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ES/PHIL/26 Philippians 4:2–7 Pt1

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:08
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I heard the story of a church.
The pastor said that at one time the place where the church is located was very heavily populated. It went through a period of depopulation. There were two churches in the area but as people left neither church could afford a full time pastor. So they did what seemed logical to them, they decided to form together as one congregation to hire a full time minister. A problem arose from that amalgamation. Now this one congregation had two facilities. The decision on where to meet was an easy one for them. Just meet in the Churches where they always had been meeting. The problem was though; both groups had the same idea. A conflict emerged. It was impassable.
Then a solution came. They would keep both church buildings even though they did not need both. One week they would meet in one and the next week the other. This decision to meet in alternate places took place about 40 years earlier.
But this pastor noticed something. Some from each would only attend church when it was held in their own facility. There was a grudge that the church members had held on to for forty years.
Conflict and bitterness in the church might be the single most damaging thing to the work of the gospel. We need to be sure that in our church we do not let any hindrance in our relationships keep the gospel moving forward. Could you imagine moving to that town and looking for a church? You would probably ask to be directed to the nearest town where the people could meet together as one congregation!
Let’s read the bible passage for this evening:
Philippians 4:2–7 ESV
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Opening Up Philippians To Two Women (v. 2)

If in one hundred years’ time, your name was to be discovered mentioned in an old document, what one thing would you like the finder to learn about you? Would you like it to be recorded that you were a very kind and loving person, or that you were a mature Christian, or that you were good at making people feel at ease?

Two ladies from the church at Philippi have gone down in history, and the thing they are remembered for is that they had fallen out with each other.

I can already feel the embarrassment for, like all letters the Church received, they are read aloud to the congregation and there present in the congregation are Euodia and Syntyche on different sides of the room. They have all come to hear from their Church’s founder and find out what he has to say and without warning, without any prior knowledge, their names are suddenly mentioned in front of the whole congregation. I am sure there would have been shame or red faces or perhaps there was some obstinacy and pigheadedness and instant rebellion arising up – how dare he mention me! Well, we do not know their actual response but I suspect it was more shame than anything else.
The fact that Paul mentioned them by name also means that the Church was well aware of the problem. It was no private matter turned public but a public matter highlighted as a need of resolution. What was Paul really saying to Euodia and Syntyche? Obviously they had had a disagreement with one another but whatever it was it is not so important that they could not put their differences aside – and note that Paul did not take sides in this argument. These were plainly Christians who have worked for the Gospel as made clear from verse 2. We are not told what the problem was though I think that everyone in the Church was aware. We get the impression, that I hope is not ours, found in the little ditty that says:
Opening Up Philippians To Two Women (v. 2)

To live above

With the saints we love;

Oh, that will be glory!

But to live below

With the saints we know;

Now that’s a different story!

What was the solution? To have the same mind. This is not about having the same thoughts in some kind of mind-meld but to have our minds full of Christ.
Philippians 2:2 NKJV
2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
They needed to be reminded that true love covers a multitude of sins.
We must, therefore, remember the words of the Lord Jesus:
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34–35).
There isn’t much that should separate us except in the area of morals or doctrine however it does not appear to be the case here. But this disagreement within the Church at Philippi was damaging enough that it was affecting the whole Church. It may have been the whole actual reason for writing the letter in the first place.
“The church was polarized around Euodia and Syntyche, who were the focus of disunity.” The only way for the church to be united is for these two women to be of the same mind in the Lord. Hansen, G. W. (2009). The Letter to the Philippians (p. 283). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
This being of the same mind means to remember that we are citizens of Heaven and that our minds need to be set on things above rather than earthly things. We get this right then you cannot be bothered with earthly quarrels. Euodia and Syntyche needed to focus on the fact that they are both citizens, therefore on the same side, of Heaven.
For the clause that follows ‘be of the same mind’ is key: it says be of the same mind in the Lord. This hearkens back to having the same mind as Christ as found in that crucial central passage of Philippians. They need to have the mind of Christ:
Philippians 2:5–8 NKJV
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
To be humble. To be servants. To serve one another. Willing to lay down your live for the other. Instead their disunity was evidence of selfish ambition and rivalry and lack of humility. There would seem to have been some sort of power-struggle going on.
The only way out of such conflict of self-interest is to have the mind of Christ: the humble attitude of a servant willing to suffer the shame of the cross in order to care for the interests of others in obedience to God. Hansen, G. W. (2009). The Letter to the Philippians (p. 284). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
3. Then there is the need to help these women to overcome and win.
Whatever the issue, for it is not known to us, it led to factions that had the potential to split apart the Church.
Philippians: Verse by Verse The Need for the Leaders to Get Involved (4:3)

Dissension rarely goes away without help, and the longer the people of the church refuse to get involved, the more dangerous the conflict becomes. This kind of situation, though it might seem innocuous, causes more church splits than any other.

Of course, these things are not new. There does not always appear to be a solution especially if people are not willing to put aside differences or work them through. Sometimes it requires the whole Church to work it through and help to not be partisan. Other times it requires a particular individual, as it seems in this case, to be the arbitrator: the true companion that Paul is talking about. We don’t actually know who he or she was though we could speculate that it was Timothy who had already been praised in this letter in
Philippians 2:20 NKJV
20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.
I find it unlikely that it was Timothy as he did not seem to be the one addressed in the letter. Paul had other companions such as Epaphroditus, Silas, and Luke, who you will remember, had stayed with the Philippians on the first missionary journey there. Maybe it was Lydia or it might actually be that the true companion is the actual name of the person in the Greek, a person named, Syzyge, which when translated means companion. To us it really does not matter except that they were qualified in some way to be able to help sort out the division and was known to the Church who this was. Could we ever be such a person who could bring opposing sides together?
Matthew 5:9 NKJV
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
The word ‘help’ that this person along with Clement and others were to bring is quite strong in the Greek. It means to seize, arrest, catch, and hold together. The same word was used in the arrest of Jesus and in the arrest of Peter and in the catching of many fish in Luke 5. There was to be a strong personal action to bring these two women together. Disunity cannot be allowed to fester but dealt with quickly, strongly and always with the spirit of love. Sometimes it is necessary to say hard things to those we love.
I also want to note the attitude that Paul took in dealing with this sensitive issue of division within the Philippians Church despite having to name names.
First, he uses the language of appeal, not the language of denunciation. Second, he points to those things that the alienated parties have in common, especially their trust in the same Lord. Third, he seeks to use the services of a trusted colleague within the church who can act in his absence, particularly to help those who are at odds. They are not to be driven out or ostracised, but assisted. Differences are more likely to be dissolved by shared action than by isolation. Wilson, E. L., Deasley, A. R. G., & Callen, B. L. (2007). Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: a commentary for Bible students (p. 229). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.
Paul was really keen on sorting through this mess simply because they were those who had fought alongside Paul in the spreading of the Gospel. They were active women for the cause of Christ alongside other fellow workers and it was of the utmost importance that they get back on track and maintain unity in the Church.
For these women, Clement, and the others all had their names written in the Book of Life. Heaven is our prospect and there we will all live together – so here on earth we are also called to peace with one another. The fact that the Lord is coming back soon is the motivation, the primary motivation, for unity among those written in the same Book of Life as us.

The story is told that during the American Civil War, when the rival armies were encamped on the opposite banks of the Potomac River, the Union’s band played one of its patriotic tunes, and the Confederate musicians quickly struck up a melody dear to any Southerner’s heart. Then one of the bands started to play “Home, Sweet Home.” The musical competition ceased, and the musicians from the other army joined in. Soon voices from both sides of the river could be heard singing, “There is no place like home.”

In a similar way, the church, in spite of its many divisions, is bound together by that one strong link—we are all going home, and to the same home. We have a common destiny

Above everything else we need to be about Christ and His Gospel. Our mission to the world is the one that our Lord has commissioned us to do. We should never compromise these things for the sake of unity. But we should maintain unity so that we are all about Christ. To find our way into the Book of Life can only be done through faith in Christ and we seek to bring Jesus to others without compromising the message that He is the only way to Heaven and life.
We note that these problems in the Church happened in the 1st Century and they are problems we have to contend with today. But these problems have to be worked out and one side or both have to compromise on the non-essentials and be humble before the Lord. We are all called to love one another – not just put up with one another.
People have left this Church over the decades in bitterness and never returning again to the Church. I suspect that quite a number of them were quite unnecessary and over things trivial or over misunderstandings or unintentional offences. It is quite shameful. It is hard, once they have left, to bring them back. Let us remember Back to Church Sunday on September 16th as an opportunity to invite people to hear the gospel or come back after an absence. Surely everyone of us can invite at least one person. Be careful, roots of disunity can easily spring up and take us all by surprise. Careful for how we think of others, careful of ourselves. Don’t think that we will never have this kind of problem. The key I think is to keep short accounts with God and with others.
That is, if there is any sin, confess it to God. If there is a problem with someone else in the Church go sort it out as far as it is possible with you as soon as you can. Lastly, to close this sermon for today, let us hear what Paul has to say in:
Ephesians 4:32 NKJV
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Benediction

Romans 15:5–6 NKJV
5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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