Gospel-Driven Ministers: Timothy (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 2:19–24   |   Sunday, July 21, 2013   |   Code: 2013-07-21-MR



Well we return this morning to our study in Philippians chapter 2. And we find ourselves this morning in the middle of a study on the power of a godly example. It was the Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks who said that, “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.” In other words, you can lay out principles and inform men and women of their duty, and you can use all the finest tools of rhetoric, and oratory, and persuasion as you do it, but all of that will only take you so far. Something about the way that we’re wired causes us to benefit so much more when we move from, “Tell me what,” to “Show me how.”


That’s why biblical discipleship is so important in the life of the church. As each of us seeks to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ—and as each of us seeks to pass on to the next generation the pattern of sound words that we have received in the sacred tradition of Holy Scripture—we do that in the context of relationships. The biblical model for discipleship is life-on-life—a relationship in which those who are younger in the faith can, as Hebrews 13:7 says, observe the outcome of the way of life of those who are more mature, and, as a result, can imitate their faith.


Speaking about this, Pastor John writes, “Perhaps the single most important aspect of spiritual leadership is having a godly life to emulate. Personal example illustrates biblical principles in action, showing how they should be lived out.” (MacArthur 190). You see, we know the principles laid out in Scripture well enough. But we need to see how those principles translate into action in the theater of a real, tangible, godly example lived out right in front of us.


And the Apostle Paul, who, of course, knows the power of a godly example—who knows the benefit of an exemplary life to pattern oneself after—provides just that in Philippians 2, verses 17 to 30. Ever since chapter 1 verse 27, Paul has been instructing the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. He has been exhorting them to bring every aspect of their lives into harmony with the implications of the Gospel by which they have been saved. And in doing that he has been piling up precept upon precept, principle upon principle, duty upon duty. He has called them to true, biblical unity in the opening verses of chapter 2. And because unity in the church cannot be achieved without humility, he calls them in verse 3 to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”


Then, he provides us with the Supreme Example of humility, perfectly embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ, who left the glories of heaven to live and die as a man in order to pay for the sins of His people. And in verse 5, he commands the Philippians to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”—to imitate the humble, selfless, sacrificial service exemplified in the Gospel of Christ. Then, on the basis of that humility-driven Gospel, Paul calls them in verse 12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work within you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” This pursuit of personal holiness will work itself out particularly as the Philippians “do all things without grumbling or disputing”—as they banish complaining from their lives. Because the holy standard of life that God’s people are called to simply cannot be met when they are bickering and disputing with one another.


Instead, Paul calls them to be “blameless”—to live in a manner that those around them observing their behavior would never be able to advance any legitimate criticism when comparing their lives to the commands of Scripture. He also calls them to be “innocent”—a word that literally means “unmixed,” and was used to describe undiluted wine and unalloyed metal. Not only are they to be blameless in their outward behavior; they are also to be of unmixed character—internally pure. And then, as a combination of those, Paul calls them to be “above reproach,” which translates word that was used to speak of the unblemished Old Testament sacrifices.


And it’s in the face of that standard that we can begin to feel burdened and frustrated. “Be unified. Be humble. Regard others as more important than yourselves. Have the same attitude as Christ. Work out your salvation. Do all things without complaining. Be blameless in your external behavior, pure and unmixed in your internal character, and above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” It just seems impossible. We hear that standard, and we survey our own lives, and we wonder how we could ever live up to that. In fact, because we know our own weakness, we begin to lose hope and become discouraged. We start to think that this kind of standard of holy living was only available to the Apostles, or to the disciples who walked with Jesus, or to the members of the early church, or maybe just pastors and missionaries, or maybe people who grew up in Christian homes. And we just go right on down the list. Everybody except us. And before you know it we’re losing the battle with sin.


Series Proposition


But Paul understands the power of example. He understands that announcing precepts and principles and duties can only go so far in helping the people of God live a life of holiness. And so after telling the Philippians what to do, Paul shows them how to do it. To show the people of God that this kind of life is possible—and not only possible, but necessary for all who name the name of Christ—in verses 17 to 30 he turns to give three real-life, flesh-and-blood examples of this Gospel-driven lifethree Gospel-driven ministers, who show us what it looks like for human beings—with a nature like ours—to put into practice these principles and precepts he has been calling them to throughout this chapter. In these verses we observe what it looks like to lay our lives down in the joyful service of Christ and His people in a manner that is worthy of the great Gospel by which we have been saved.


We have the example of Paul, the Apostle himself, in verses 17 and 18. We have the example of Timothy, in verses 19 to 24. And we have Epaphroditus, in verses 25 to 30. An Apostle, a young pastor-in-training, and a dedicated layman—examples that run the gamut of the different roles in the Christian life, so that none of us is left without an example that we can relate with.


In our last time together we considered the Apostle Paul’s example in verses 17 and 18. In that text Paul compared the entirety of his life of ministry—all of his apostolic running and toiling and laboring for the progress and joy of the faith of the Gentiles—he compares all of that to the labors of an Old Testament priest endeavoring to offer a holy sacrifice to God. And as he faces his potential martyrdom, he says that if indeed this sacrificial ministry will end in his death, he won’t be discouraged. He’ll rejoice; because his death in the service of Christ and for the sake of the Philippians’ progress in holiness will be to him the drink offering—the fitting climax—that completes the sacrificial offering of his ministry. If his death will serve to make his offering of the Philippians acceptable to God, he’s not sorrowful! He rejoices! Because he knows that his life could not be better spent than in the cause of the holiness of the people of God. And so we were instructed to follow his example—not in the sense of going out and seeking a martyr’s death, but by dying to ourselves daily—each day, joyfully laying down our lives upon the altar of service to the people of God—knowing that the greatest sacrifice for Christ brings the greatest fellowship with Christ.


But this week we will focus our attention upon the second Gospel-driven minister in this gallery of examples: Timothy. As Paul makes his travel plans known to the Philippians beginning in verse 19, we see so much more than historical records of ancient itineraries. We are guided and instructed in our own service of Christ by observing the example of one of his choicest servants (Hansen, 192). Let’s read verses 19 to 24: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. 23Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; 24and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.”


Historical Context (vv. 19, 23–24)


Now what’s plain even as we read those verses is that this profile of Timothy in which Paul holds him up as an example to the Philippians comes in the historical context of Paul’s travel plans. Paul, of course, would love to come to the Philippians immediately and see his beloved friends face-to-face. But because he is on house arrest in Rome, waiting to stand trial before Nero and to learn whether he will live or die, he can’t go himself. And in place of immediately returning to Philippi in person, he has decided to write this letter that we call the Book of Philippians, which he’ll send back to them with Epaphroditus. We learn that in verses 25 to 30; Paul speaks of having sent Epaphroditus to them in the past tense, because it would be past tense from the perspective of the Philippians by the time they would be reading this letter.


But then, after sending Epaphroditus, he tells the Philippians that he will also send Timothy to them. He says, in verse 19, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly.” Now, the word “hope” doesn’t carry the same connotations in English as it does in Greek. In English, saying, “I hope to send him shortly,” communicates a degree of uncertainty: “I hope to send him, but it might not work out.” That’s not the case in Greek. I like to think of it this way: In Greek, “hope” is “faith” in the future tense. It speaks of a settled confidence, a definite trust and even expectation. In fact, Paul says that very thing in a parallel phrase in verse 24: He says, “and I trust in the Lord that I myself will be coming shortly.” This is the same word that he uses in chapter 1 verse 25 to speak of the same reality: There, it’s translated, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all….”


But as confident as Paul is in his plans, his thinking is so dominated by the Lordship of Jesus Christ that he submits even his travel plans to the will of the Lord. He says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy.” And again in verse 24, “…and I trust in the Lord that I’ll be coming shortly.” I love this. This is not Paul just thoughtlessly tacking on a packaged phrase, like ‘Lord willing,’ out of habit or for the sake superstition. This is just further evidence, in the smallest of ways, of how deeply the Gospel and the reality of Jesus Christ have permeated Paul’s life. At every moment the man was conscious of the fact that Jesus is Lord—that in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17), and that He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). And he won’t be so presumptuous as to even make travel plans without submitting them to the omnipotent Lordship of Christ. And we can learn from that. Our relationship with the Lord should be so healthy, our prayer life so constant, that we consciously acknowledge His meticulous providence in all our daily dealings.


And so, as the Lord is gracious, Paul will send Timothy to the Philippians. And our text tells us that he has two reasons for sending him. The first we see in the second half of verse 19: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.” So, Paul plans to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi to the deliver the letter to them, and then, after a while he will send Timothy as well. Then, apparently, expects to meet up with Timothy again, at which time Timothy will give a report about the condition of the church since receiving his letter from Epaphroditus. And Paul is so confident that Timothy will bring a positive report that Paul says he knows he will be encouraged.


That is genius shepherding right there. By sending Timothy a bit after Epaphroditus, and by letting them know that Timothy will report to him about their condition, Paul makes them accountable to the instruction that he has given in this letter. He’s allowing for some time to pass in between Epaphroditus’ and Timothy’s coming so that there can be a legitimate opportunity for them to make application of his commands and exhortations in the Book of Philippians. They now know that they need to put into practice his exhortations to unity and to humility; Euodia and Syntyche know that Timothy will be checking on them and will be giving report to Paul. They now know that they need to apply his instructions about remaining steadfast amidst the persecution of outsiders and against the threat of false teaching, and that they must serve one another sacrificially and with joy.


And they know that they will either encourage Paul by their obedience or discourage him by their disobedience. And that would be all the motivation they needed to ‘straighten up and fly right,’ because the very last thing they wanted to do was to give their dear pastor any reason to be discouraged as remained confined in a Roman prison, potentially facing his martyrdom. But even in keeping them accountable like this, Paul doesn’t hold it over their head like a cruel taskmaster or an unconcerned foreman. Like a parent entreating his children, he expresses his every confidence that they will faithfully and obediently apply his exhortations, for their own progress and joy in the faith. And as a result of their own growth in holiness, Paul will be encouraged.


Paul gives a second reason for why he’s sending Timothy in verse 23. Not only so that (a) he will be encouraged by Timothy’s good report of the Philippians’ condition, but also so that (b) Timothy can inform them of the circumstances surrounding Paul’s trial. Verse 23: “Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me.” It has been plain already throughout the letter that the Philippians had been concerned for Paul’s well-being while he was in prison. That’s why he so emphasizes his own rejoicing: because he doesn’t want the Philippians to be overly-worried about him. Now, since he’s sending Epaphroditus with the letter, they’re not going to receive any news regarding Nero’s decision about Paul’s trial. And when Timothy arrives, the first thing they’re going to ask him is whether Paul is going to live or die. So Paul delays in sending Timothy until he can report clearly about Paul’s fate. He’ll be able to relay news of the verdict ‘straight from the horse’s mouth.’


And surely Paul wouldn’t have wanted to send his dear son in the faith on a three-months’ round-trip journey with no further clarity on whether he’d ever see Paul again. That would be a burden too great for Timothy to bear. And besides that, as much as Paul loved Timothy as a father would his own son, I’m sure he would have wanted Timothy by his side for support while he waited to receive news of his impending martyrdom.


And so, Paul will send Timothy shortly, as soon as he receives definitive word from Rome about whether he’ll live or die, so that Timothy can relay that information to the Philippians, and thus hopefully encourage them with a positive report; and, so that Timothy can return and report back to Paul regarding the church’s progress as a result of his letter, and thus encourage him as well. And, after all of this, verse 24, Paul confidently trusts that the Lord will have him visit the Philippians in person after too long.


Sermon Proposition


It is in this historical context, then, that Paul provides a profile of Timothy’s exemplary service. As dear as Timothy was to the Philippians, you could understand if they were a bit disappointed to see him rather than Paul himself. And so as Paul outlines to the Philippians his plans to send Timothy as his emissary, he also delineates Timothy’s credentials. And this serves both (a) to encourage the Philippians to receive Timothy without hesitation, as well as (b) to provide them with a clear example of the kind of exemplary, Gospel-driven life that he is calling them to live throughout his letter. And that is where we find this text speaking very clearly to us. In Paul’s description of Timothy in verses 20 through 22, we can isolate six characteristics of this Gospel-driven minister that we should imitate and implement in our own lives—six characteristics of Timothy that we should cultivate in our own walk with the Lord.


I. A Committed Disciple


The first characteristic of Timothy that we should imitate is that he is a committed disciple. Verse 20: Paul says, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” “I have no one else of kindred spirit.” And that really is the proper translation of that Greek word. If you have the ESV or the NIV it says, “I have no one else like him.” But that gives the impression that Paul is comparing Timothy to others, when what Paul is saying is that he has no one else who is so much like him as Timothy is.


The phrase translates the Greek word isopsuchos, which is used only here in the New Testament. It’s a compound word, made up of the word psuche, which means “soul” (it’s where we get words like psyche and psychology), and isos, which means “equal.” So the term means “to be equal or united in soul,” to be likeminded, or, as the NAS translates it, to be of a kindred spirit. Paul is saying that he’s going to send Timothy to the Philippians because there is no one else who is so likeminded with Paul—no one whose heart so beats with his heart—no one whose soul is so patterned after his own soul—no one who shares his affections and his concerns in such a profound way.


Turn with me over to 1 Corinthians chapter 4. In that text we gain some remarkable insight into how likeminded Timothy was with Paul. 1 Corinthians chapter 4, starting inverse 16. Paul tells the Corinthians: “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” That is simply amazing. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to imitate him. And for this reason—in order that the Corinthians should learn how to imitate Paul—he sends Timothy. He calls him his “beloved and faithful child in the Lord,” and says that he will remind them of Paul’s ways. Timothy had walked with Paul throughout most of his apostolic ministry. Ever since Paul picked him up in Lystra in Acts 16, Timothy had been at Paul’s side, laboring for the cause of the Gospel. After all those years, Timothy was well-acquainted with Paul’s ways, so much so that they became his ways. After speaking with Paul, traveling with Paul, praying with Paul, hearing Paul preach and teach—Timothy came to think like Paul, to evaluate situations like Paul, to trust the Lord like Paul, to pray like Paul, and probably even to preach and teach like Paul (cf. MacArthur, 197). So much was this the case that Paul could send Timothy to Corinth in order to remind them of his ways.


This is the goal of true discipleship, isn’t it? The goal of true discipleship is the reproduction of the teacher in the disciple. Didn’t Jesus say that very thing? Luke 6:40: “Everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Timothy was fully trained. He was a committed disciple. He had been such a devoted student of Paul that Paul could say they were equal in soul.


My question to you this morning is: Do you know anything of this kind of relationship? Is there someone in your life that you are following as they follow Christ—someone who is more mature in the faith whose committed disciple you are becoming? Now, I’m not talking about becoming followers of men; I’m talking about following more mature brothers and sisters as they follow Christ. I’m talking about following Christ by following an older brother or sister in the Lord. Who is your Paul? What godlier man or woman are you spending time with, are you ministering with, are you serving with, are you laboring with—with whom you are becoming equal in soul, with whom you’re becoming a kindred spirit?


And, on the other side, who is your Timothy? Some of you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. I don’t want anyone to be following me! I’ve got so much stuff wrong with me…” Well, it’s good that you recognize that so that you can get busy fixing it! Because there are people in this church that are less mature than you are, and who need to see what it looks like to live as a Christian from a pattern lived right out in front of them. These younger couples need to see what it looks like to be a faithful husband and a faithful wife over 30, 40, and 50 years. They need to see what it looks like to raise their kids in a way consistent with biblical principles. They need to see what it is to walk with the Lord for decades, and not to capitulate to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It is so necessary, friends, for us all to be actively engaged in life-on-life discipleship in this church, because God has designed that the Christian life be lived in community. Who is your Paul? Who is your Timothy?


II. A Compassionate Shepherd


And so the first characteristic of Timothy that we want to imitate is that he is a committed disciple. The second characteristic of Timothy worthy of imitation is that he is a compassionate shepherd. Let’s look again at verse 20. Paul writes, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” The primary manifestation of Paul and Timothy’s “kindred spirit” relationship in regards to Timothy’s mission to the Philippians is his genuine concern for their spiritual welfare.


This word, “concern,” is actually quite fascinating. It means to have a strong feeling for something or someone, often to the point of being burdened. Paul actually uses this word later in the book of Philippians, in chapter 4 verse 6. In that context, it’s translated as anxious, and Paul commands the Philippians to be anxious for nothing. And yet here in our text, Paul commends Timothy for his genuine concern for the Philippians. Is this a contradiction? Well no, of course not. This is an instance in which the same word can be used in multiple ways, bearing a positive and a negative connotation. Negatively, it refers to the kind of anxiety that comes from selfishly worrying about your own circumstances. But in the context of our passage, it’s referring to the compassionate and sympathetic concern for a fellow-believer’s spiritual needs.


Paul used this word in this positive sense to speak of his own concern for his brothers and sisters in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:28, where he’s been listing all of the tribulations he’s been experiencing as a result of his ministry, he tops it off by saying, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” You see, Paul wasn’t just some disinterested demagogue like the preachers today who preach via flat-screen to tens of thousands of people hundreds of miles away—only preoccupied with the amount of people they can superficially influence. No, Paul was a compassionate shepherd, who genuinely cared for the spiritual well-being of those churches he had helped found—who was intimately familiar with their lives and the spiritual progress they were making.


And Timothy followed in Paul’s footsteps. Since Timothy’s heart beat with the Apostle Paul’s heart, he shared Paul’s genuine concerns for the Philippians’ progress in holiness. Timothy shared the daily pressure of concern for all the churches. And especially with the Philippian church! Not only was Timothy with Paul when the church at Philippi began, but he also returned to minister to the congregation at least two other times, according to the Book of Acts—once about five years after that first visit (Acts 19:22), and then again about a year after that (Acts 20:3–6). And so as a true, compassionate shepherd, Timothy’s foremost concern was for the welfare of his sheep (MacArthur, 198).


Now you say, “But Mike, I’m not a pastor. I’m not a shepherd. I don’t have any sheep!” Well, this kind of genuine concern for one another’s spiritual well-being isn’t limited to preachers and Bible study leaders. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses this same word in reference to the members of the body Christ as they care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:24 says, “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So,” verse 26, “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (HCSB).


GraceLife, are you characterized by this genuine concern for each other’s spiritual health? Are you burdened by the desire for your brothers and sisters to be advancing in holiness, to be growing in the Lord? And I don’t mean burdened just enough to complain about how everyone else is so immature! Paul and Timothy weren’t just irked by the immaturity or weakness of the churches. They were so truly concerned in spirit that they got up and did something about it! They laid down their lives for the believers’ progress and joy in the faith (cf. Phil 1:25). Oh that the Lord would enflame us with a passion for corporate holiness! That we would be a people who joyfully give of our time, and energy, and effort, and even financial resources, in order to ensure that our brothers and sisters are progressing in holiness!


III. A Single-Minded Worshiper


Well that brings us to the third characteristic of Timothy that we ought to imitate in our own lives. First, he is a committed disciple. Second, he is a compassionate shepherd. And now, third: he is a single-minded worshiper. Look at verse 21: “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” Now, if Paul is saying that could not send other messengers because they all seek after their own interests, it’s implied that he can send Timothy because Timothy does not seek his own interests. He is single-minded in his worship and devotion to Christ. He single-mindedly seeks the interests of Christ Jesus. And in this context, “the interests of Christ Jesus” have to do with love for the Lord being expressed by loving one’s neighbor (Fee, 266), by caring for the congregation at Philippi (O’Brien, 322).


Now, this statement of Paul’s is absolutely amazing, and a little disconcerting! Martyn Lloyd-Jones paraphrases it helpfully. He writes, “‘The trouble for me here in Rome,’ Paul says in effect, ‘is that though I am surrounded by these Christian people, the only man I can send to you is Timothy, for, alas,’ he says about the others, ‘I admit that they are Christians, they are good people in many ways, but they are more concerned about themselves and their own things, than the things of Jesus Christ’” (Life of Joy, 233). Christians! People who are genuinely saved! But people who are so immature and self-centered that when Paul asked them to go, all they had were excuses. Or, before Paul even asked them—just as he considered them in his mind and remembered their character and what he knew about them—he dismissed them as unqualified.


I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised, considering the caliber of preachers that were in Rome in Paul’s day. We learned from chapter 1, verses 15 through 17, that there were preachers in Rome who were preaching Christ from envy and strife, and out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives. These kinds of self-absorbed men are not those who are willing to drop everything at the order of the Apostle and embark upon a 40-day journey that Epaphroditus had almost died from! Sure, they were believers, but their interests were divided, and unlike Timothy, they couldn’t be depended upon. They dabbled in Christian ministry. But they weren’t sold out for Christ and His Church.


And oh, how we don’t want this to be said of us, dear friends! What a sad case we would be, if our leaders and overseers were made aware of a need for service, and they considered in their minds all those entrusted into their care whom they might call on to meet this need, and then thought about you: “No, she won’t do it. She seeks her own interests, not the interests of Christ.” “No, he’s a good brother, but he hasn’t left that place of spiritual immaturity where concern for his own plans chokes out his desire to lay his life down for others. He won’t give up his Saturday. She won’t give up her vacation. They really don’t like company; they like to be left alone.” Oh friends, may this not be said of us! May it not be said of GraceLife! That when your pastors and elders and Bible study shepherds run their eyes across the room to see who would be willing to pour themselves out upon the sacrifice and service of the faith of their fellow-believers, they have to feel the pang of shame and sadness that Paul felt as he penned these words about the believers in Rome!


No! We want to comport ourselves in such a way that when a need arises, we’re the first person that our leaders think that they can go to for assistance—and that as they think of us, they won’t think, “Oh, he would be great, but he remains too in love with himself and his own affairs to get involved,” but rather: “There is a man of the same soul as myself! There is a woman who will be genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of these dear people! There is a family that does not merely look out for their own personal interests, but seeks their joy in the interests of others—who single-mindedly seek the interests of Christ Jesus as the very native joys of their heart!”


Are we ready, dear friends, not only to lay down our lives in sacrificial service for the progress and joy of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to be known to be such people! To be known, because of your proven worth, as one who can be depended upon! And if not, what in our lives has to change for this to be so? What rearrangements do we have to make?


IV. A Tested Workman


Well, we must move quickly to the fourth characteristic of Timothy that is exemplary for us. Number four: he is a tested workman. Verse 22: “But you know of his proven worth…” And we’ll stop there for now. “You know of Timothy’s proven worth, Philippians.”


This phrase translates the single Greek word dokime, which is a cognate of that familiar word dokimos. This word was used in the ancient world for assaying metals and testing coins to prove their purity and genuineness. A coin that was dokimos had been tested by fire, and had come through the fire and found genuine. The dross of a metal would be burned away, and the pure silver would emerge refined. And what you would have at that point was a precious metal’s proven worth.


And just as the metal would need to pass through the fire before it could be proven, so the one who was dokimos needed to endure the furnace of affliction. This word is often associated with trials in the New Testament. In Romans 5:3 and 4, Paul says that the Christian exults in tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character. In 2 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 2, Paul says of the Macedonians—probably including the Philippians themselves!—“in a great ordeal of affliction, in a great dokime of affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.” They were found to be genuine believers, when their faith survived the fires of deep poverty and affliction, and manifested itself in sacrificial giving.


And Paul is saying, “Philippians, you know Timothy! You know he’s been through the furnace of affliction as he’s served alongside me all these years. You know he is a tested workman, a genuine servant of Christ. You know that as I found him there in Lystra, being well-spoken of by all the brethren there, showing himself even then to be an example in the faith of the Gospel—that I was so impressed with his devotion that I took him along with me in the middle of my second missionary journey (Ac 16:2–3). And you know how he agreed to leave the comfort of his family and the only familiar surroundings he had ever known to come minister the Gospel with me in the severest of affliction. You know how he agreed even to be circumcised, though of course circumcision was nothing in the eyes of God (1 Cor 7:19). He was so committed to the Gospel that he was willing to spare no pain to avoid putting stumbling blocks in its way! Oh, Philippians, you know of his proven worth! And because of that I want you not only to receive him, but to find in him an example worthy of being imitated. I want you to learn from him how to pass through the fires of affliction and suffering, even as you face your opposition to this day.”


And just to reiterate, by way of application, dear friends: we want our overseers and our shepherds to think of us like Paul thought of Timothy. Want them to consider us for a task of service, and we want their reaction to be the immediate reassurance of our proven character, of our integrity, and of our tested usefulness in Gospel-service over a period of time. We want them to think of us and have them say: “That sister is proven.” “That dear brother has been tested in the furnace of the affliction that comes from actual Gospel ministry, and he is an asset to me. But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to make ourselves known, and make ourselves accountable, and make ourselves useful—being diligent to be faithful in little before we are trusted to be faithful in much.


V. A Humble Evangelist


At that brings us to number five. Timothy is a committed disciple, a compassionate shepherd, a single-minded worshiper, and a tested workman. He is also a humble evangelist. Let’s look again at verse 22: “But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel….” This is the measure of Timothy’s testing. The evidence of his proven worth was in his enduring commitment to the ministry of the Gospel alongside the Apostle Paul, come what may.


And in this verse, Paul continues his emphasis on the Gospel of Christ. In chapter 1 verse 5 he celebrated the Philippians’ participation and partnership in the Gospel. In chapter 1 verse 7, he speaks of their sharing in his defense and confirmation of the Gospel. Verse 12: he rejoices in the advance, of the Gospel. Verse 16: he’s been appointed to defend the gospel. And in chapter 4 verse 3 he speaks about his struggle in the cause of the Gospel. And of course we can’t forget about our thesis verse, chapter 1 verse 27, in which we are all called to conduct every aspect of our lives in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. And here in our text we learn that Paul’s love and passion for the Gospel had been successfully planted in the heart of Timothy. Timothy was just as Gospel-driven as his dear father-in-the-faith.


And that led him to follow in the footsteps of the humility of the Lord Jesus. The word “served” there in verse 22 is the Greek word douleúo, which is the verb form of doulos. The verb meant “to perform the duties of a slave” (O’Brien, 325). You could translate the phrase, “He slaved alongside me in the furtherance of the Gospel.” You see, Timothy had in himself the same attitude which was also in Christ Jesus, “and as one genuinely concerned for the Philippians’ welfare, he has “taken the form of a slave,” and laid down his life in cause of Gospel ministry. And we need to do the same, friends. We need to do the same.


VI. A Loyal Son


And that brings us, finally, to the sixth characteristic of Timothy that we ought to imitate in our own lives. Number six: Timothy is a loyal son. One last time in verse 22: “But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.” And in this brief phrase, Paul draws attention to the fact that Timothy’s humble and submissive service was not rendered as the disinterested duty of a cold professional, but rather overflowed out of the warm-hearted loyalty that a son has for his father.


And Paul has often called Timothy his son. Earlier we read 1 Corinthians 4:17, where he calls Timothy his “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.” He opens his first letter to Timothy by saying, “To Timothy, my true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2), and his second letter by saying, “To Timothy, my beloved son” (2 Tim 1:2). And in all those references, just as here, Paul doesn’t use the word huios, the generic word for sonship; he uses teknon, which emphasizes the intimate personal relationship that they shared. In fact the imagery calls upon the customs of family life in the Greco-Roman world, in which “the son learns the family trade from his father by working alongside him” (Fee, 269). And just as a young son would be thrilled to be working alongside the father whom he considered his hero, just as a son would literally follow his father’s steps, begin to walk like him, talk like him, adopt his facial expressions, tones of voice, and catch phrases, so did Timothy serve Paul as a son. Never once does the thought of competition enter into the son’s mind. Never once does the devoted son grumble at the task at hand. No, his loyalty to the father he dearly loves keeps him serving alongside him joyfully, humbly, and happily.




Well I trust, then, that the exemplary character of Timothy’s life has been sufficiently exposed and explained to you this morning. And I pray that the loveliness and virtue of his life has enticed your heart with the desire to imitate him—to follow his example as he follows Christ:


  • To be a committed disciple, actively committed to following in the footsteps of a more mature brother or sister who can lead you in the path of holiness;


  • To be a compassionate shepherd, even if you’re not in an official leadership capacity, but bearing the burden of concern for the spiritual maturity of your fellow-believers, such that it leads you to lay down your life in service to them;


  • To be a single-minded worshiper, not driven by the ever-changing whims of your own personal interests, but sold-out and single-mindedly devoted to the interests of Christ and His Church;


  • To be a tested workman, making ourselves known, and accountable, and useful to our shepherds in service, even enduring the afflictions that come with labor for the Gospel;


  • To be a humble evangelist, willing to take the role of a slave if it means that the Gospel will advance;


  • And to be as loyal son, eagerly and happily serving the body of Christ, knowing that it delights the heart of our Heavenly Father.