Philippians 2:17-23 - The Way of the Submissive Servant

Dr. Steve Viars September 9, 1995 Philippians 2:17-23

chapter 1:27 - 2:16.

     INPUT - what's one important truth from these verses we need to keep
             in mind in order to have a good understanding of the "flow
             of thought?"

           1) strive together for unity - 1:27.

           2) unity is based on "who we are in Christ", the joys and
              benefits of being saved, and how that helps us strive for
              unity because our hearts have been impacted and changed -

           3) Do not operate out of selfishness or vanity - 2:3.

           4) In humility, consider others better than yourself - 2:3.

           5) Don't look out for your interests exclusively, but look out
              for the interests of others - 2:4.

           6) Think about yourselves in a Christ-like way - 2:5.

           7) Be willing to empty yourself (to relinquish rights,
              privileges) - 2:7.

           8) Be humble and obedient - 2:8.

           9) (To the Philippians) - Use these principles to work out a
              solution to the problem of disunity in your church family -

- you could summarize these verses with the phrase "submissive servants."
   - that’s what Jesus Christ, our Savior and model was
   - that’s the kind of people the Philippians were going to need to be to
       get these problems worked out.

- in the verses we're going to study today, Paul is going to return to
   the way he is viewing his imprisonment and possible execution (which
   is a great example of the principles he's been teaching)...
     - and then he's going to talk about someone he's going to send to
        the Philippians, and how he stands out from the other Christian
        workers in Rome (which is also a great example of the principles
        he's been teaching.)

- READ 2:17-23

- we're going to divide these verses into:

I. The Ways Submissive Servants Think
II. The Ways Submissive Servants Avoid
III. The Ways Submissive Servants Minister

- let's begin with:

I. The Way Submissive Servants Think

    - in verses 17-18, Paul is talking about how he is viewing his
      upcoming trial and possible execution.

    - in verse 17, he tells them that:

    A. He was rejoicing

        - as you read the verses, you see words that don't even seem to
          naturally go together.
        - you've got words like "sacrifice" and "service" right next to
          words like "joy" and "rejoicing."

        - INPUT - what words do you normally hear next to "sacrifice" and

        - so the point is -- Paul was able to rejoice, even as he was
            imprisoned and as he thought about the upcoming trial.

            - cf. James 1:5

               (could also talk about the relationship between this verse
                and 1:1 -- the fact that Paul considered himself a

    - not only that, Paul:

    B. He expected them to rejoice

        - Paul did not want the dear folks in this church fretting, and
            worrying about his situation.
        - he wanted them to get to the place that they would view his
            trial, and their trials---just like he was.

- of course, the question is, how could Paul think this way?
   - the terminology he uses in verse 17 is a great help to answering
       that question.

    C. Because of the offerings

        - its very important to follow carefully what Paul is saying in
           verse 17.

   INPUT - how many offerings/sacrifices is Paul talking about in this
           verse?  (two)

           INPUT - whose?  (his, and the Philippians)

    - the picture behind what he's probably referring to is the OT
        sacrificial system
           - and the burnt offering accompanied by a drink offering.

    - if you'd like to read more about that, it's described in great
       detail in Numbers 15:1-10.

          (if time, read Numbers 15:3-5)

    - the picture was that when certain burnt offerings were made as part
       of worship, a liquid offering would be poured out next to the
       burnt offering
         - I realize that that’s completely foreign to our thinking, but
            it wouldn't have been to the Philippians because those from a
            Jewish background would know about Numbers 15, and even the
            pagans had a similar practice.

- the idea is that the main offering was what was burnt on the altar, the
   liquid (drink) offering was "on the side", (secondary, extra) as an
   especially sweet savor to God.

- when you put that back into this passage, beautiful picture emerges.

   - the key question is -- To what was Paul likening the burnt offering,
       and to what was Paul likening the drink offering?

   - the answer is -- the burnt offering was what the Philippians would
        be doing as they obeyed these principles of solving the problems
        of disunity in the congregation (using the principles in the
        previous verses)
         - Paul viewed that as the main issue -- and as they sought to
            sacrifice and serve God in that way---it would be a great act
            of worship.

    - the fact that he might be executed was viewed as the drink
         - the offering on the side
         - the extra, special offering

         - he saw what might happen to him as simply adding to, or
            accentuating what the Philippians were in the process of
            doing as they obeyed the principles of this letter.

- Kenneth Wuest said it this way - "Paul, the humble cross-bearer, humble
    even to the point of rejoicing at the thought that some day he would
    be the lesser part of sacrifice poured out upon the major part, the
    Philippians testimony and service to God."

- the major point is -- Paul expected that the Philippians would take
    these biblical principles and change.
      - that thought brought him great joy.
          - he saw it as an act of worship (showing how important and
              worthy Jesus Christ was to them)

          - if the way he handled his trial helped them do what God
            wanted them to do, then all the cause for additional
            rejoicing-he was a drink offering "on the side."
INPUT - how is the way Paul was THINKING about this situation a good
        example of the principles in the previous verses we reviewed

- INPUT - while I don't think we're going to go around talking about
          ourselves as "drink offerings," how can this principle affect
          the way we handle difficulties?  (Elevate the importance of God
          receiving worship and honor from us in the midst of trials, and
          from others because they watched us in trials).

- so, that’s the ways submissive servants think:

- now, let's look at:

II. The Ways Submissive Servants Avoid

    - in verses 19-23, Paul talks about his plan to send Timothy to them.
    - in this discussion, he contrasts Timothy to some of the other
       servants in Rome.

    - we could look at this in either order---I've decided to look at it
      from the negative side first (from verse 21) then the positive side
      from verses 19-20, and 22-23.

   - READ the verses again.

    - Paul says of the other Christian servants in Rome (where he is
       imprisoned) - "For all seek their own, not the things which are
       Jesus Christ's."

    - those are very strong words.

       - we need to balance them by saying that there's no reason to
         assume that Paul was talking about some of his close companions
         like Luke, or Aristarchus.
       - it's possible that these men were unavailable to go because
          they had been dispatched somewhere else---which explains why
          they weren't mentioned at the beginning of the letter.

       - when you think back over what we studied in chapter 1, the kind
          of people Paul is referring to here becomes obvious:

       - INPUT - any ideas on who Paul may have been speaking of that
           he's already mentioned in chapter 1?

             (the people from verse 1:16)

              - there were some people supposedly serving Christ in Rome,
                 but they were doing it selfishly.

              - and Paul is saying in verse 2:21 -- of the people who are
                 available to be sent---Timothy stands out among them,
                 because the others "seek their own, not the things which
                 are Christ's."

- of course that is especially bad, in light of all Paul has been
- the bottom line is -- these people he's talking about in verse 2:21 are
   exactly the opposite of what he's been teaching in this chapter.
     - they don't possess the characteristics we reviewed at the
         beginning of class.
- Of course, undoubtedly Paul wanted the Philippians to look at that
    verse and ask--- "Am I that way?"
      - Do I "seek my own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ's?"

- Isn't it easy to adopt a selfish agenda, and get all caught up with
    selfish things----and neglect the "things that are Christ's?"

    1) Cf. Purdue -- can get all caught up in the football, basketball
        prospects, etc.
          - nothing wrong with enjoying that---but it's wrong if thats
              all Purdue means to us.

          - instead of:
              - praying for and participating in Purdue Outreach
              - planning to have students in our homes
              - looking for ways to minister and reach others as God
                  gives us opportunity to do so.

- "all seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ's"

- we could develop that a dozen different ways, but let me just ask you,
    - Could you give examples this week of how you "sought the things
        that were Jesus Christ's?"

- Warren Wiersbe made an important observation when he tied these verses
    back to the matter of unity in the church:

    "Timothy had a natural concern for the welfare of others; he had a
     servant's mind.  It is too bad that the believers in Rome were so
     engrossed in themselves and their own internal wranglings that they
     had no time for the important work of the Lord.  This is one of the
     tragedies of church problems; (insert - if they're not handled
     biblically) they divert time, energy, and concern away from the
     things that matter most.  Timothy was not interested in promoting
     any party or supporting any divisive cause.  He was interested only
     in the spiritual condition of God's people, and this concern was
     natural to him."

     - develop if time -- how "people seeking their own" can sap time and
        energy away from spiritual ministry.

- this quote from Warren Wiersbe is a natural bridge to our third point:

III. The Ways Submissive Servants Minister

    - let's turn our attention to Timothy
    - Paul holds him up as an example of a faithful Christian servant,
       and a man who was a good illustration of the principles he had
       taught earlier in the chapter.

         - Timothy was verses 3-16 "in the flesh," (not perfectly, but he
            was making good progress in that direction)

    - there's a lot of biographical information about Timothy we're going
        to have to bypass because of time
           - if you'd like to do some study on him this week, I've got a
              couple of handouts to help you with that.  (Wiersbe, p. 81,
              Hendricksen, p. 134)

           - let's take the time we have remaining to look at what Paul
              mentions in this text.

    A. Ministry that is natural because it is from the heart.

        - INPUT - what would be some opposites of what Paul is discussing

        - this phrase "likeminded who will naturally care for their
          state" is one that we should all strive for in the way we

        - INPUT - what are some ways we can do this?

           (develop -- ways you see this happening around the church)

    B. Ministry that takes direction from others

        - verse 22

        - instead of "seeking his own" (v. 21), Timothy had worked under
            Paul like a son would to his own father.

        - INPUT - what was Paul emphasizing here?

        - INPUT - how was Timothy exemplifying the principles from verse

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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