amazing degree of devotion to the Lord. He considered the sacrifice and service of the Philippian believers coming from their faith to be as a whole burnt offering. Likewise, if it were the will of God and for the good of the Philippian assembly, he would gladly suffer and even pour out his life as a drink-offering. In the Jewish ritual, after the priest had offered the burnt offering, he took a flagon of wine, which was the drink offering, and poured it over the burnt offering. The gathered worshippers saw the burnt offering but not the drink offering after it was poured out. So Paul maximized the practical service of the Philippians and minimized his own. He was willing to serve his day and generation and then to disappear from view. He had the sacrificial mind of Christ!
3. Timothy, The Devoted Shepherd (vs 19-24).
Paul hoped to send Timothy to Philippi shortly, that he might be encouraged to learn of their state. Seemingly, the apostle had expectations, that with Timothy’s presence and help, unity would be restored among them (v 9). It is clear that Paul loved Timothy He considered him to be dependable, and would go where he was sent. Timothy was truly a devoted shepherd, since Paul expected that if he were to send him shortly to Philippi, he would naturally (truly or genuinely) care for the saints there (v 20). He was self-sacrificing, while all others looked after their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ (v 21).
4. Epaphroditus, The Devoted Courier (vs 25-30).
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, the assembly in Philippi sent a gift to him by the hand of Epaphroditus. He remained with Paul in Rome for a time. He was held in high esteem by the apostle who called him “his brother”, “his companion in labour” and “fellow-soldier”, and “the messenger of the assembly in Philippi”, who ministered to his wants (v 25). However, while in Rome Apaphroditus suffered a serious illness and almost died (v 30). Paul had considerable sorrow in his imprisonment, but had Epaphroditus died, he would have had sorrow upon sorrow (v 27).
Epaphroditus was concerned about others. He was sore troubled, not so much because he was sick, but because the Philippian saints had heard of his sickness (v 26). During his stay in Rome, Epaphroditus told Paul about two sisters in the assembly in Philippi who were at variance, and because of this, the peace of the assembly was in jeopardy. Paul wrote the much loved epistle to the Philippians, not only to thank them for their gift, but also to appeal to the saints to maintain the unity of fellowship. This letter was to be taken to Philippi by Epaphroditus.
Although some believers may be sick because of personal sin, (1 Cor 11:30), it was not so with Epaphroditus; he became sick for the work of Christ.
There is no suggestion that Paul told Epaphroditus that there is healing in the atonement, and therefore he could claim physical healing on that ground. Sickness is the judicial result of sin (Rom 5:12) and does not call for atonement. It was of the mercy of God that Epaphroditus recovered from his sickness (v 27). Again, the gift of healing was not at the absolute disposal of Paul then, (see 1 Tim 5:23 and 2 Tim 4:20). A careful reading of Hebrews 2:3-5 will show that signs, wonders and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit were granted by God to authenticate the spoken word. These miraculous evidences are not to be expected now, since the written word is available; the Canon of Scripture is completed.
However, God does heal today, if it is His will. On many occasions, believers have been restored to health in answer to prayer, even when doctors had held out no hope of recovery. Finally, the devotion of Paul, Timothy and Epphroditus, as stated above, was the outcome of their devotion to the Lord. Oh, to be more devoted to Him!