Summary: Paul is sending Timothy to the Philippians for at least two purposes. Paul is eager to receive information about how the congregation is doing, whether they are living in a manner worthy of the gospel, and he wants to encourage them about his own situation in Rome.
Title: Timothy to Come Soon, Hopefully Followed by Paul Himself
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” follow associated verses.
• NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Scripture: (Philippians 2:23-24, NIV)
(23) I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. (24) And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
(2:23) I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.
Timothy is the man Paul will send to Philippi. The departure of this trusted minister of the gospel, however, will be delayed until the outcome of Paul’s trial is known. Then Timothy will bring the news of his conviction or release.
Paul is sending Timothy to the Philippians for at least two purposes. Paul is eager to receive information about how the congregation is doing, whether they are living in a manner worthy of the gospel, and he wants to encourage them about his own situation in Rome. Timothy is Paul’s “son” in the gospel and can represent Paul in a special way to the Philippian congregation. But Timothy is also an example of a true Christlike leader who is not concerned with himself but looks to the interests of others, especially the Philippians (2:20-21). Just as Paul called the Philippians to look to other’s interests (2:4), he is going to send to them someone who exemplifies this important aspect of the Christian life. Timothy is an example for the Philippians primarily because of his tender heart. Not only has Timothy shown his heart for others, but he has proved his worth by serving closely with Paul in spreading the message of the gospel. Paul’s chief concern, and therefore his primary reason for writing the Letter to the Philippians is the progress of the gospel in Philippi. Because of his character and adherence to the gospel, Timothy can represent Paul as his forerunner, even as Paul hopes that he himself will be able to follow soon. All his hoping is done in union with his living Lord.
Timothy appears here as one of his truest supporters, with a gift for “caring,” for Paul says, “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (Phil. 2:20). What a very dutiful spiritual son Timothy must have been to deserve this tribute! There was no one as close to the apostle than Timothy was. We know very little about Timothy but the record of his service with Paul shows his fidelity. We cannot tell how or when he was converted to Christianity, but on his second missionary journey Paul met him and saw in him one whom he could clearly use in the service of Jesus Christ.
From that time on Paul and Timothy were very close. Paul could speak of him as his child in the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17). He was with Paul in Philippi; he was with him in Thessalonica and Berea; he was with him in Corinth and Ephesus; and he was with him in prison in Rome. He was associated with Paul in the writing of no fewer than five of his letters.
In view of the love and respect shown Timothy by the apostle, why didn’t Timothy carry the letter to Philippi? Paul answers this question by telling the Philippians something they already know, and something that explains why they are so eager to see him: Timothy is an exceptional ally in times of trouble. Paul shows this by giving Timothy three commendations.
1) Timothy understands what it means to be united in spirit with other believers, both with Paul and with the Philippians (2:20). In 2:2 Paul had urged the Philippians to be “one in spirit,” and here he uses a similar term to say that Timothy is of like mind with him. The way in which Timothy is like-minded with Paul, however, is that he has a genuine interest in the Philippians welfare.
2) Timothy stands apart from every other believer whom Paul might have sent to the Philippians because unlike them, he puts the interests of Jesus Christ above his own interests (2:21). Like Paul who was more concerned for the advancement of the gospel than that he was in prison (1:12) or that other Christians were making his hardship more difficult (1:17-18), and like Christ, who put obedience ahead of exploiting the privileges available to Him as God (2:6-8), Timothy subordinated his own interests to the things of Jesus Christ.
3) Timothy’s metal had been tested in the difficulties of apostolic service, and both Paul and the Philippians had found him as faithful as a son to his father, as willing to slave (“serve”) in the work of the gospel as Paul himself.
It is no wonder that Paul, in light of these qualities, feels that he can send Timothy only after he gains a clear view of the outcome of his imprisonment. With some believers around him having their own interests more at heart than those of the gospel (2:21) and some seeking to increase his affliction (1:17), it is understandable that Paul would not want to spare his trusted comrade. Eventually he will send him, and Paul expects eventually to come in person, but for the present another messenger must suffice.