Philippians 2:14-30 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What terms does the apostle Paul use to describe his ministry on behalf of the Philippian church (see verse 16b printed below?) What does this tell us about him?

Do all things without grumbling and arguing… (16) firmly holding the word of life—and so be a source of glory for me on the day of Christ, showing that I did not run in vain and I did not labor in vain. (Philippians 2:16)

In verse 16 the apostle Paul refers to his “running” and “laboring;” his strenuous exertion on behalf of these Philippian Christians who were his spiritual children. For the sake of Christ, Paul put his heart and soul into seeking their spiritual welfare; indeed, he placed their spiritual welfare above his own personal desire (Philippians 1:25).

2. What does Paul anticipate may happen to him? What is his reaction as he contemplates this event? See Philippians 2:17 (printed below)

But if I am poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and offering of your faith, I rejoice—and I rejoice with you all. (Philippians 2:17)

In verse 17 Paul reports the very real possibility of having his life poured out as a libation on behalf of his spiritual children. The imagery is that of a priest preparing a sacrifice upon the altar by pouring out a libation of wine upon the sacrifice itself or around the base of the altar. The “sacrifice” is the Philippians’ faith and the “libation” is the apostle’s own blood. The meaning of the imagery is this: the apostle is anticipating the prospect of having to pour out his own life for the sake of these spiritual children and their well-being; and he is more than willing to do so, he even rejoices in the prospect of doing so.

3. In verse 19 Paul informs the church of his intention to send Timothy to them. Why has he selected Timothy? See Philippians 2:20 (printed below)

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I, too, may be encouraged when I learn about your state of affairs. (20) I have no one else with a heart like him; he will have a genuine concern for your welfare. (Philippians 2:19-20)

In verse 19 the apostle Paul informs the church of his intention to send Timothy to them as his personal envoy, as was his custom (note 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 6-7). The reason the apostle has selected Timothy for this work is because Timothy “will have a genuine concern for your welfare.” The Greek word here translated “to be concerned about,” in Matthew 6:25 is translated “to be anxious.” Timothy had a very deep and personal love for these Christian brethren and a caring involvement in their spiritual lives. The word translate “genuine” originally meant “related by birth;” hence, the meaning is “natural” or “authentic,” as opposed to superficial; such was Timothy’s concern for his Christian brethren.

4. How is Timothy different from so many other people? See Philippians 2:21-22 (printed below)

All the others seek their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ. (22) But you know his proven worth, that he served with me for the gospel as a son serves his father. (Philippians 2:21-22)

Timothy’s concern for and commitment to fellow Christians is in contrast to the many who “seek their own interests, not the interests of Jesus Christ” (i.e.; they put their own interests and concerns foremost in their thinking and decision-making.) In verse 22 the apostle apostle reminds the Philippians that Timothy is a man of proven character: Timothy had accompanied Paul and Silas on their initial visit to Phillipi (Acts 16) and had demonstrated himself faithful in the face of opposition and persecution.

5. Epaphroditus was a member of the Philippian church whom they had sent to minister to Paul on their behalf. Why does Paul find it necessary to send him back to the church? See Philippians 2:25-28 (printed below)

But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, who is also your messenger and the one whom you sent to minister to my needs. (26) I am sending him back since he yearned for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was sick. (27) Indeed, he was sick at the point of death; but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I should not bear sorrow upon sorrow. (28) Therefore, I have sent him with great urgency, so that, upon seeing him again, you may rejoice and I also may have less sorrow. (Philippians 2:25-28)

Paul finds it necessary to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians because “he yearned for all of you and was distressed.” Epaphroditus had become deathly sick while ministering to Paul in his Roman prison. Word of his illness had reached the church back at Phillipi, causing great concern for their brother’s condition. The message got back to Epaphroditus at Rome that his Philippian Christian brethren were concerned about him, and this in turn caused him to become distressed about them. Here is an evidence of the mutual love that these Christians had for one another.