The Interests Of Christ
Nick Esch, 6/28/2020 Cornerstone Baptist Church
Thus far in Philippians we have seen that God’s calling on all Christians is to be content and joyful in Christ. Our lives are to display that knowing Jesus is of surpassing worth; Jesus is better than anything life can give us or death can take from us, therefore to live is Christ and to die is gain. That’s what our lives should display to the world… That’s how we magnify the glory of Christ. And that’s where we find joy and satisfaction.
But, after laying out this calling, Philippians tells us that the way we are to do this practically is by having the mind of Christ: meaning that we are to truly trust Him and thus live a life that follows His example. Jesus, who by all rights is exalted above all as God the Son, humbled Himself and came to earth and took on flesh. He stayed 100% God and became 100% man, and then humbly and obediently, out of love for God and His people, lived the perfect life we have failed to live, and then died the death we deserve to die. He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And upon our cross He took the wrath due us for our sin against God, and then died our death. And then rose from the grave in victory so that all who turn from their sin and trust in Him would be saved from their sin, from Satan, and from God’s wrath, and would live forever with Him, united to Him, in union with Him, and in communion with God and His people, in perfect joy forevermore.
So, the Christian is to be truly content and joyful in Christ, and to show it by living a life marked by humility, unity, service, and sacrificial love. As Philippians 2:3-4 says, we are to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility [we are to] count others more significant than [ourselves]. [We are to] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is what Christ did for us, and this is what we are to do as well. And because we love Christ above all, especially above self, we can… And today in our text, God’s Word is going to give two examples of men of God who did this well, so that we might know what this looks like all the more, and do it ourselves. So, look with me at Philippians 2:19-30.
In our passage Paul presents us with two examples of godly men who were so content and joyful in Christ that they were living a life marked by humility, unity, service, and sacrificial love. The first example we are given is Timothy. Paul met Timothy in Acts 16:1-3. Under the influence of his godly mother and grandmother, by God’s grace, Timothy was already a Christian when Paul met him. But, Paul asked Timothy to join him in his ministry, and Paul no doubt began to pour into him and disciple him. Notice in verse 22 Paul says, “But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.” Timothy is Paul’s son in the faith; Paul knows this man well; he knows what he believes and how he lives; he knows how dedicated to Christ and His gospel he is, and so Paul hopes to send Timothy to the church in Philippi so that they and he would be cheered. Paul knows that if Timothy goes to them he will minister to them in such a way that it will work for their joy and God’s glory, and that brings Paul joy, it brings him cheer… And therefore Paul says again in verse 23 that he hopes to send Timothy to them soon…
Now look at what Paul says, and how he knows this will be the case. In verses 20-21 Paul says, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Now, this is what I want us to focus on today, because this is what makes Timothy such a rich treasure for Paul and the church, and what makes him such a great example for us. But, before I unpack this, notice what Paul says about Epaphroditus, the other example we are given in this text.
In verses 25-30 we see that Epaphroditus is a faithful example like Timothy. He, like Timothy seems to be genuinely concerned for the Philippians welfare, and not only theirs, but also Paul’s. Like Timothy, he is Paul’s brother in Christ, fellow worker and fellow soldier for the cause of Christ. And like Timothy he has proven his worth for the cause of Christ as he has nearly died doing it. Epaphroditus seems to have all the same attributes as Timothy, and Paul has every intention of sending him to the Philippian church; the only reason he doesn’t say the exact same things about Epaphroditus that he did about Timothy is that Epaphroditus originally came from the Philippian church, and Paul is merely sending him back. But, both of these men are true examples to us, that’s why Paul says in verse 29 that we should honor such men.
Now, with that in mind, let’s look again at verses 20-21. Paul says, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Again, he’s talking about Timothy, but the same could be said of Epaphroditus… But what is he saying? Well, first he’s saying that these men are not selfish, but selfless… They do not seek their own interests… Like we see in Epaphroditus, they put themselves at great risk for the good of others. And they do this willingly and joyfully because all of their own interests are met in Christ. Jesus has already purchased their redemption; He’s already lavished His grace upon them and brought them into right relationship with God. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, their eternity is secure, and so they are content in Christ, come what may… Essentially, their interests have already been met. They have all they need, and all they could ever want in Christ…
Epaphroditus was sent by the church in Philippi with gifts and offerings to support Paul and his ministry. And Paul says that the peril that Epaphroditus faced on his journey to him nearly killed him… Somehow, going to Paul led him to get sick and almost die… But, it wasn’t his illness that concerned him, but how he knew his illness would concern the church. You see, he was the type of guy who knew the risk and went anyway. Epaphroditus was not concerned for his own interests or welfare… He was concerned for Paul; he was concerned for the Philippians; he was concerned for the cause of Christ. And he was joyfully concerned in all these ways because he was content in Christ.
This is likewise the type of man Timothy was. As I said earlier, Paul meets Timothy in Acts 16:1-3, and there calls him to join him on his missionary journeys. And not only does Timothy agree to go, not knowing what lies before him, but he even submits to circumcision before going so that the Jews might be more willing to listen to him when he seeks to minister to them with the gospel. And in that same chapter they are beaten and thrown in prison; but when they get out, by God’s grace, Timothy doesn’t leave Paul and run home, but he stays by his side and continues to faithfully minister. And by God’s grace they were used mightily by the Lord and many came to faith in Christ.
Timothy, like Epaphroditus, was indeed Paul’s brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier in Christ. And he indeed was the type of man, the type of Christian man, who did not seek his own interests, but was truly concerned for the welfare of others, because he was so content in Christ. Timothy was the type of guy that was so amazed by grace that he joyfully wrote a blank check with his life, and was happy to let God fill it our however he saw fit. Like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, amazed by God’s grace in salvation, he said, “Here I am! Send me.”
And this is our calling. As we have seen, we are called to have the mind of Christ, we are to truly trust Him and thus live a life that follows His example. And we are to do it wherever God sees fit: whatever neighborhood, whatever church, whatever job, whatever school, whatever country, among whatever people. Wherever the Lord calls us we are to joyfully reply, “Here I am! Send me.” And when we go, wherever we go, we are to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility [we are to] count others more significant than [ourselves]. [We are to] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). But notice the connection and elaboration we get on this in verse 21… In verse 4 we’re told not to seek our own interests, but the interests of others, and in verse 21 we see that we are not to seek our own interests, but those of Jesus Christ… And what we see here is that these things go hand in hand.
Through the example of Timothy and Epaphroditus, we see that if the Christian rightly seeks the interests of others instead of his own interests, he is also seeking the interests of Christ. And this seems to mean at least two things: 1) that we are seeking the interests of Christ when we follow the example of Christ, who sought the interests of others, namely God and His people, by living obediently, dying sacrificially, and rising again in power to magnify the glory of God and to save sinners. So we are seeking Christ’s interests by following His example; and we do that by humbling ourselves and graciously and sacrificially loving people for their good and God’s glory, especially the good of them coming under grace and being forgiven of their sin and brought into right relationship with God. And 2), what this also means is that we are seeking the interests of Christ by seeking the interests of others, when we are doing it for the same end that He does all that He does… So, seeking the interests of Christ means following His example, having the mind of Christ, but it also means following Him, living, and loving like Him for the same end and purpose. In other words, we are to seek the interests of others in so far as that interest serves the interests of Christ. But, we must then ask ourselves, what is the interest of Christ? What is He about? What is His chief end?
I think one of the clearest places to the see the answer to these questions is in John 17. In John 17:1-5 for instance, Jesus prays to the Father, saying, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
What we see here is the outworking of the Covenant of Redemption: that before the foundation of the world, the Triune God made a covenant within the Trinity, that the Son, by the power of the Spirit, would redeem a people for Himself—a people who the Father elected and gave to the Son—by living, dying, and rising again for His people, so that they might truly know God and have true eternal life in eternal joy, and that in and through all of this the glory of Christ might be magnified, and in through that God the Father would be glorified as well. Put simply, as the old catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” And anything less than that is sin. And since God cannot sin, His chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Himself forever. And that indeed is the chief interest of Christ. But, in obedience to God’s Covenant of Redemption, Jesus does this by reconciling sinners to God in and through His perfect obedience, sacrificial wrath-absorbing death, and death defeating resurrection. He magnifies God’s glory in His own life, death, and resurrection, and He magnifies God’s glory by bringing others into right relationship with God, so that they too will magnify the glory of God in life and death. And this goes along perfectly with the overall theme of Philippians.
As I said earlier, Philippians calls us to be content and joyful in Christ. Our lives are to display that knowing Jesus is of surpassing worth; Jesus is better than anything life can give us or death can take from us, therefore to live is Christ and to die is gain. That’s what our lives should display to the world… And that’s how we magnify the glory of Christ. And in magnifying the glory of Christ we glorify God, and that’s the chief interest of Christ. And you see, when we do this it serves the interests of others as well as the interests of Christ. As we live a joyful and obedient life we glorify God, and we lead others to do the same.
As Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” And, that’s because our satisfaction in Him displays His worth and value to the watching world, which by God’s grace will draw them away from sin and to Jesus, which is where they will find their ultimate good. When we are truly content and joyful in Christ we have no problem sacrificially loving others, we have no problem counting others more significant than ourselves… We have no problem looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others, because our satisfaction in Christ has freed us from being self-absorbed, and enabled us to joyfully and sacrificially love and serve others.
We can joyfully and sacrificially give of our time, talent, and treasure, even at great risk to ourselves, because no matter what we may lose, we can’t lose Christ, and He is all we truly need, and He is all we truly want. And when we live and love like that we follow Jesus’ example; but we mustn’t simply live and love like that… we must live and love like that with the intent of magnifying the glory of Christ, and leading people to Christ. Good deeds, good works are not enough; they must be good works that are done for Christ’s sake, for His interests. Our chief end must be to magnify the glory of God in Christ. And when we joyfully live and love sacrificially for the good of others and the glory of God then we are truly seeking the interests of Christ. By being joyful in Christ, and serving others out of an overflow of our delight in Christ, seeking to draw people to Christ, we seek both the interests of Christ, namely the glory of God, and the interests of others, namely them coming to know and glorify God through Christ.
And I would add, now that we know what the chief interest of Christ is we are given a framework for knowing not only how to live and serve, but where to live and serve. We should commit ourselves to whatever church will lead us to most magnify the glory of Christ and thus glorify God. We should live, work, go to school, shop, do all that we do where we do because it’s where we can most glorify God. That may mean God is leading you to go to the mission field. That may mean God is leading you to go to seminary. It may mean God is calling you to a different job or vocation, perhaps even one with less pay, but that has more opportunity to glorify Him. It may mean He’s leading you to a different school than you thought. Or it may mean that He’s calling you to be faithful right where you are, for His glory and the good of His people. Regardless of where He calls us, or what He calls us to do… out of amazement of grace, and out of an overflow of our joy and contentment in Christ, we should joyfully say, “Send me! I’ll go…” And Lord willing, what we’ll find as we do is that this will lead us to even fuller joy… Because true full joy always flows from heartfelt obedience… And obedience, as we see here, is putting Jesus first, others second, and you last, all for Jesus’ sake. So, if you want to live a life of true joy remember that. J) Jesus first, O) others second, Y) you last… J-O-Y…
So, what we see in our passage is that Timothy and Epaphroditus are examples of what we should be and do. They are examples of faithfulness to Christ. They clearly love God and love people. They clearly lived in such a way that for them to live was Christ and to die was gain. And God’s Word says we should honor such men. And we know we should, because merely looking at their lives and examples encourages us in our walk with Christ and makes us want to live the same way. And that ultimately is how we honor such men: by following their example, in so far as they followed Christ. That’s why we should read good Christian biographies and the like… That’s why we should share and listen to each other’s testimonies… Because together we are encouraging each other and helping each other follow Christ.
Beloved, we are to live lives of service, lives of love, lives of joy for the glory of Christ and the good of His people. And that means not merely seeking our own interests, but the interests of others, and thus the interests of Christ. That’s ultimately what our lives should be dedicated to. So whether that means we are to stay right where we are and pour out our lives for the fame of Christ by loving and serving our family, our church, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers or classmates, or whatever, for their good and God’s glory; or whether that means moving to another city, another state, another country even to take the gospel and magnify the glory of Christ among another people. Either way our calling plays out the same. Our lives are to be marked by humility, unity, service, and sacrificial love. We are to be so joyful and content in Christ that we delight to love God and love people, even at great risk and cost to ourselves, because for us, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Regardless of what we risk or what we lose, we cannot lose Christ, and He will not lose us. And He is all we need, and all want… Indeed, all we truly have is Christ…