If you sat down to read Philippians 2, you might feel a bit jolted when you hit verse 19 because it seems as though Paul takes a sharp detour and is now coordinating travel logistics. But there’s a direct connection between what Paul says about Timothy and Epaphroditus to what he’s been writing about previously in chapter 2.
Paul uses this portion of his letter to the Philippians to highlight two men in his life, Timothy and Epaphroditus, who have demonstrated how to live a Christ-like life. Leading up to this point in the letter, Paul has laid out exactly how to live a life like Christ; and now he provides tangible examples to the Philippians in Timothy and Epaphroditus.
While that is the main crux of his message here, one can’t help but notice how his words edify these two men. Take a look at what Paul says about each man.
- There was no one else like him (v. 20)
- He was like a son to Paul (v. 22)
- He faithfully served with Paul in sharing the gospel (v. 22)
- Described as a brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier (v. 25)
- He was the selfless messenger of the Philippians sent to Paul (v. 25)
- He deserved honor because he almost died for the work of the gospel (v. 29, 30)
That is high praise from a man like Paul with high standards.
So, what do we learn from Paul about how our speech can edify others? There are two distinct things we see in the way Paul spoke about Timothy and Epaphroditus.
- He spoke about who they were
Epaphroditus and Timothy’s identities were wrapped up in Jesus Christ. This was apparent in how Paul likened their lives to Christ. Their love for the Lord was seen as preeminent in their lives based on what they did. But the motivating factor behind what they did had everything to do with who they were, which were children of God.
- He spoke about what they did
Paul specifically describes the actions of each of these men. Timothy was concerned for the Philippians while working alongside Paul to share the good news. Epaphroditus served as the individual who traveled to see Paul with supplies to support Paul’s ministry, almost dying of illness on the way. The actions of these men were to be commended and Paul made sure to do so.
Paul provides a good model for us in how we can encourage others: praise them for who they are as well as what they do. Those two sentiments go hand-in-hand.
If you’re only acknowledging an individual for what they do, it’s easy for them to feel de-valued in who they are. And the reverse is true when we only talk about how wonderful someone is without acknowledging the work they do. They are likely to feel under appreciated.
How have you used your speech to edify others lately? Who in your life could you speak loving words to? I encourage you to act on lifting others up. Let’s follow Paul’s lead and speak words of life that build up and encourage those around us.