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Philippians 2:25-30 | Honorable Service

Sunday, May 24, 2020 • John Cole • Service
In this text of Paul commending Epaphroditus back to the Church of Philippi, we see into the complex and loving inner-workings of a Christ-centered, missional church. We see realities of life, God's mercy, joyful sharing, selfless service, and honored service. The church is a family with give and take. It is a team with a clear mission. It is a shared life in Christ. Church ministry is to be a reputable, honored service.

 

 

 

SUCH SACRIFICE 

 

I can't imagine the range of emotions for a family member of a soldier who gave it all, but some of you possibly can. There "yes" to sacrifice meant opportunity for many of us and loss for those he loved.

 

War brings with it so many complexities that affect emotions, life, memory, and loss. It brings honor and dishonor, freedom and bondage. It is a necessary evil within a sinful world awaiting God's just judgement.

 

The text we are looking at today reveals some similar complexities in life and ministry. It includes joy, sorrow, potential death, sacrifice, and honor.

 

On this Memorial Day weekend, I am grateful the Lord helped us with the timing of today's Scripture. I believe it is fitting for us today for many reasons. 

 

Death is probably more on people's minds than usual due to COVID-19, the world's response and management of it, and it being Memorial Day weekend. We do not joy in death. Death is an enemy, but we do ultimately overcome it through Christ.

 

Today's text is actually joyful and positive, but it does include within it a range of emotions and reflections.

 

Ultimately, it is a simple message. Paul rejoices that he can send his fellow soldier in the ministry back to his home church family, and he instructs the church to receive him with gladness and honor.

 

Nobody wants to be dishonored. One man you have probably heard of went to great expense to spare himself dishonor:

 

  One morning in 1888 Alfred Noble, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary. The obituary was printed as a result of a simple journalistic error. You see, it was Alfred's brother that had died, and the reporter carelessly reported the death of the wrong brother.
  Any man would be disturbed under the circumstances, but to Alfred the shock was overwhelming because he saw himself as the world saw him. The "Dynamite King," the great industrialist who had made an immense fortune from explosives. This, as far as the general public was concerned, was the entire purpose of Alfred's life. None of his true intentions to break down the barriers that separated men and ideas for peace were recognized or given serious consideration. He was simply a merchant of death. And for that alone he would be remembered.
  As he read the obituary with horror, he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. This could be done through the final disposition of his fortune. His last will and testament would be the expression of his life's ideals and ultimately would be why we would remember him. The result was the most valuable of prizes given to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace. It is called today, the "Nobel Peace Prize."

 

In addition to the honor and medal, a hefty monetary award is given to the tune of 350K to over a million dollars. Mr. Nobel made great investment into having a more honorable name for himself and into bestowing honor on others.

 

Today's text helps us consider the importance of various aspects of our own lives as well as the priority of honoring those who serve Christ sacrificially within the church. The church ought to be a people in Christ who encourage each other in honorable service.

 

Ultimately, it is a strong reminder that we are engaged in honorable service in the Lord's work.

 

PHILIPPIANS 2:25-30 

 

 

Philippians 2:25–30  

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. 

For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 

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. 

I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 

Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 

Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

 

Vs. 25-26—The Complexity of Life Relationships

 

Philippians 2:25–26  

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. 

For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.

 

To Paul, Epaphroditus was a brother, companion in labor, fellow soldier, and minister.

 

To the Philippian believers, Epaphroditus was their messenger, church member, and loved one.

 

Notice how Paul stacked the value of Timothy toward him. I expect if the Philippians were writing the letter, it would have been stacked the other way. 

 

This shows real tension that takes place in our lives each day as life is complex in all its relationships, both emotionally and practically. There is a constant tug-a-war between the connections of such relationships as:

°    Christian with God

°    Individual with family and friends

°    Spouse with spouse

°    Parents with children

°    Members with church

°    Citizens with community, law, and country

°    Neighbors with neighbors and HOA

°    Students with schoolmates and teachers

°    Teachers with schoolmates, fellow-teachers, and governing bodies

°    Co-workers with co-workers, bosses, clients, boards, owners, and investors

°    Professionals with clients, authorities, and with other professionals

°    Missionaries with church, community, immigration, support agency, sending church, supporting churches, family and friends

°    Soldiers with soldiers, leaders, officers, enemies, and family back home

 

Here, it looks as though Paul really doesn't want to send Epaphroditus back, but he knew he needed to do so.

 

Life is a constant give and take within the complex relationships it involves.

 

Life relationships can pull us emotionally and logistically in differing directions, so it is vital that we are  anchored in the only unchanging, eternal God as our chief relationship. This prioritization makes other hard decisions for us. (vs. 25-26)

 

Not only is there tension within the complexity of life relationships, but also there is tension with the reality of death.

 

VS. 27—The Mercy of God and The Sorrow of Death

 

Philippians 2:27  

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.

 

It is interesting to connect verse 27 with Philippians 1:23-24. There, Paul would prefer to die, but he believes he needs to live for their sake. In 2:27, Paul  points out the sorrow he was spared by God giving mercy to enable Epaphroditus to recover and live.

 

One application we can consider is that while faith in Christ does help us face death, we still do not face it without sorrow. Because of the complexity of life relationships as we observed previously, death does bring people on earth sorrow, and this is proper.

 

Because of our faith in Christ, we do not sorrow as those without hope of seeing loved ones again, but we do in fact sorrow—from which Paul said he was spared.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13–14  

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

 

But also notice the mercy of God in 2:27. Paul depends on and trusts in God's mercy to help him through life's realities. In this case, God spared the life of Epaphroditus in his illness. However God supplies HIs mercy, we need it.

 

The sorrow of separation and death is a reality, even while we rejoice in the victory found in Christ. We need the mercy of God to help us through the realities of life, and we need to be lovingly patient with others going through sorrows. (vs. 27)

 

Vs. 28—The Joy of Sharing

 

Philippians 2:28  

I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.

 

Therefore, Paul sent him carefully

Due to the reality of the complexities of life relationships and the sorrow of death, Paul believed it necessary to send Epaphroditus home.

 

Not only did Paul send him, but he sent him diligently, instantly, and earnestly. Paul and Epaphroditus both knew they were sorrowing Epaphroditus' likely death, so he wanted to them to be comforted to see he is still alive.

 

That they rejoice and Paul sorrow less

Paul cared for the Philippian believers too. Because of his love for them, he had less sorrow by knowing they were comforted than by keeping Epaphroditus there with him to minister to him in his prison hardship.

 

Paul found joy in seeing them rejoice

Vicarious joy. When we love others enough, we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for their sake and find joy in doing so. This is what God did for us in the Gospel.

 

Love enables joy to be found in personal sacrifice

 

  She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little—but it was all I had.
  Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby's mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.
  Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother's heart stopped, but her little girl lived.
  Love is a costly thing.

 

 

This kind of agape love comes from God, Who is love.

 

John 3:16  

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

Hebrews 12:2  

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

There is joy found in sharing amidst sorrow and loss. Christlike, Spirit-filled love moves us into this joy. (vs. 28)

 

Complexity, reality, sharing, and now honor.

Vs. 29-30—The Honor of Selfless Service

 

Philippians 2:29–30  

Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 

Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

 

Not only was Epaphroditus valuable to the church of Philippi and to Paul, but also, he sacrificially served Christ on their behalf.

 

For the church body to function properly in Christ's purpose for us, it calls on various members to supply differing areas of service. This is a beauty to behold as God unites diverse people into Christ's service with unique gifts and opportunities. (vs. 30)

 

Paul tells them to, therefore, receive him with gladness and in reputation. 

 

Receive him.

°    In the Lord

°    With all gladness

 

Honor him for his sacrifice.

°    For the work of Christ

°    Almost at the cost of death

°    To supply his part that they could not do in their partnership in the ministry.

 

Everyone has a part. Some go above and beyond in their service, and we see here and in other places of Scripture that it is proper to give honor to whom honor is due. Not man-worship, but honor. Value. Worth. Reputation.

 

  To reach the home of Desmond T. Doss near Rising Fawn, Ga., you take the Desmond T. Doss Medal of Honor Highway.  The folks around there are mighty proud of their neighbor up on Lookout Mountain.  As a 20-year-old in 1945, the shy, slim Seventh-day Adventist became one of the most famous and unusual heroes of WWII.  A strict believer in the Sixth Commandment--Thou shalt not kill--he refused to bear arms.  But he was willing to serve as a medic, one of the most dangerous jobs the Army had to offer.  One day on the Pacific island of Okinawa, Private Doss rescued almost a whole company of men who had been cut down by Japanese fire while trying to capture an important hilltop.  Crawling out among bullets and shell bursts, he dragged the wounded one by one to a sheltered spot behind a rock, tied a double-bowline knot around their chests and legs, and lowered them over a 35-foot cliff to safety.  "Dear God," he remembers praying over and over, "let me get just one more."  It took all day, but he got them all.  The Army estimated he had saved 75 lives.
  At Okinawa, his outfit was given orders to assault the Maeda Escarpment.  That was a jagged hilltop, one side of which dropped away in a sheer cliff.  From there, the dug-in Japanese could direct artillery fire for miles in all directions.  His company decided to climb up behind the enemy: they would scale the cliff with ropes and ladders.  We went up and pushed over against the Japanese position, got pinned down and couldn't move," Doss recalled.  Another company was supposed to take the opposite side of the escarpment, but word came that they had been "all shot up," he said.  "We had to take the whole thing by ourselves.  How'd you like to be pinned down, where you couldn't move, and get an order like that.  But Uncle Sam has to sacrifice lives.  This was holding up the works."
  "We had orders to withdraw," Doss said, "But I couldn't leave my men.  In combat you get very closely attached to each other.  When you see your buddy hit, you just can't leave him out there.  It's like a mother with a house on fire.  She doesn't think of herself; she's thinking about that child.  And that's the way I felt about my men."
  Exposing himself to mortars, grenades and machine guns, he crawled out into the open and dragged the wounded back to cover.  The Army at first said he had rescued a hundred.  "I didn't see how it could be more than 50, and I still don't.  So, they settled on 75.  I didn't think I'd get killed.  But I felt it would be worth getting wounded if I could save just one more man.  I kept praying for the Lord to help me, and He did."
  The battle started on April 29.  It was May 5 when Doss performed the principal deeds that resulted in his winning the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for heroism.  President Harry S. Truman himself would place the medal around his neck on the White House lawn in October 1945.
  April 2, 1995, Spokesman Review, by Tom Infield, Knight-Ridder, p. 

 

 

Private Doss did honorable service as a soldier.

 

Like how we hold faithful soldiers in high regard and reputation, we are to hold high regard for fellow Christians who faithfully and sacrificially serve Jesus. We should even cultivate an expectation within ourselves of faithful service.

 

Selfless, Christian servants should be both received and honored in the church. The church should not be a place where people are used and abused; rather it should be a body that works together and values one another's selfless service. (vs. 29)

 

HONORABLE SERVICE

 

In this text of Paul commending Epaphroditus back to the Church of Philippi, we see into the complex and loving inner-workings of a Christ-centered, missional church. We see realities of life, God's mercy, joyful sharing, selfless service, and honored service. 

 

The church is a family with give and take. It is a team with a clear mission. It is a shared life in Christ. Church ministry is to be a reputable, honored service.

 

In conclusion, let's review five applications from our text:


1) Life relationships can pull us emotionally and logistically in differing directions, so it is vital that we are  anchored in the only unchanging, eternal God as our chief relationship. This prioritization makes other hard decisions for us. (vs. 25-26)

 

2) The sorrow of separation and death is a reality, even while we rejoice in the victory found in Christ. We need the mercy of God to help us through the realities of life, and we need to be lovingly patient with others going through sorrows. (vs. 27)

 

3) There is joy found in sharing amidst sorrow and loss. Christlike, Spirit-filled love moves us into this joy. (vs. 28)

 

4) For the church body to function properly in Christ's purpose for us, it calls on various members to supply differing areas of service. This is a beauty to behold as God unites diverse people into Christ's service with unique gifts and opportunities. (vs. 30)

 

5) Selfless, Christian servants should be both received and honored in the church. The church should not be a place where people are used and abused; rather it should be a body that works together and values one another's selfless service. (vs. 29)

 

Through the complex, realities of life, may we find joy in sharing and serving for Christ's sake and in honoring those who do so among us in the church.

 

May it be an honor to serve Christ and one another in the church.

 

This is balanced with the humility taught in the majority of this chapter. Christ humbled Himself to the cross and then is honored in His exaltation.

 

The One who must be supremely honored in the church is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is why ministry in the church is an honorable service.

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