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Philippians 2:21–24

“They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel” (vv. 21–22).

Timothy, Paul’s trusted co-worker who was often found by his side, was with the Apostle in Rome when Paul wrote to the Philippian church. As we saw in Philippians 2:19–20, Paul planned on sending him to gain news of the situation in Philippi just as soon as he was able — once, verse 23 explains, the Apostle knew exactly what the Roman government was going to do with him. Explaining this fact to the Philippians prompted Paul to think on Timothy’s value and character (v. 20), which in turn inspired him to consider Timothy’s worth in relation to others who claimed to be ministering in Jesus’ name.

You will recall that earlier in this epistle, Paul made reference to certain preachers in Rome whose ministry was motivated primarily by their jealousy over the Apostle’s witness and success (1:15, 17). Paul has these people in mind in Philippians 2:21 when he talks about those who “seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Although the Apostle considered their preaching of the gospel a good thing in itself because he knew the Word of God never returns void (Isa. 55:10–11), he was alarmed by their motivations, which were not the same as Christ’s interests. The Lord does send out His gospel through fallible human beings. He does save people as the Spirit takes the biblical truth that sinful people proclaim and makes it effectual for conversion in the hearts of His elect (John 3:1–15). Still, the fact that the power of the gospel is not in the one who proclaims it does not mean that God does not care about the heart of the preacher. If we preach the gospel with the wrong motives and without love for our Creator and other sinners, the gospel will do what the Lord designs, but God will have no commendation for us on the last day. John Calvin reminds us that “a regard to your own interests must not be put in preference to Christ’s glory, or even placed upon a level with it.”

A man with proven character who sought only the interests of Jesus Christ, Timothy was far different than the wrongly motivated preachers in Rome (Phil. 2:21–22). His motivation in coming to Philippi was therefore his love for Paul, his father in the faith, and his concern to glorify Christ by providing needed encouragement and counsel. May the glory of Jesus be our chief aim as well.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Paul could be confident in Timothy’s worth as a fellow minister because of the ways he had proven his character over time (Phil. 2:22). As we consider our service in the church, we should also be aware that it takes time to prove our own worth to our ministers, elders, and other church leaders. So let us not fret if we are not yet entrusted with the big things but rather focus on proving ourselves faithful where God has placed us today.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 86:12
  • Jeremiah 13:15–16
  • Luke 16:10
  • Romans 15:5–7
Related Scripture
  • Philippians
  • Philippians 2

Paul’s Commendation of Timothy

The Return of Epaphroditus

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From the November 2011 Issue
Nov 2011 Issue