Scripture: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
Observation: This second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church builds on his proclamation: “to live is Christ” (1:19-26). We find our ultimate purpose and meaning in life in Christ, in following in the footsteps of our humble, suffering servant who sought the best interest of our fallen humanity over his wellbeing. Paul then elaborates on Christ’s sacrificial mission that entailed parting from his glorified position in the heavenly realm to our sin-marred world: taking the form of a servant and obediently laying down his life for our spiritual birth (verses 5-8). With this in mind, Paul tells the Philippian church to pay it forward: reverently work out their salvation by cooperating with God in doing the good works that he instills in us to accomplish (verses 12-13). To aid them in staying on course, he informs the church that Timothy and Epaphroditus are on their way. Paul commends both men as faithful servants of Christ who embody the principle of thinking beyond their welfare for the needs of others. Indeed, months earlier, Epaphroditus nearly died in traveling to Rome to care for the needs of Paul on the church’s behalf (verses 19-30).
Takeaway: It is critical to follow the correct order of salvation and works. Paul prophesies that in the fullness of time, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (verses 10-11). Thus, no matter what good works we may have done, ultimately, what matters most is that we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord. Pursuing the interests of others without faith in Christ will never lead us to salvation. For it is by grace through faith we accomplish the good works the Father has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). And love is our motivator. Outside of our love for Christ, any such sacrificial acts of service will only lead us to burnout and despair. For Timothy and Epaphroditus, their devoted affections for their Savior drove them to set aside selfish ambition to help others discover the joy of their salvation. With humble hearts, they will come alongside the congregants at Philippi and expend their time and resources to help these babes in the faith deepen their love for their Lover.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who set aside his rightful place of supremacy to become our humble servant. Would you please foster in us a more profound love for you and your Son that would overwhelm us and inspire us to seek the needs of others over selfish ambition? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling