Chapter 27: All Seek Their Own

Philippians 2:19‑21  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likemined, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
“But I-hope in (the) Lord Jesus soon to-send Timothy to-you, in-order-that I-also may-be-cheered-in-soul knowing the-(things) concerning you. For I-have no-one equal-in-soul who will genuinely care-about the-(things) concerning you; for they all seek their own-(things), not the-(things) of-Christ Jesus.”
“But I-hope in (the) Lord Jesus soon to send Timothy to you, in order that I also may be cheered-in-soul knowing the things concerning you. For I have no one equal-in-soul who will genuinely care about the things concerning you; for they all seek their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus.”1
We have mentioned that the second chapter of Philippians presents to us example of devotedness: first and foremost, alone, we gaze on our Lord Jesus. Then we saw Paul, as the wine poured out on the sacrifice for a drink-offering, and then also the Philippian saints themselves, as the sacrifice.
Now we will meditate a little, God willing, on Paul’s own son in the faith, Timothy: and before we reach the end of the chapter, we will see Epaphroditus as another beautiful example of devotedness to Christ.
Let us refresh our memories a little as to Timothy, and I hope we will find it also refreshes our own souls. His home was in either Derbe or Lystra, probably Lystra; his mother was a Jewess who believed, named Eunice, and unfeigned faith dwelt not only in her, but also, first, in his grandmother Lois: but his father was a Greek, and as he had never been circumcised, he may have been brought up as a Greek. However, he knew the Holy Scriptures from earliest childhood, and was well reported of by the brethren that dwelt in Lystra and Iconium: and on Paul’s second missionary journey, he desired to have Timothy go forth with him in the work. (Acts 16:1-31Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 2Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. 3Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1‑3) & 2 Tim. 1:55When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. (2 Timothy 1:5)). Timothy fully knew what persecutions Paul endured at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra. (2 Tim. 3:10-1110But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. (2 Timothy 3:10‑11)). Most of these persecutions had been on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 141And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. 2But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. 3Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. (Acts 14:1‑3)), when Timothy was, perhaps, only a boy; but he knew all about them, and may have been an eye-witness of some. It was at Lystra Paul was stoned, and dragged out of the city, supposed to be dead: and it is very probable the boy Timothy was amongst the disciples who “stood round about him,” (Acts 14:2020Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. (Acts 14:20)) when he “rose up, and came into the city.” He must have known also how John Mark had turned back from the very path of service to which he was now called: yet he did not hesitate to follow Paul, though well he must have known it would be to share similar persecutions. I rather wonder how many of us would have done the same thing.
I think Timothy is a most encouraging example for young believers today. He was young, not strong in body, probably knew what it was to be despised. He seems to have been by nature, timid; and at times in much need of encouragement. He knew what tears meant. He knew the temptation to be a coward. (2 Tim. 1:77For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7); New Translation). But I know of no fellowservant whom Paul so delights to honor:
listen to what he says of him—
Timothy was almost certainly with Paul in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, Troas, Miletus, and doubtless other places; and he was with him in prison at Rome: and it was for Timothy Paul specially longed in his last imprisonment, probably in a dungeon, just before his death. We do not know if he reached him in time, or not.
This young brother was associated with Paul in writing six epistles; and his name is included in the salutation of a seventh; and we have two letters that were written by the Apostle to him. Paul sent him for special service to Thessalonica, to Corinth, to Philippi. We know he had been in prison for Christ’s sake, and had been released. (Heb. 13:2323Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. (Hebrews 13:23)). Paul had a number of companions and helpers, but this young man, weak in body, but strong in spirit, seems to have been the dearest to him, and the most trusted. It is this young man Paul chose to go to the assembly in Philippi, while he himself is unable to be with them. We never read, as far as I know, of any very great gift that Timothy had: though he did unquestionably have special gifts: (1 Tim. 4:14; 214Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14)
14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:14)
Tim. 1:6): but, as another has said, “It is not great talents, nor great scholarship, nor great preachers that God needs, but men and women great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God.” O, my beloved young readers, may you take courage by Timothy to seek to be men and women such as this!
And so we read: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus soon to send Timothy to you.” I think the word “But” takes us back to the 12th verse, where Paul speaks of his own absence: and to make up in a way for this, “this favorite companion, the Apostle will now send to his favorite church”; with the added assurance, “I am persuaded (or, confident) in the Lord, that I also myself shall come soon.”
There is something very lovely in the way Paul tells his beloved friends of his “hope” to send Timothy, and of his “confidence” that he himself would soon come. Both are “in the Lord,” or “in the Lord Jesus,” (vs. 19) and James tells us we should say, “If the Lord will: and Paul uses these words at times: (1 Cor. 4:19; 16:719But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. (1 Corinthians 4:19)
7For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. (1 Corinthians 16:7)
): but Paul hopes, or is confident, in the Lord. There may be a difference between this, and being “in Christ,” which would take us up to our union with Christ in heaven: while the expression “in the Lord” would seen to think of us as His bondslave down here: but both are in Him. None knew as Paul that “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Eph. 5:3030For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (Ephesians 5:30)); and it cannot fail to affect his ordinary speech. His every thought and word and deed seem to proceed from Christ: in very truth he could say “For me to live is Christ” (ch. 1:21). Thus he could speak of—
This does not exhaust them, but time would fail to recount all. And may I again point out that the word LORD necessarily implies a counterpart, slave, just as husband necessarily implies wife, or father necessitates a child. And I sadly fear, Beloved, in our day we are in danger of forgetting that HE is our LORD, and that we are HIS slaves. Paul’s Epistles open with these words: “Paul, slave of Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 1:11Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1))
“Lord Jesus, Thou hast bought me,
And my life, my all, is Thine!”
Because He bought me, I am His slave. May that ever be the breathing of our heart, as it was of Paul’s heart!
And why did Paul wish to send Timothy? That he himself might be “cheered-in-soul,” knowing the “things concerning” the saints in Philippi. The word we have translated “cheered-in-soul” is a very rare word: it only occurs here in the Greek Scriptures, and is thought not to occurs at all in the Greek Classics, though words from the same root are found, and it is found in the old letters, etc., that we have mentioned, and on inscriptions. It has been translated in many ways: “good comfort, good courage, good cheer, take heart, refreshed, etc.” In the next verse (verse 20) we get a similar word, that is even more uncommon, which we have translated “equal-in-soul.” Paul loves to play on Greek words, and probably intended these two words to be linked together. It is remarkable that in verse 2 of this chapter, we get a third very rare word that is also found only here in the Greek New Testament, and also belongs to the same group as the two words we have just been looking at. In our ordinary English Bibles it is translated “of one accord”: Dr. Lightfoot tells us it means “a complete harmony of feelings and affections”; Dr. Vaughan translates it “knit together in soul,” though he adds, this is not “wholly satisfactory”; Mr. Darby uses “joined in soul.” The three words all are derived from “psuche” soul:
sun-psuchoi- “ones-knit-together-in-soul”
eu-psucheo- “to-be-cheered-in-soul”
iso-psuchon- “to-be-equal-in-soul”
ana-psucho to refresh: perhaps the meaning is, “to-renew-the-soul”
These are all very rare words, each used only once in the Greek New Testament. Is it that such qualities are so rare in the saints, that the Spirit of God must use such rare words to describe them?
God speaks of Himself as the “God of all encouragement” (2 Cor. 1:33Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; (2 Corinthians 1:3) New Translation), and the Greek language seems to be much more full of words to encourage us than English. I have pondered for weeks how to translate this word, eu-psucho, so as to give its own distinctive meaning, and to try and differentiate it from other words with the meaning to encourage: and more than a dozen different Greek words that are meant to cheer our hearts come to mind: each with its own special meaning, so hard to tell out in English: and I suppose, were one to seek, others might be found. The God of all encouragement means to encourage our hearts with these words, and I would love to try and tell you how they have cheered my own heart, but you are probably already weary with Greek words, so I refrain. But the opening words in an old Greek Grammar will come to mind: “That a knowledge of the New Testament in its original tongue is a thing to be desired by intelligent Christians none will question.” Was the old writer mistaken, or are “intelligent Christians” sadly few today?
But let us return to Philippians. Paul knew his dear Philippian brethren well enough to know that “the things concerning” (Acts 19:88And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)) them would cheer his soul. He could not write such words to the saints in Galatia or Corinth: I wonder could he write them to the saints in the place where you live, and I? Could he write them to me? Even in Paul’s day there do not seem to have been many individuals who could so cheer the Apostle’s soul: but Timothy was one such, and of him Paul writes: “I have no man equal-in-soul, who will genuinely care about the things concerning you; for they all seek their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus.” (The word translated “things” could equally well be translated “interests”).
Dear young believer, (and old believer, too), do not these words challenge your heart? Honestly, before God, whose “things” are you seeking? Whose interests? Whose comfort? Whose pleasure? Whose ease? Whose profit? To me, the words are most challenging. Would to God they would challenge every one who reads them! Perhaps these words explain why so few young people are to be found in the dark and needy parts of the Lord’s harvest field.
While meditating on verse 4 of this chapter, we mentioned that Mr. W. Kelly translates 2 Cor. 5:1818And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:18), thus: “While we have the eye, not on the things that are seen, but on those not seen, for the things seen (are) temporary, but those not seen, eternal.” I believe this is an excellent translation. It is not, as we saw, the ordinary word for look, or see: but comes from a word meaning “a mark on which to fix the eye.” We get this very word in the 14th verse of the next chapter of Philippians: “I press toward the mark” (ch. 3:14). It is a race, in which the runner has his eye fixed on the goal. Is not this what you and I need in these days of laxity, when our eye is tempted to wander to all sorts of things, and when it is more awfully true than ever: “All seek their own” (vs. 21)? May God help us each one to have our eye on those things above, “the things of Jesus Christ,” and not on the things all around us, that so easily fill our vision: then we will be found seeking the things of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps someone will ask, “Does this Scripture really mean that there was not one other, except Timothy, in those days, who sought not his own things, but the things of Jesus Christ?” God forbid that one should for a moment detract from the terrible force of this Scripture, but it is fair to say that in the Greek New Testament there is the little word hoi (the nominative plural definite article) before the word all. It is said that according to Greek Grammar this imposes some sort of limitation on the word all. Mr. W. Kelly and Dr. Vaughan translate this: “They all seek their own.” This, I think, is as nearly correct as can be in English. We do not know, nor need we ask, who the “they” refers to: possibly the Philippian saints would know: but it seems to make clear that such beloved servants of the Lord as Luke and Peter and John, and other names known to the Lord, did seek the things of Jesus Christ, and not their own things. And this should encourage us each, individually, to seek to make sure we are not found amongst the “they all,” of this verse, “who seek their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ.” I believe there always has been, and I believe there always will be, a remnant, however small and feeble, who do seek the things of Jesus Christ. May God help us to be of it at any cost!
1. Nestle’s Greek Text gives “Christ Jesus” here and in Rom. 1:11Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1) instead of “Jesus Christ” as in the Authorized Version.