Christian Character

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
HAVING spoken of the Lord Jesus in His wonderful ways of humiliation, and of the effect that following Him produces in His people, the apostle speaks thus of himself: "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me." He had contemplated his boasting in view of the day of Christ because of his beloved Philippians; now he conceives his own death by martyrdom, and regards himself as poured forth, a drink-offering on the sacrifice and service of their faith. He would be as the wine, which, added to the sacrifice as an offering, when poured out, is unseen. But the aroma of the libation perfumes the air, and such a death would be, we may say, a sweet savor to God!
What a view of Christian service is here —what nothingness in self— all that the apostle's life and death was, being an unseen accompaniment to the devotion of others! Let those whom God has called to serve His people, consider the grace in the beloved apostle herein expressed. In the contemplation of his life being thus poured forth he joyed and rejoiced with them all. In view of the day of Christ and its glories, he rejoiced about the Philippians; in the midst of the night of his afflictions he rejoiced with them in his own sufferings, and called them to joy and rejoice with him. The joy of the wine, which is not of earth, is here; its aroma is of the sanctuary.
But while so speaking, Paul had confidence in the Lord (see also Phil. 1:24-26) that he should shortly be able to send Timothy to them to learn how they fared. His good comfort would be their spiritual prosperity—another touch by which we see how truly of the Spirit of Christ he was.
Now the mention of Timothy brings forth the grace which was in that beloved servant of the Master! He cared for the Philippians without effort or constraint-it was natural to him to do so. It is but natural for a mother to care for her child; it is natural, after the divine nature, for a true pastor or evangelist to care for souls. Not by constraint, but willingly is such service rendered, unless, indeed, the constraint be the constraining love of Christ.
Alas! for the others—the once faithful fellow workers—they had grown weary with their toil; and long years of hardship and disappointments do make many a servant of the Lord grow weary of his work. For some reason or other, the love burned not in them with its old force "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." But of the Lord Jesus it is written, "Having loved His own, who were in the world, He loved them unto the end." There is no break in the continuity of His love and care for us. Let the servant learn of his Master, of those who follow Him, and then address himself afresh to the things which are Jesus Christ's. His blessed interests suffer, alas, in the hands of well-known servants of our own day, even as they did in the hands of those servants to whom the apostle referred.
In contrast with such: "Ye know the proof of Timothy," says Paul the aged, "that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel." Neither had the sacred example of Paul dimmed before his eyes, nor had the grand and glorious service of the gospel waned in his affections. Others might fall out of the ranks and leave the arduous place, all the more reason that Timothy should, every inch of him, be a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Others might neglect the gospel, but Paul, like his Lord and Master, preached it out of the love of his soul, and Timothy nobly served with the apostle.
Difficulties beset Paul—he was in prison—and the way of Timothy's visit was not easy, so that the apostle's desire to visit the Philippians had to be met by Epaphroditus, another beautiful example of Christian character. Epaphroditus signifies "lovely," and so is his Christian life. All that we know of this true servant of the Lord is found in the few verses before us. But are there, think we, many upon the earth "lovely" as he?
Epaphroditus was the messenger of the Philippians, sent by them, with their alms, to the apostle when he, a prisoner, stood so greatly in need of temporal help, and not with their alms merely, but with the pleasant burden of their expressed affection. On his journey, or on his reaching Rome, his destination, Epaphroditus fell sick. He had hazarded his life to supply the apostle's need, and to fill up, by presenting their gift, the deficiency which the beloved Philippians could not supply, for they could not in person hand their alms to him. This was the lack in their service toward him which Paul, who loved them so well, felt, and which the loving spirit of the messenger supplied. The money that may be bestowed upon a servant of God is in itself but treasure of the earth, but the love that bestows it is of the treasury of heaven. The money Epaphroditus brought met Paul's need; the love he poured out satisfied the apostle's soul.
Now, while engaged in this gracious mission, Epaphroditus had been sick unto death. In these straits his care was the distress the tidings of his sickness had occasioned the church at Philippi! He longed after them all, because they had heard that he had been sick! His own pain was not the cause of his heaviness, but the grief of their hearts because of his pain! What mutual love in the Lord does this sweet picture open to us, and how it makes us long that the spring of all this grace may be found welling up in ourselves! And while thus contemplating these traits of Christian character we follow up the streams to their source, and are so led back to these sacred words, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Lest the apostle should have sorrow upon sorrow, God raised up Epaphroditus. And here we may pause for a moment, and consider the sanctifying effect of sickness on the spirits of God's saints! Where would have been the exercise of soul, whether in Paul, in the Philippians, or in Epaphroditus, had there been a miracle wrought to raise him up? God's mercy, not His miracle, for Epaphroditus, rejoiced Paul's soul. The harsh notion that sicknesses in the church are all the result of our unbelief, finds no place in the sacred sweetness of this scene of sorrow, and of joy. There was an aroma rising heavenward in the apostl'e's trials and pains in the prison, which could not have been found had he had neither trial nor pain!
The titles of Epaphroditus, in joint honor with the apostle, are three brother "—" companion in labor "—" fellow-soldier. "Brother in the faith; co-worker in making it known; fellow-soldier in preserving its integrity. Now these honors may be those of the least of all saints. Indeed, the first is of necessity that of all, for" all ye are brethren "—all are of the one family by the grace of God the Father; let, therefore, the love which is of God give its heavenly bearing to the least as well as the greatest.
Fellow-worker with the apostle! But who has reached to this honor?—for he was in bonds, and in imprisonments, in suffering, and in deaths oft. Christian service is the outflow of Christian character. Christ our Lord went about doing good, and, following His steps, His servant Paul labored more abundantly than the rest. Fellow-soldier with the apostle! A noble distinction indeed, but telling of courage and of wounds, of absolute loyalty to the Lord; of a life spent for and at last given up to Him, who is the Captain of our salvation. May God raise up in His church men of the spirit of Epaphroditus, and may He give us to follow the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ, while we remember these words, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”