Paul has spent a lot of energy describing the behaviour he desires from the Philippians: humility, unity, love, and looking out for other’s interests more than their own. He drew from the example of Jesus (2:6-11) and encouraged them to follow Christ’s lead in bringing light to a dark world (without complaining).
Sometimes, though, we have a hard time using Christ as our example. We often feel overwhelmed by his deity or his perfection, and wonder how we can live up to that.
Understanding this, Paul pointed to the example of two men who were very close to him and to the Philippians: Timothy (his spiritual son) and Epaphroditus (his spiritual brother), both of whom demonstrate the “mind of Christ” Paul desires in them. By showcasing two men, at least one of whom they knew, Paul makes his message more applicable: “If Epaphroditus can do it, so can I!”
Through their obedience to the gospel, these two men forged a bond of gospel fellowship with Paul.
Timothy. Paul wants to send Timothy to bring back a report from the Philippians that will “cheer” him. His other friends have either deserted Paul, or Timothy is unique in his concern for them. Either way, associates of Paul have become concerned with their own interests, not with Christ’s interests. But not Timothy! As Paul’s “son,” Timothy has worked together with Paul in the work of the gospel. As soon as Paul learns his fate, he will send Timothy to them; and he hopes to come to them himself.
Timothy’s highlights: he is genuinely concerned with their welfare; he “alone” seeks Christ’s interests; he has the “same mind” as Paul (v. 20) and served with Paul in the work of the gospel, and thus was Paul’s confidant, the best person to stand in his place before the Philippians.
Epaphroditus. Paul is also sending Epaphroditus to the Philippians. While he was with Paul, he ministered to Paul’s needs. Epaphroditus became very sick while he was with Paul and almost died, upsetting the Philippians. They are to honour him, and people like him, who risk all for the cause of Christ and “for those services” that they could not give Paul themselves.
Epaphroditus’s highlights: Paul describes him as a brother, coworker, and fellow soldier; he is “their messenger and minister” to Paul’s need; he is very close to Paul (v. 27); he risked even his life for the work of Christ; he was devoted to his fellow believers, longing for them (v. 26). Epaphroditus displays a true servant heart, both for Christ and his fellow brothers and sisters (serving in their behalf).
Paul concludes this section in 3:1 with yet another call to rejoice. Paul always sets joy against complaining and grumbling.