Posted by: mattcolvin | November 23, 2011

Philippians 2:19-30: The Gospel Needs a Face


Thursday of the 22nd week after Trinity: Philippians 2:19-end.

I have remarked often to my students that a relationship with Christ is not like a relationship to Napoleon or Julius Caesar. He is not a dead historical character about whom we can only read in history books. He is alive. Therefore, though Scripture is sufficient in the sense of providing what the Church needs to proclaim Christ truly and teach men how to live, nonetheless it is emphatically not sufficient for Jesus to be proclaimed by a book. Since He is a person, and since the Father and Spirit are persons, they require personal representation. A book is personal, of course, since it is written by a man. (Indeed, we rightly say that, e.g. the apostle Paul’s personality comes out in his writing.) But it is clear from Hebrews 1 that written revelation is inferior to a face-to-face meeting. The Son became man so that he might meet us face to face.

Because of this, we confess an Apostolic Church in our creeds. And in our present passage, the apostle Paul, having urged the Philippians twice to be “of one mind”, or “like-minded” (1:27, 2:2), commmends to them Timothy as a “like-minded” representative of himself, and uses Epaphroditus (2:25) as a courier and messenger between himself and the Philippian church.

Epaphroditus especially exemplifies the sympathy that conjoins the members of the body of Christ. Indeed, he is the “apostle” of the Philippian church (Απόστολος, 2:25), their representative. He is concerned and distressed because the Philippians have heard that he is sick. He longs to be reunited with them. Yet he is also united with Paul as well, being a συνεργός (fellow-worker) and συστρατιωτης (fellow-soldier). (See this blog for a compelling case, based on Greek onomastics and other considerations, that Epaphroditus in Philippians is the same person as Epaphras in Colossians.)


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