A Call to Celebration

Grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

Session Seven

  • Invite members of the group to share an interesting, exciting or amusing incident which happened during the week.
  • What are you finding most helpful or valuable about belonging to this group?
  • If you were to give a talk on how to make friends, jot down the main points you would want to make.
  • Find out something about Timothy by looking up the following passages: Acts 16:1-3; ; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:10-11; 1 Corinthians 4:17.
  • Read Philippians 2: 19 – 30 and the accompanying comment.

Philippians 2:19-30

vv.19-24: It’s good to have people we can rely on, people who say that they will undertake a job and you know that they will not let you down. Timothy was like that. Paul could send him to Philippi with confidence that he would be genuinely concerned for the people there.Such confidence grows out of experience. Timothy had worked with Paul for some years and the relationship between them was rather like that which we sometimes see between an adult son and his father. They respected each other. They worked together harmoniously. The younger reflected the elder in much that he did and said.Timothy’s reliability stands out in contrast to the self-seeking of others around Paul at the time he was writing this letter. They seek their own interests. Timothy seeks what is best for Jesus Christ and for other people.Self-seeking lingers on in the life of the Church. A community set up to promote love for God and for other people is spoilt by self-seeking among its members. This reminds us that the Church is not, and never has been perfect. It’s task is to point to the kingdom of God: it is not the kingdom of God itself. However we must never rest content with self-seeking and selfishness in the Church any more than we should be content to let self-seeking and selfishness control our own individual lives.Paul and Timothy were probably bound to each other by their many shared experiences and common interests, but it was their service of the gospel which united them most closely. They were united in the aim of making Christ known in the Gentile world. Christian fellowship goes deeper than sharing some experiences and interests. It grows out of sharing in the service of Christ.

vv.25-30: Meet another of Paul’s friends. He was a Philippian, a member of the church that Paul was writing to, and it was by his hands that the money gift from his church had been conveyed to Paul. At the request of his church, he had stayed on with Paul to render whatever assistance he could on behalf of his congregation.But this man, Epaphroditus, had fallen ill, even to the point of being at death’s door, so that his friends back home had become deeply concerned about him. He has however, by the time Paul wrote this letter, recovered and is anxious to go back to Philippi to reassure his friends there of his full recovery. Paul does not say so, but it may have been that he had another reason for sending Epaphroditus back: he might be able to help resolve the conflicts which were threatening to disrupt the fellowship there.Paul describes Epaphroditus in glowing terms as my brother and co-worker, and as a fellow-soldier in Christ’s cause.All those who share membership in the household of God, with God as their Father and Jesus Christ as their elder brother, should treat each other as brothers and sisters. Too often self-seeking and self-serving get in the way of our doing this, but it is something to be cherished and fostered within the Christian Church.Among co-workers for the Gospel there should be a spirit of cooperation, not one of rivalry and competitiveness. And certainly not one of suspicion, rejection and hatred. Again this is not always so, but it is what Christ asks of his servants.How much energy has been wasted by Christians fighting among themselves! The enemy is Satan and all the powers of destruction which oppose the Creator’s purposes. This shows how important it is for us to know who the enemy is. It is never a person, it is that power which opposes the goodness and the love of God.

For discussion:

1. Timothy and Epaphroditus were Paul’s friends.  (a) How important is friendship in the Christian life?  (b) What friends have helped you in your Christian life?

2. The nature of friendship (a) What, in your experience, makes for a strong friendship?  (b) What made Paul’s friendship with Timothy and Epaphroditus so strong?  (c) What difference is there, if any, between Christian friendship and ordinary friendship?

3. Friendship in the Church(a) How could our church become more friendly? (b) What are the enemies which work against the church becoming a really friendly community?  (c) What can be done to overcome those enemies?

4. Christian friendship or fellowship can become inward looking so that the Church forgets its mission to others.   (a) How can we guard against this? (b) What part does friendship play in the spread of the Gospel? (c) What can we do to improve a spirit of cooperation among the disciples of Christ in this area?

  • Ask in prayer for God’s forgiveness for Christian in-fighting and for his Spirit to direct the Church’s energies into that which promotes God’s kingdom.
  • Pray for people who have been hurt in their friendships, for those who have been wounded by the Christian fellowship, for those who are crying out for friendship but don’t know where to find it.