CONFLICT IN THE CHURCH

 Philippians 4:2-7

BRIEF INTRO:

In the last chapter of Philippians, Paul had expressed how Christ is the main object of the Christian faith and that a deeper, more intimate relationship with our savior is the goal we are to be zealous for. This chapter will express how Christ is the believer’s strength and source of joy and peace. But before he can move on discussing those topics, he must first deal with an issue of dis-unity between two of his “fellow workers in the cause of the gospel.” A lack of unity within a marriage is pretty bad. It can wreck a home and be a negative influence regarding the gospel. Such behavior is on display within the church in a larger context and is opposite of the Christian’s attitude toward one another (2:2-8).

So Paul addresses the issue with the two ladies involved, Euodia and Syntyche. 

Let’s take a look at what’s going on.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to [a]live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true [b]companion, I ask you also, help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement as well as the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

FOCUS ONE: GOSPEL RELATIONSHIPS

There are several people mentioned in the first three verses so let’s familiarize ourselves with who they are:

  1. Euodia and Syntyche – This is the only place we find these two ladies mentioned in our Bibles. It appears that Paul worked directly with them to spread the gospel. It is possible that they were a part of the prayer meeting in Acts 16:11-15, but other than those things, we know very little except that they were not “like-minded” or not “living in harmony in the Lord,” depending on your translation.
  2. True comrade or “true yokefellow,” depending on what translation you are reading. “Some people think that the word rendered yokefellow is a proper name (Synzygus), and that true is to be explained as rightly called” (Vincents Word Studies). Others view it as meaning a close colleague.
  3. Clement – Nothing is known of Him
  4. Fellow workers – People not named in this letter but who we can surmise are those that helped him throughout his ministry.

These people have two things in common: they are born again so have their names in the “book of life.” And all of them have been working to spread the gospel!

Euodia and Syntyche most likely heard the gospel from Paul’s lips when he came to their hometown on his second missionary journey. They worked side by side with Paul spreading the gospel. Not usurping the place of Paul, rather supplementing his ministry. They were in harmony with one another, like-minded in the cause of the gospel of their savior. But now that’s not the case. Something has come between them and has stolen the unity that once existed between them. 

The gospel brings radically different people together into one church! People from all ethnicities, backgrounds, social status, religions, politics, and vaccine status (just kidding). There will inevitably be conflicts, but such things are bathed in the gospel of Christ for those who are in Christ. No longer are we to think only of ourselves, our abilities, or our needs. Now, because of Jesus Christ, we are to regard others as more important than ourselves, to look out for their interests and our own. We are to be like Christ (2:5).

FOCUS TWO: GOSPEL PROGRESS

One thing that stands out to me in this text is Paul’s statement that these ladies “shared in my struggle in the cause of the gospel.” You and I know this to be true if we have been working for this cause in our own lives. Gospel progress is work and involves struggles.

There are struggles without

  1. Mockers and scoffers
  2. Rejection
  3. Beatings, imprisonments
  4. False accusations

There are struggles within

  1. Pride
  2. Selfishness (2:3)
  3. False teaching 

All of these things are painful and disruptive to the cause of the gospel. If not given over to Christ, the struggles within will cause a lack of unity, undo like-mindedness, and hamper the testimony of the church.

But don’t think for even a moment that this spat is private and they’ll work it out in time. As if it’s not an issue. This problem has been escalating and affecting the church body as a whole. So much so that Paul hears about it while he is in Rome, where he penned this letter.

Their situation was far from what Paul had written in Chapter 2. MacArthur writes: “Spiritual stability depends on the mutual love, harmony, and peace between believers. Apparently the disunity in the Philippians church was about to destroy the integrity of its testimony.” 

So Paul, being deeply concerned for these ladies he loved dearly and the state of the church, petitions his unidentifiable friend and co-laborer in Philippi to “help these women.” But not until he speaks directly to them first!

“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

FOCUS THREE: GOSPEL COUNSEL

These two women were not serving with the same mindset anymore and therefore lost the harmony, joy, and peace that attends it. So Paul “urges” each one of them individually (don’t miss that) to get back on track. We all need such counsel from time to time, don’t we? We tend to allow superficial things to interfere with our relationships, even those we hold most dear.

The Greek word used for “urge” is Parakaleo. It means to call to one’s side, to aid. A calling that is intended to produce an intended effect. In this case, harmony. This word is in the Present active voice, representing the action being accomplished by the subject (the action-to live in peace), the subject (both ladies). It is in the indicative mood which is used to assert a fact. This is the only mood in which a distinction can regularly be made about when the action should occur. And it is in the present tense, which represents contemporaneous action (at the same time). These women, at the same time, beginning now, are to come alongside one another and reconcile.

Paul used the same language in 2:5, but there it was in the imperative, a command to have the same attitude (mind)of Christ moving forward in their Christian faith. But in our text, this language is in the present indicative. They were violating a clear command, in its essence, to deny self and to put others first. To be humble and obedient to God our Father.

They needed the Lord to help them, “in the Lord.” The gospel is more than a once-and-done reality experienced at our salvation. It is “good news” that forever transforms us, equips us, and enables us to BE MORE LIKE OUR SAVIOR!

After addressing Euodia and Syntyche, Paul asks the elder to help them be at peace, agree, and be unified in their service. Here is where we run into Paul’s unidentified colleague (syzygus). 

But how is he to help them? Where would you begin? Perhaps you’d end up becoming like Job’s counselors in the book of Job. Off on the wrong track and not helpful at all. We tend to think we know more than we do.

We are not told what he said. We are not privileged to witness how he counseled them. But I dare to make a bold guess as to what he might have done! It seems logical and sensible to me that since these two ladies were not living in harmony, or with their redeemer’s attitude, he would, at least at some point, direct them back to what the Apostle wrote in chapter two. He might of read that again to them and used it to guide the counseling session. 

We are also not told what the outcome was. But considering their love for the savior and their zeal to witness for Him, we can be reasonably confident that they heeded Paul’s urging and received the help they needed to reconcile!

Perhaps you need to be reconciled with someone today. A family member, friend, or spouse. But have you considered that there is someone else you offended that you need to be reconciled with today, and His name is Jesus Christ? I want to invite you to go to this link because you will read there how to make it right with Him! Forgiveness is waiting. You, too, can have your name written in the book of life just like Euodia and Syntyche and untold numbers throughout the ages! Please do it today. You won’t regret it!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is [a]near. Do not [b]be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [c]comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

FOCUS FOUR: GOSPEL APPLICATION:       

With the issue of disunity between two of Paul’s friends and co-heirs in Christ finally confronted (it seems like he was building up to this throughout this letter: 1:9; 2:2-11; 3:15), he makes mention of their names being “written in the book of life” (4:3). Euodia and Syntyche, along with every other justified sinner, will eventually enjoy “living together forever “harmoniously” in heaven. Shouldn’t they, as well as us, begin living that way now?

The mention of heaven and resultant blessings that will be experienced there leads Paul to rejoice. I can envision him looking up to heaven with joy in his heart and writing these words to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” 

“Harmony among church members, as Paul assumes will be the result of his plea in verses 2 and 3, is another reason to “rejoice.”

What a command, rejoice! Paul is telling them to rejoice in the Lord now and continue rejoicing in Him for the rest of their days on earth! Rejoice in their salvation, rejoice in the church, and rejoice no matter what possibilities of conflict and sorrows may come. If we believe that Christ is “our life,” then no circumstances we face should steal our joy. The gospel guarantees that we are “in the hands of an all wise, sovereign, loving God who is always working to accomplish good for those he loves and calls His own!”

A forbearing spirit is one of reasonableness. A character trait of those who are at peace with their fellow believers. Such people are gracious and reasonable in their dealing with others. Considering that the Lord’s return is near, Paul seeks to encourage these believers to pursue and persevere in Christ-like-ness and be free from the fear and anxieties that come from everyday life and the relationships fostered through it.

God’s peace (v.7), another result of the gospel, is divinely given and transcends our human understanding! Problems that you and I can’t handle. People that we disagree with, ideas and goals that we disagree with can be given to our great God and Father in heaven, and while He is working to bring all things into subjection unto Himself, we can be free from anxiety. The God who can solve our most significant problem (sin) is more than capable of solving the issues of life we face daily!

Perhaps you are in a situation like that of these two women. Pride, selfishness, and unforgiveness have led to a fracture in your relationship and most likely affect others negatively. What is keeping you from applying the truth’s Paul has expressed in this letter? Have you let it go so far as to rob you of your joy and peace? 

I want to encourage you to meditate on Philippians 2:2-11. Take your problem to the Lord in prayer and then move forward, faithfully seeking to obey the clear teaching of scripture, even if the other party doesn’t. Do it without grumbling and complaining (2:14) because it “is God who is at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.”

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