19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
Christians are part of an army of faith. They are connected in a cause that is greater than themselves and that establishes them in unity through battle. So it is with Paul and Timothy. Timothy and Paul have found themselves battle-hardened together. As they have been knit together through the gospel, they have come to value the connection they share based on the gospel. So deep is their connection that they share affection and concern for the Philippians.
The connection exemplified in Paul and Timothy is not unusual for Christians. It is a profound connection that unites Christians. They are not united around the same principles as the rest of the world. For others, there must be some commonality in order for communion to occur. People seek others who share the same affinity, preference, interest, life-stage, vocation, etc… Yet, for the Christian there need only be Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the sole foundation of the community of faith. All other disunities and divergences are overcome and surpassed by the great truth of who He is and what He has done. This is why Christians across the world can weep for one another’s burdens and can rejoice in each other’s successes. There is a common mission and a common soul-bond between those in the household of faith. Timothy exemplifies this bond. Whereas everyone else is concerned for their own interests, Timothy seeks the interest of Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that Paul does not cite Timothy as seeking the interest of the Philippians, but that of Christ. Christians find their common interest in Christ Jesus, not in their affinities or affections. Consider what the churches in the west would look like if their common bond was based on Christ and His mission alone. The beauty of this sort of community could change the world.[i]
Paul hopes to be released to see his brothers and sisters soon. While he has yet to have received a verdict in his case and his future is technically uncertain, he recognizes that his verdict is already in the hands of God and his future is, in reality, certain. This is why his hope for release “in the Lord.” Paul is certain that the Lord’s will is going to be accomplished and he hopes that he will be reunited with the brothers at Philippi soon. The confidence of a believer to endure through any circumstance is remarkable. This confidence is based entirely on the work and life of Christ in the heart of His people. So Paul can say with confidence that he hopes to join them soon, because he is trusting that, whatever the outcome may be, it is the Lord’s design.
Often, when a Christian speaks of sovereignty or providence, the discussion upsets immature believers and non-believers. There is a sense in which the reality of God’s providential care over all things should upset weak and non-believers. The recognition that man is not in control of his own destiny ought to bother the independent spirit. So, the young believer is no exception and the struggle to trust Christ with control of all things is a difficult one. But, for Paul, the providence and sovereignty of God is critically important and is part of the foundation of his confidence. Likewise, true believers will cling to the truth that God is ultimately in control of circumstance and that no circumstance is outside of His purview. It is this confidence that allows Christians to hope for what is to come, no matter how difficult it may be. Christians are confident in the future because they are confident of God’s presence in and engagement of their current circumstance.
Oh brother or sister, can you boast of such a confidence? Can you be brought low to a prison and have the confidence that you are right where God has placed you? Can you overcome circumstance and trust that the Lord will accomplish His purposes even amidst your suffering and seeming failure? I hope in the Lord that you can.
[i] For a more thorough examination of gospel centered community, check out Mark Dever’s work: “The Compelling Community.”