The Philippian Two and the Cambridge Seven
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel…But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs…So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ.
(Philippians 2:19-21, 25, 29-30, NIV)
Writing from jail to his friends in the Philippian church, the Apostle Paul picks out two people he wants them to take special note of.
He’s just been encouraging the Philippians to have an attitude of serving others, even at cost to themselves. This is what the Lord Jesus Himself did: He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing (Philippians 2:6-11). He left the glory of heaven to come to earth, and went even to death on a cross, for our sakes.
What might Jesus’ attitude look like in the life of the Philippian church? That’s where Paul holds up two role models - his colleagues Timothy and Epaphroditus. Paul delights to tell his friends how Timothy characteristically put others first. And Epaphroditus risked his life for the work of Christ, on the dangerous journey from Philippi to Paul.
There are few things more encouraging than really godly role models, and Paul is not afraid to draw them to his friends’ attention.
2015 is the 130th anniversary of the travelling to China in 1885 of “The Cambridge Seven”: six Cambridge students and one from the Royal Military Academy, who left England to join the work of Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. Their departure caused something of a national sensation, as they left behind lives of both privilege and promise for the sake of Christ. One of them, C T Studd, had played cricket for England in the original Ashes match against Australia (his name is one of those on the famous urn at Lord’s). All seven were involved in overseas mission work for most of the rest of their lives.
You can read about them in John Pollock’s short, but gripping account, The Cambridge Seven.
Just before departure, they toured the universities of Britain, speaking at meetings in which they told the story of how they had come to Christ, and encouraging students to follow Him. Not only did many become Christians, but over the decade that followed, hundreds offered themselves for mission service.
On our World Mission Sunday, on 15th November, Patrick Fung, General Director of OMF (the modern name for the same mission the Seven served in), and who is himself Chinese, is due to be with us from Singapore. He’ll open the Bible up and tell us something of the Cambridge Seven as well. May they be role models for us, as we think about how we can live useful lives for the Lord Jesus.
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