But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly, (vv. 19-24)
Paul was not only an ardent evangelist, but he was also the prince of teachers, and, like his fellow apostle Peter, a true pastor, or shepherd, of the flock of Christ. In this latter respect the young preacher Timothy was his ardent imitator. Whatever other gifts he may have had, that special gift that was given him in connection with the laying on of the elder brethren’s hands, when he went out in the work of the Lord, was probably that of the pastor. This is perhaps one of the rarest, and yet one of the most needed, of all the gifts given by an ascended Christ for the edification of His church. The evangelist ministers to those without Christ; the teacher instructs those already saved; the pastor is more concerned about the state of soul of the believer than as to his knowledge of abstract truth, though recognizing, of course, that saints are formed by the truth, and that a right state of soul and a walk in the truth go together.
Paul, therefore, was anxious to send Timothy to Philippi, that he might be a help and a means of blessing to the assembly there, trusting that he might be used of God to weld their hearts into one, and deliver them from the dissensions that had come in through the misunderstanding between Euodia and Syntyche. He felt that he could depend on Timothy’s judgment, and he counted on being himself comforted when he actually knew their state.
As often pointed out by others, and clearly developed in different parts of Scripture, our standing before God is one thing, our actual state is another. It was as to the latter that Paul was concerned. He did not know of anyone else with the same unselfish shepherd heart as Timothy, who would whole-souledly care for their state. The word naturally does not adequately give the thought. Timothy’s pastoral concern was not a gift of nature, but a spiritual one, the result of exercise of soul before God. His whole soul was stirred with concern for the Lord’s people. Of others, however gifted in various ways, the apostle could only sadly say, “They seek their own, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
It is quite possible to be an admired teacher, upon whose words thousands hang, or an eloquent evangelist with eager multitudes flocking to listen with delight to his messages, and yet be a vain self-seeker, using the very gift that God has given, for personal aggrandizement, or to obtain wealth, even while professing to care little or nothing for money. But the more marked the pastoral gift, of very necessity the more unselfishly devoted must the servant be. It will be his great ambition to feed the flock and shield them from their dangers.
The patriarch Jacob is an apt illustration of the true shepherd. Despite all his failures, and the fact that he was largely under the discipline of God through the greater part of his life, he was, nevertheless, a lover of the flock and ever considerate of their interests. Speaking to Laban, his father-in-law, he could honestly say as he looked back over his years of caring for the sheep, “Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes” (Gen. 31:40). And in expostulating with his brother Esau, who would have him hurry on with all his host, he says, “My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die” (Gen. 33:13). A Diotrephes might try to cajole or coerce the flock into submission to his own imperious will, but a God-appointed shepherd will seek to lead on safely, wearing himself out for the blessing of others—not seeking to impress his own will, but to serve the Lord, and to exalt Him.
As a son with a father, Timothy had commended himself to the aged apostle, serving with him in the gospel in all lowliness and humility. Youth is often exceedingly energetic, and impatient of restraint. Age is inclined, perhaps, to be overcautious and slow in coming to conclusions, and it often is a great difficulty for two, so wide apart in years as Paul and Timothy, to labor together happily. But where the younger man manifests the spirit that was in Timothy, and the elder seeks only the glory of God and the blessing of His people, such fellowship in service becomes indeed blessed.
Having thus proven himself, Paul could trust Timothy on a mission such as that upon which he was about to send him. He was waiting to learn the outcome of his appeal to Caesar, and then he hoped to send him on to Philippi to be a healer of dissensions, and thus a means of cheer and consolation to the assembly. Timothy followed Paul as he followed Christ. He thus became the second in this company of men who were worthy to be held up as examples of those who manifested the mind of Christ.
It was the apostle’s desire and hope to follow later himself and again visit his beloved Philippians. But whether this yearning was ever fulfilled we perhaps shall never know, until all is manifested at the judgment seat of Christ. Precious is the faith that can leave all with Him, assured that His ways are always perfect—always best!