“For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare” (Philippians 2:20 NASB).
Philippians Chapter 2 is probably best known for its humbling kenosis narrative of what Jesus willingly gave up to provide our only hope for eternal life salvation and relational restoration with God. Put simply, it’s the ultimate reunion. So it’s understandable when believers are tempted to stop reading at Verse 11 and close the Book with that powerful reminder. But let’s keep our Bibles open and see why Paul used this example to motivate believers.
There is no better example than Christ Jesus, period. Paul is writing his letter to the Philippian believers—and effectively to all believers—about the importance of not only working together side-by-side, but also of being on the same spiritual page. Paul continues his thoughts on conducting ourselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (in our modern biblical Chapter 2) with such phrases as “If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ,” “fellowship of the Spirit,” “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” as he leads us into that familiar section exemplified by Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).
If we pick it back up at Verse 12, you’ll notice Paul returns to his earlier comment made in the previous chapter, “so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Here in Chapter 2, Verse 12, Paul reaffirms, “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.” He expects the Philippian church to continue on its spiritual growth trajectory, whether or not he is there to lead them in person. And it wasn’t about maintaining the status quo, nor merely “holding down the fort” until Paul could be sprung from prison in Rome. Instead, Paul outlines the type of Christ-like behavior he’s looking for in the Philippian believers in Verses 14-16. He didn’t ask for much… just not to have run nor toiled in vain.
So, who could Paul depend upon to send to his beloved Philippians, in the mean time? Timothy was unavailable. Who could answer the bell, at that critical moment, until Timothy eventually arrived? Epaphroditus was the logical choice, given his Philippian experience, and that was an intriguing story in itself. Epaphroditus was prepared and ready to fill the gap when called upon by Paul. Although Epaphroditus is mentioned just once more (Philippians 4:18), Paul showed his appreciation for the man, calling him “my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier” (Philippians 2:25). Such soul-rooted words spoke volumes of their mutual commitment toward spreading the gospel.
Paul’s Christmas card list would have been quite extensive if you add up all the people he names—and the reason why—when he concludes many of his New Testament letters with numerous personal greetings. All this from one whose reputation for being a “people person” would have come as a surprise to the casual observer. But effective ministry is a team effort… of God working through His humbled servants to accomplish His will. Paul knew this and truly valued all those who were like-minded in advancing the cause for Christ, reminding the Philippian church family, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Hand-in-hand, we strive together for the sake of Christ. We can only do so with His help and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. As we face an uncertain future, even this summer, let us not drift from our focused mission, the same one Paul, and his many cohorts in the faith, held as their common goal. May we avoid “letting up” during a time when it will be easy to do so, looking ahead to the fall and overlooking opportunities to live each day as if it could be our last. Instead, encourage one another to continue fervently praying and “holding fast the word of life” (Philippians 2:16).
Of all the words and phrases used by Paul to describe his many brothers and sisters in the faith, only once did he use the expression “kindred spirit”(NASB). And, he used it to describe his son in the faith, “Timothy, my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). The term kindred spirit comes from Greek words meaning “like-minded” and “the soul”. Other translations use the phrase “like-minded” (CSB) and “I have no one else like him” (NIV). Paul reserved this endearing description for one of his spiritual kids, one whom he had discipled by word and by example.
Paul knew Timothy’s concern for the Philippians’ welfare and interests would be genuinely real once he got there, saw what was happening and could report back to Paul. How did he know? Compare Philippians 2:21 with Verses 3 and 4 of that chapter. Then, note the spiritual father/son roles of Philippians 2:22 and 2 Timothy 3:10-11. Timothy was no rookie. He was a seasoned veteran in taking the gospel to the world with Paul. Some may look upon Timothy’s apparent shyness as weakness and completely miss Paul’s earlier point when he said, “when I am weak, then I am strong” in describing the Lord’s all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). In other words, 2 Timothy 1:7 is not really a stand-alone verse… include Verses 8 and 9 to get a fuller context, then apply it to your life, as well.
Again, Paul prefaced the kenosis narrative this way, “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). That one purpose? Remember the words of Jesus as He comforted His disciples, preparing them for what was to come, saying to them “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).
Do you have a kindred spirit brother or sister within the family of God? Somebody you can share the things of Christ, those of eternal consequence, a person you can fully trust—who listens, who encourages you to grow as a believer—somebody you can count on when nobody else really cares, who you can depend on to pray with you, who values you as God’s creation, who understands the depth of your sorrows, who comes alongside when you feel totally alone, whose shoulder you can cry on, catching every tear, and with whom you most want to share moments of joy?
Sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it? Ultimately, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit together fill the roles of kindred spirit in the life of a believer better than any created person could ever do. Yet, we are to have a Christ-like attitude, draw our strength in Him and be of kindred spirit, together, all for the sake of the gospel. Are you a kindred spirit?
Alan Summers, GBC Elder
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or as noted, from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) or the New International Version (NIV).