Commentary

A Practical Picture of Genuine Humility

Scriptures: Philippians 2:19-24
by Jacob Abshire on January 4, 2022

Paul usually reserves his housekeeping for the end of his letters. Not so in his epistle to the Philippian church. He wanted them to expect a particular visitor for a particular reason that was key to a particular point being made right in the middle of his writing.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

Philippians 2:19-24

Joy is the summative expression of Paul’s letter. We can see as early as the first chapter that he is working toward their “progress and joy in the faith” (Phil. 1:25). Transitioning to the second chapter, he dives more closely into the attitude of humility as a means of attaining and maintaining this joy. “Complete my joy” by having the mind of humility (Phil. 2:2). “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). 

Paul is speaking about the mind of Christ—the attitude of humility—who, though he was God, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7). Christ “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). He is the supreme example and source of joy. So, Paul invites the church, as followers of Christ, to work out the mind of Christ in order to cultivate the attitude of humility (Phil. 2:5-8).

This brings us to our passage (Phil. 2:19-24). It is an incredibly practical portion of Scripture and easily understood by the one who seeks it earnestly. First of all, notice a few key indicators of the textual structure. Paul bookends the paragraph with his intention of sending Timothy, “I hope to send Timothy to you” (Phil. 2:19) and again, “I hope to send him [Timothy] as soon as I can” (Phil. 2:23-24). To be thorough, he also intends on sending Epaphroditus, as noted in the next paragraph, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus” (Phil. 2:23) and “I am eager to send him” (Phil. 2:28). 

Secondly, notice that Paul is transparent about why he desires to send these men, “so that you may rejoice” (Phil. 2:28), and tells them to receive them “with all joy” (Phil. 2:29). This joy, however, is not exclusively for the Philippian believers, it is also for Paul. He adds, “so that I may be cheered,” which is a word that means filled with joy (Phil. 2:19). In other words, this joy is meant to be shared through a mutual humility:

Even if I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you. Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:17-18

The benefit of mutual sacrifice is mutual joy. As Paul exercises the attitude of humility by sacrificing for their sake, they exercise the same attitude by sacrificing for his sake. So, by their mutual humility, they experience mutual joy. Paul’s joy is increased by their humility, and their joy is increased by his humility. It is a circulation of mutual humility that unleashes eternal joy.

Now, let’s follow some logic to see why Paul intends to send Timothy to the Philippian church. First, he wants the church to experience eternal joy. Second, he knows that eternal joy is accessed by genuine humility. Third, he wants to send Timothy to help them experience eternal joy. Evidently, there is something about Timothy that will ignite genuine humility in order that eternal joy may be experienced in the church. This is what Philippians 2:19-24 shows us. Timothy is a model of Christlike humility.

The practical opportunities here are abundant. Learning how to live like Christ is easier to do then actually living like Christ. Scripture informs our mind, teaching us what to think, but example informs our will, teaching us how to live. How many times have you learned new principles only to wonder how they might look when walked out in your life? This is why God provides us with models. They give us shape and form to our understandings. They motivate us to live godly lives. They tell us that godliness is possible even in a sinful world where we struggle with sinful tendencies. 

Timothy is a practical picture of genuine humility. Seeing him, and others like him today, should motivate us to live humble lives in order to experience eternal joy. He shows us that humble people possess a submissive attitude (Phil. 2:19), a sympathetic concern (Phil. 2:20), a singular focus (Phil. 2:21), and substantiated worth (Phil. 2:22). If you want to experience eternal joy, then look at this practical picture, and ask the Lord to help you put on the attitude of humility.