But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things gowith me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly. But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me (Philippians 2:19–30).
First, we tend to formulate the call to discipleship as an option for Christians to consider. Second, there is a tendency (especially in today’s consumer oriented churches) to make discipleship attractive (with a book you can buy or a study-guide to purchase). The fact is, there is nothing attractive about discipleship. It calls for an undivided loyalty to the gospel, full allegiance to Jesus, the Messiah. It calls people to place themselves at the disposal of Jesus and the work of his church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
As Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians, both Timothy and Epaphroditus are examples of discipleship. They, indeed, exemplify what J.B. Phillips remarked about the early Church:
"Perhaps because of their very simplicity, perhaps because of the readiness to believe, to obey, to give, to suffer and if need be to die, the Spirit of God found what He must always be seeking—a fellowship of men and women so united in faith and love that He can work in them and through them with the minimum of . . . hindrance.
As one reads through a text like Philippians 2:19–30, we discover the marks of the true disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul certainly is informing his friends back in Philippi about his situation. But in doing so he uses special words to describe Timothy and Epaphroditus. He wants the Christians of the Philippian church to know these two men are models of the Christ hymn Paul earlier cited (2:5–7):
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant . . ."
"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me."