Paul’s Commendation of Timothy

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”

- Philippians 2:19–20

We often think of Paul’s epistles as weighty theological tomes, and rightly so, because they unfold the glories of the gospel for our edification. Yet we would be wrong to consider the Pauline epistles as nothing more than presentations of Christian doctrine. After all, they follow the customs of letter-writing in the first-century Roman Empire. Unlike other epistles outside the New Testament, the Apostle’s writings were breathed out by God the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16–17); still, these letters, because they were composed organically by the Spirit according to first-century conventions, often have information that is similar to what we might find in any ordinary non-inspired letter from the same period. An example of this is the news Paul gives in Philippians 2:19–30 about his friends and coworkers.

At the time Paul wrote to the Philippians, he had recently received a monetary gift from the congregation (Phil. 1:3–5; 4:10–20). But though the Philippians’ partnership with the Apostle and their love for him was commendable, with the gift apparently came news that there were some simmering problems in Philippi — grumblings and complainings. Thus, Paul addressed these issues when he wrote this epistle (2:1–18). He hoped the congregation would get its act together once his letter was read, and in order to find out if that was so, today’s passage mentions that Paul was planning on sending Timothy to Philippi to get news of the situation (vv. 19–20). As we will see in the next few days, the Apostle’s plan was to send his letter first and then Timothy later on. The “soon” in verse 19 really means something like “as soon as possible,” and in verse 23 we see that Timothy was not going to be sent until Paul’s affairs in the court system had been settled.

Although this information may seem rather mundane to us today, we should note that even in conveying this news, Paul expressed his pastoral heart. Not only was he seeking to find out the impact of his letter, but he also wanted to minister to the Philippians through Timothy, one whom he could count on to be genuinely concerned for their welfare. The gospel produces not only love for God in the hearts of believers but also love for others who are in Christ, and this is evident in Paul’s example in Philippians 2:19–20.

Coram Deo

Paul’s sending of Timothy illustrates his great love for his congregation and is an example that Christian leaders will especially want to follow. It is good to appoint and send others on one’s behalf to help those under one’s charge if that will help meet the need for pastoral care. Commending these helpers also aids the recipients in fully understanding the benefits they will be receiving from the assistance of these delegates.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 147:12–20
Luke 10:1–12, 17–20
2 Corinthians 9:1–5
Colossians 4:7–9

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