COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's” (Phil 2:19-21, NKJV)
The “mind of the Spirit” is preoccupied with the things of God. God knows this “mind,” which is continually engaged in “the will of God” (Rom 8:27). Consequently, those who “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16,25) find themselves absorbed with the things of God. They see life from heaven’s perspective, and think in concert with the Divine agenda. They are not distracted by the affairs of this world. Such is the example provided by Paul. His thoughts are continually from a spiritual perspective. Everything, including people, are considered from a spiritual point of view. They are weighed in the balances of the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
TRUSTING THE LORD JESUS TO . . .
“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.” (KJV). The practicality of life in Christ Jesus is marvelous to consider. Faith touches every aspect of life, with the Lord Jesus joining with us in remarkably practical activities. Endeared to the Philippians because of their faith, Paul determines to send Timothy to them. He does not bother to speculate on how this will be done while he is in prison, or how Timothy would make it over Italy, the Adriactic Sea, and a portion of Asia to Philippi (over 600 miles). Nor, indeed, does he mention an extensive plan that will guarantee Timothy will make the journey. He simply says he is trusting in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy “shortly.” What a marvelous testimony of the power of faith!
Other versions read, “I HOPE in the Lord Jesus . . . ” Paul does not use the word “hope,” however, as it is used by the average English speaking person. The word “hope” literally means counting on something, expecting, awaiting, trusting, and confiding in. “TRUST” is a more precise expression.“Hope,” in this usage, is an aspect of faith, or reliance on the Lord. In this expectation, Paul was walking by faith. His purpose was in harmony with the plan of Christ, and therefore he could rely on the Lord to bring it to pass. For Him, Christ was the heart of everything: his life, his longings, and his labors. Those choosing to live “in the flesh” cannot speak like this.
You may remember Timothy was with Paul when he wrote this letter.“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil 1:1). Whatever their association, whether in prison together or merely in the same vicinity, the mind of Paul was not focused on himself, but on the work of the Lord. He made plans in view of the Kingdom, and thus could rely on the Lord Jesus to bring them to pass. He thought of Timothy in view of God’s will.
Again, the effect of spiritual thinking is seen in the Apostle. He is sending Timothy in expectation of being comforted in the knowledge of the Philippian’s spiritual condition. The flesh derives comfort in the knowledge of good things coming to it. Faith liberates us from such constricted thinking. Though himself oppressed, Paul would experience relief by the news of the Philippian’s progress in the faith.
In this, the Apostle reflected the mind of the Lord. God is pictured as rejoicing over the progress of His people. “So shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa 62:5). “He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17). Again, it is written, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way” (Psa 37:23). The NIV reads, “If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm.” Those who “have the mind of Christ”will find themselves comforted and refreshed in the knowledge of the stability of God’s people. Thus they can “rejoice with them that rejoice” (Rom12: 15) in rich fellowship.
We cannot leave this section without pondering, How would the knowledge of our state affect the Apostle? How does it affect our Lord?
NATURALLY CARING FOR ANOTHER
“For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state”
(KJV). Of all of the commendations found in Scripture, this ranks among the highest. In matters of the Kingdom, Paul declares Timothy is “likeminded”with himself. He was a true “kindred spirit” (NASB). Paul admonished the Romans “to be likeminded one toward another” (Rom 15:5). He also exhorted the Philippians to “be likeminded” in their consideration of one another (2:2). But that is not the sense of this text. Here “likemindedness”means Timothy is a sort of extension of Paul. This young man was so closely knit to the Lord that it was “natural,” or normal, for him to think in concert with the Divine agenda–particularly as it involved the Apostle Paul.
Timothy did not have to be coached to have a concern for the people of God. His thoughts did not have to be jarred loose from the course of this world. More than absorbing the teaching of Paul, Timothy had embraced the Lord of Paul. The likemindedness refers more to having “the mind of Christ”than the mind of Paul. The mind the Apostle urged the Philippians to embrace (Phil 2:5-8) was actually found in Timothy.
The rarity of possessing this mind is seen in the words, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit” (NASB). This does not mean no such person existed, but that no one of this spirit was available. How tragic that such a circumstance existed! It should not surprise us that such souls are even more rare in our day, when a great falling away has taken place.
Even though Paul had a burden for all men, desiring their salvation (1 Cor 9:22), yet he viewed them through the eyes of Christ. His assessments were not colored by carnal sympathy, but were driven by his fellowship with Christ Jesus. He weighed people with the purpose of God in mind.
Timothy is said to “naturally care” for the “state,” or spiritual condition, of the Philippians. It would be profitable to consider how many people you know that fall into this category. Other versions read, “genuinely be concerned” (NKJV), “genuine interest in your welfare” (NASB), “genuinely anxious for your welfare” (NIV), “truly have care for you” (BBE), and “genuinely concerned for your welfare” (RSV).
The idea is that Timothy was, by nature, aggressive to bring spiritual resources within reach of God’s people. He was instinctively concerned about their progress in Christ Jesus, and could be trusted to contribute to their development in the faith. This goes far beyond, what is commonly called, “meeting the needs of people.” Legitimate “care,” or interest, does not focus on the self-diagnosed requirements of people. It views their progress to glory, and seeks to assist that growth. It perceives their readiness for the coming of the Lord, and seeks to improve it. This is a mind-set that considers the saints in view of salvation, its provisions, and its consummation. Armed with jealous care for the acceptance of God’s people, the person who “naturally cares” for their state brings them food, hope, and consolation. Such individuals become“helpers of your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). In harmony with the revealed objective of Christ, they equip the saints for the work of ministry, enabling them to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16).
ALL SEEK THEIR OWN
“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's”(NKJV). How tragic that such words had to be written! Spiritually naive people see no need for such a statement. They view it as negative and counterproductive. But they are wrong. The eye of faith spans the horizon of the human condition, and does not draw back from proper assessment.
In making this statement, Paul is showing how Timothy has excelled. This young man had not advanced because he was surrounded by an superior group, or because he lived in a time when it was fashionable to “naturally care” for the progress of God’s people. He obtained “the mind of Christ”when it was not common to do so. Our Lord reminded us of a time when,“because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt 24:12). That does not, however, justify the love of Christ waning, or people leaving their “first love.” In every age, whether in the first century, or in the generation in which we live, the faithful have had to rise above the norm to think properly. Timothy had to go against the religious tide to “naturally care” for the state of the saints. It had to press through the normal, and rise above the average. He could not allow himself to be swallowed up by the trends of the time. Others sought their own interests, but Timothy did not!
The words of the Spirit are precise and sharp. Other workers (for Paul is speaking about those associated with the work of Christ) did NOT seek the interest of the flock of God, but “their own.” On the surface, their interests might have appeared legitimate and thoroughly Christian. Like Demas, however, they “loved this present world,” and therefore could not be counted on to bring advantages to the saints (2 Tim 4:10). In another place, Paul speaks of these people in this manner: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whoseglory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19, NKJV). These were supposedly Christian laborers!
The dominance of these kind of workers within the professed church is staggering! Precious few there are, indeed, who can be counted on to edify the saints, caring for them, and helping them prepare for the Lord’s return!
Notice the strength of these words. It is not enough for the Spirit to say these teachers do not “naturally care” for the condition of God’s people. It is also not sufficient to say they “seek their own” selfish interests. He pointedly says what they are seeking, and what they are doing are “not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” They are operating by anti-Christ agenda! By that very circumstance, they are “against” Christ, waging war against Him. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt 12:30). Those who “seek their own” are viewed by Jesus Himself as “against” Him. Their labors are wasted, and will not be blessed by Jesus! Such are hot for self and cold for Christ. They are stimulated by considerations of their own interests, and made insensitive by the thought of God’s purpose. Such individuals are blotches on the canvas of eternal purpose, and will eventually be purged from it.