Philippians 2:19-30 – Timothy, Epaphroditus and Tethered Affections
History tells us that Paul was a single man. He had no wife, and subsequently no sons or daughters. He does not mention siblings as far as blood relatives. He does, however, mention a lot of brothers and sisters in his letters. Mostly referring to those in the churches to which he wrote. In the final verses in Philippians 2, Paul mentions two men, one he calls his son and another a brother. This should not be considered strange terminology to those who have grown up in the church, and especially to those who are acquainted with the writings of Paul. It is my hope that we do not miss the subtle depth of these labels of affection. We are in desperate need of understanding them in our modern context. In order to bring this into stark focus we must ask ourselves a pointed question: to whom do you tether your deep affection?
Paul and Timothy have a unique and intimate relationship. For someone with no children to call another man a son is no small thing. It denotes affection, intimacy, and exclusive love. I do not love my children like I love other children. I do not feel the responsibility for other children like I do for my own children. The term “son” or “daughter” is not lightly thrown to random younger beings. It is birthed out of much labor and toil, and I do not use those terms by accident. As a father I cannot adequately express the depth of love I have for my daughters. They have a love that I do not give lightly. They have a type of unhindered love that I do not give to everyone. This is a love that Paul gives and shares with Timothy. We will never exhaust the depth of their relationship.
Paul and Timothy point us to an aspect of spiritual development that is becoming more and more rare in the American church. Not that it does not exist or that there has not been a revival in the practice of Pauline discipleship, but as widespread as the “church” is in America, we do not see this as we ought. There are two sides to this example of discipleship: 1) Paul – a man totally and unequivocally sold out to the work, spread, and personal sanctification of the Gospel (2) Timothy – a young man willing to suffer and struggle under an unrelenting servant of the Gospel. Paul in training and discipling Timothy is showing us how to further the Gospel for future generations. It is not the only way, but it is a sure way. We are in desperate need of men of faith to rise and lead younger men into a deeper understanding of the Gospel. This is done not just in word but in deed. We have too many who have twisted the words because they have despised the deeds. May the Lord continue to raise up men of God to biblically lead the next generation of young men. May the Lord also raise up young men ready to submit to the Gospel through the discipleship of Godly men.
Epaphroditus is another animal. He is not a constant companion of Paul. He is given the distinction of “brother.” Here again, we have Paul giving a familial term to someone not blood related. Epaphroditus was a man willing to risk for the sake of the Gospel, and in that Paul found kinship. Epaphroditus surely knew the risk of traveling to Rome from Philippi. He must have understood the dangers of robbers, sickness, and weather, and yet he journeyed despite the challenges. We also must not forget the nature of his long journey. He was not coming to visit a prominent, well-respected, socially acceptable friend. He was coming to visit a prisoner. In joining himself to Paul in support he was risking reputation and welfare beyond natural complications yet he was undeterred in his coming. In this he receives commendation from Paul who calls him not only a brother but a fellow worker and soldier. Terms of great honor in the work of the Gospel.
I ask the question again, to whom do you tether your deep affection? Who do you call brothers? I think most of us would point to blood relatives, best friends, or fellows in the same line of work. I want to remind us of Christ’s words on this subject in Matthew 12:48-50, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?… whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” As Christians, we are called to have deep affection for those who have tethered their affections to Christ. In Christ we are of one mind, one focus, one love. I fear that sometimes we have kept our affections tethered to our old relationships instead of tethering our affections to Christ, forming newer, deeper connections with those in His body. I am not suggesting that we do not associate or love those who are not in Christ. I am simply wanting us to examine our lives and see where our affections really lie. Do your affections in relationships center on Christ or something else? May the Lord lead us into a deeper understanding of our need to Godly, Gospel relationships. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,