The Likeminded of Heart

René Malgo

Paul lived in Christ. This is something that becomes quite obvious from his letter to the Philippians. He is not speaking as a theologian here, who understands the mysteries of God intellectually, but as someone who has a personal relationship with this God.

Paul hopes that he can send Timothy to the Philippians soon, and he has this hope “in the Lord Jesus” (Philippians 2:19). He hopes, as James says, that the believers should say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15). Paul makes his hope dependent on the will of the Lord, and he believes that his hope is in accordance with it. It is no selfish hope. He wants to send Timothy, his most reliable coworker, to hear how the Philippians are, “…that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state” (Philippians 2:19).

This hope is noteworthy. First, it reveals Paul’s shepherd’s heart. In the preceding verses, he already wrote that he would even rejoice, “If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith...” (Philippians 2:17). He loved the Philippians so much that he was prepared to be a sacrifice—if necessary, to the death. Even at the beginning of the letter, he mentioned that he prayed for the Philippians continually. He really wanted to hear how they were faring. Paul is also very confident. He believed that the One who had begun a good work in them would finish it (Philippians 1:6). He was convinced that he would be encouraged when he heard of their circumstances from Timothy.

The apostle Paul wrote of Timothy, “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:20-22). “Likeminded” means literally having the same soul. Paul considered Timothy his soulmate, as one who thought as he did and had the same priorities. For this reason, Paul knew that Timothy cared about the Philippians.

Of the others, the apostle wrote, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Philippians 2:21). These are strong words. Only a few verses later, Paul names Epaphroditus as a positive example, and yet he says here that, apart from Timothy, he has no one who is likeminded. What did he mean by this? Was Paul a little frustrated that he was in prison? Were there no more good Christians? What about Peter, James and the other apostles? This is all the more serious because the word “all” here is written in Greek with the article, leading the exegete Sydney Maxwell to comment, “The word ‘all’ with the article means, without any exception.” Paul is not merely generalizing here, but he really does mean all.

The answer is relatively simple: Paul meant all those around him in Rome. He only had Timothy there. Epaphroditus was already with the Philippians, and had presumably brought them the letter. But in Rome, Timothy was the only one at Paul’s side who was likeminded. This information leads us to suppose that Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:15, about those who preach Christ “…of envy and strife,” meant all the Christians in Rome except Timothy.

This is strange: after Paul has already sent a good coworker, Epaphroditus, to comfort the Philippians, now he wants to send the last coworker that he can rely on—his “dearly beloved son” in the faith (2 Timothy 1:2). This shows again Paul’s shepherd’s heart. He wants to do without Timothy, to comfort and support the Philippians.

Timothy was already familiar to the Philippians. He had, “as a son with the father,” served with Paul in the Gospel (Philippians 2:22). Between the two of them, there was a true father/son relationship; and for both of them, it was in the first place about the Gospel. Their motto was, “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21), and for both of them this was no platitude but a living reality.

Today, we tend to concentrate on all possible personal favorite subjects: whether one can lose one’s salvation, election or free choice, the time of the rapture, etc. These subjects are also important and have to be discussed. There are no unimportant doctrines; everything that comes from God deserves, even demands, our attention. But the decisive criterion must be the Gospel. Is the Gospel being furthered through our efforts or not? Paul considered Timothy to be his soulmate because he spread the Gospel, the good news of redemption. What are we absorbed in? The Gospel, or being dogmatic? Paul could even rejoice over egotistical Christians who preached the Gospel out of strife, because Christ was being preached (Philippians 1:18). This was his and Timothy’s priority: the preaching of the Gospel.

Why did Paul not send Timothy to Philippi immediately, however? Timothy could have taken the letter with him. The condition for sending Timothy, Paul explains in the following words, “Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly” (Philippians 2:23-24).

Paul wanted to send Timothy as soon as he knew what was going to happen to him. What does this mean? Paul trusted that he would soon be able to go himself. Apparently, he did not expect to be imprisoned for very long. On the one hand, he was prepared to be offered as a sacrifice, to die (Philippians 2:17). On the other hand, he trusted in the Lord that he would soon be released. It seems as though he made Timothy’s going dependent on the developments in this matter. Paul emphasized again the principle of James, “If the Lord will, we shall live.” Apparently, Paul could not do without Timothy as long as he was in prison.

Paul showed once again his love for the Philippians, by promising to visit them if the Lord allowed it. It is supposed that Paul really was released, and only after a later arrest died the death of a martyr. The literal translation of the words, “I trust in the Lord” is, “I am convinced.” Paul was convinced in the Lord that he would be liberated. And yet he waited before he sent Timothy. If the apostle were to die a martyr’s death, it would be irresponsible to have sent the only trustworthy person away from Rome. Who would care for the Philippians then?

What does this passage teach us? Even if it is first and foremost about Timothy, we see in Philippians 2:19-24 two likeminded men: Paul and Timothy. Their example is given us in the Scriptures, to encourage us to emulate them. This is a great challenge. Paul was a shepherd in both body and soul. He thought first of others in every situation—above all Christ and His Gospel. Timothy thought, acted and lived in exactly the same way. He was relatively young, and yet Paul looks on him as his soulmate.

What about us personally and in our churches? Paul’s statement, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Philippians 2:21), is challenging—for us also. In his departing words, Paul calls the Christians in Rome “brethren” and “saints,” but before this he had stated that they all sought their own. Even “brethren” and “saints” can be selfish and egotistical. What about us? What is our concern when we think, say or do certain things? What are we striving after in our decisions, our time planning, our service? Are we seeking our own, or that which is Jesus Christ’s? Are we like Timothy, or are we like “all”?

Midnight Call - 12/2017

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