Living in Unity
Have you ever had an argument with a fellow believer?
What was the fruit of that argument?
In Philippians 4 we read about two women who had a disagreement in the church in Philippi. These women were gifted leaders, who’s argument had the potential to create division in the church.
The Apostle Paul addressed the issue directly because he saw the bigger picture, the eternal implications. We need to have an eternal perspective on disagreements, if someone is turned away from the church because of a personal disagreement and that person rejects Christ as a result, they will spend eternity in Hell.
Paul had been building the letter to get to this point, teaching and leading the church to pursue maturity and victorious Christian living. He begins the chapter by using a number of phrases to show his affection for the people of the church in Philippi;
“my brothers, whom I love”, the Greek word he uses is agape, which refers to the love of God that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). This is the love that God gives us for each other in the Body of Christ. Without the agape, “love glue”, the church would simply not be able to stay together while on mission.
“And long for”, Paul is approximately 800 miles away, he misses his family, longing to be with them.
“my joy and my crown”, not only does he love them and miss them, he celebrates them. The members of the church in Philippi were his favorites, and his crown. Paul writes that the Philippian church was a reward for faithful service.
How often do we celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sadly, as a culture we only celebrate someone at their funeral. Let us be Christians that celebrates on another, speaking life and encouragement over each other, this will bring joy and unity to the church.
Paul writes in verse 1 encouraging the Philippian believers to stand firm, standing on the truth’s that they have been taught. We need this encouragement today, we need to stand firm, unwavering on the truth’s that we have in God’s unchanging word.
Standing firm is a Roman military term of standing guard against any attack from the enemy. The implication is that the victory has already been won, Jesus won the victory on the cross and we are to hold the ground that he conquered as we declare the truth of the Gospel.
Watchman Nee writes “Remembering that we fight from victory not for victory. “
We stand firm by holding to the Word of God, not twisting it to be acceptable to culture.
We stand firm by loving God’s people.
We stand firm by loving the lost.
We stand by obeying what God tells us to do, even if it seems crazy to those around us.
In verse 2, Paul calls out two women, Euodia and Syntyche who were engaged in a fruitless argument. We don’t know anything about their dispute, but since Paul mentions them by name, it must have been a severe threat to the unity and the ministry of the church. Not taking sides, Paul pleads with them to end their disagreement. Paul knows that this argument is a threat to unity.
As believers, we can be right in an argument, but we have no right to create disunity in the church.
This does not mean that we forgo standing firm on foundational Biblical truths, but when an argument is a difference of opinion regarding secondary church issues, church unity and fellowship is more important.
Paul pleads with them to agree in the Lord. Essentially what he is saying is that their vision is too small. So often we disagree over secondary things, because we have forgotten the glorious purpose of the church, to proclaim the Gospel to every tribe and people group to the ends of the earth.
Satan loves to have the church fight over styles and colors and vehicles, all the while we are distracted from the primary purpose of our existence. What opinions do you need to let go of today that are hindering the ministry of the church?
Then in verse 3, he appeals to an unnamed person, someone he could trust to help these two women come to forgiveness and restore their relationship. This person, most likely a woman, may have been Lydia, who was the first Philippian convert. Early scholars suggested that this may have been Paul’s wife. Whoever this was, Paul was appealing to her to help bring restoration of the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche.
These two women were dedicated committed believers, who had served to advance the Gospel, but now they were wasting their energy on a fruitless argument. Not only that, they were also robbing themselves of joy. When you have a disagreement with someone and you refuse to forgive them, you are the one who suffers the most. You are robbing yourself of joy and even possibly your health.
Paul gently rebukes them, while at the same time he lovingly affirms them. Paul knows they are saved, but that they were not living out their calling and their fullest potential because they were living with unforgiveness. It’s not that they didn’t know Christ, but for a time, they had stepped away from the Lordship of Christ in their lives. This can happen to us at any-time as we fall into sin by giving in to temptation and step out of the Lordship of Christ over our lives. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us, we need to quickly repent and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins (See 1 John 1:9).
Realistically we will always have disagreements in the church over matters of opinion, but we need to quickly repent and seek restoration, always remembering the mission, the greater purpose of the church.
What do you need to let go of today?
Who do you need to forgive?
Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?