Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Four of Paul’s Epistles have a special bearing one towards the other as to the truth.
1. Ephesians unfolds the doctrine of the Church of God as the body of Christ in heaven, and as builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit on earth, in its normal condition; ever true before God, and for faith. No ruin can affect what is thus maintained on earth, and will be finally presented in glory by the power of God.
2. First Timothy takes the Church up on the other side, also in its normal condition, but as presented before men. Consequently you do not find the Holy Spirit spoken of except as connected with Christ (1 Tim. 3:1616And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)); nor the relationships of Father and children — body and head — bridegroom and bride — which are most fully brought out or hinted at in the Ephesians. 1 Timothy treats of what it is as presented before men as the pillar and ground of the truth; Ephesians as before God and for faith. Both take up the Church in her normal state.
3. The 2nd Epistle to Timothy, on the other hand, takes up the abnormal state of things with reference to the outward state of evil which had come in, and the pathway of the servant or of the saint through it all, as to external things; showing the energy of faith and ministerial service, and what faith and devotedness can accomplish counting on God, in the midst of the ruin and falling away of the Church as a whole.
4. But while 2nd Timothy has its place of deep and lasting importance for us, as marking a pathway of separation from evil in the midst of the professing Church, Philippians has a specially lovely place marked, as in 2nd Timothy, by the absence of apostolic power.
Written in the prison at Rome, where the great apostle had now been for some years, this Epistle marks the resources of Christ (when the Church was deprived of apostolic ministry) in a special way.
To Paul, as has been said, were committed two special ministries. Peter was the apostle of the circumcision, and had his own place. Paul was
(1) “The minister of the gospel to every creature under heaven”; and
(1) as the apostle or minister of that grace and glad tidings which rose above his sin. Wasting too, and persecuting the Church of God, he is converted to the union of these scattered saints in one body to Christ — the mystery of Christ and the Church, and
(2) was “the minister of the Church to complete the word of God.”
He had now (Philippians) been cut off for some years from both; a chained prisoner in Rome; all that were in Asia had turned away from him; the Church was settling outwardly into the world, and departing from her heavenly calling; all sought their own, not the things of Jesus Christ; many walked as enemies of the Cross. Who then, of all men, would seem to have been more needed than the devoted energetic Paul? But, wonderful to say, prison had matured his confidence in Christ and His resources; had made Christ increasingly his all, and he can write with beautiful calmness.
(1) “I would not have you ignorant that the things which happened unto me have turned out to the furtherance of the gospel,” (Phil. 1:1212But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; (Philippians 1:12)); and
(2), in Philippians 2:1212Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12), “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of (his) good pleasure.”
Thus the double ministry of Paul prospered in Christ’s hands, even when the vessel was no more free. The gospel was furthered by reason of his bonds, and the saints — the Church — if obedient when he was there, were now cast more entirely on God, and had the joy and opportunity of being more obedient than ever — God working in them to this end when Paul was gone.
It is an interesting study to examine the history, in the Acts of the Apostles, of the first planting of Christianity in those places which were afterward addressed by an epistle.
The Epistle to the Philippians illustrates this (Acts 16). Satan’s opposition to the gospel, first by patronizing flattery, and, failing this, by persecution, marks his work. In the midst of all this, “rejoicing” characterizes the servants of Christ. Paul and Silas, freshly scourged, their feet fast in the stocks, “played and sang praises to God at midnight.” “Songs in the night” ascended from those prison walls which no power of Satan could silence. In the Epistle the saints are under the persecuting hand of Satan, and the apostle in prison at the end of his course, as he had been in the beginning of his work at Philippi, in another, finds his heart overflowing with the rich consolation of Christ, and he writes to these beloved saints — “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.” The Epistle is characterized by this rejoicing in the midst of the enemy’s opposition, and the failure of the Church all the way through.
In 2 Timothy we find there what we may term the negative pathway of separation from evil. In Ephesians 4, the positive ground of action, and responsible place of the saints corporately in the unity of the Spirit, while in Philippians we have the practice of that platform — the living fellowship of the Spirit of God.
Ephesians presents the normal state of the Church to Godward, corporately.
1st Timothy — her normal state before man — the world; also in the corporate or collective condition. Philippians, the abnormal condition before the Lord, and the devotedness of individual faith.
2nd Timothy, the abnormal condition also, but more with reference to the evil which is largely spoken of.
Words of Truth, New Series 2:141-143.