How To Heal A Church Fight: Philippian Series #19

All the way through the book of Philippians, there is the fragrance of love between Paul and this church. Every time he thinks about this church, his heart is filled with joy.

aromatherapy.jpgIn the first chapter, for instance, in verses 3 and 4, he says, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making requests with joy.” The book of Philippians is a love letter by the Apostle Paul, the pastor, to this wonderful and precious congregation of believers. This is the contextual atmosphere that Paul has immersed himself in as he writes this love letter to the church of Philippi.

In John 12, we are told about Mary anointing the feet of the Lord Jesus with expensive perfume. The Bible says, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” There was a pleasing fragrance, a perfume about that scene.

There needs to be a fragrance of perfume in a church. The ministry and the testimony should have a pleasant fragrance about it. As you read about this church in Philippi, you will be aware that there is a fragrance about this church. The unity and the harmony and the ministry and the testimony of a church should send forth a pleasant fragrance.

The Apostle Paul has been writing his heartfelt letter to the believers in Philippi. We have now arrived at the main reason for his letter. There is something that is affecting the testimony and the ministry of this church. There is a relationship problem in the church. Here is our text found in Philippians 4:1-3:

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true 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.

Of course, churches do have problems. A church is made up of people. A church is not a trophy case for the display of perfect believers. It is a hospital for the recovery and care of born again and saved believers. We are saved. We are going to heaven when we die, but we have not lost our sin nature. If you are looking for a perfect church, please don’t join it. You would spoil it.

I heard about a husband and a wife who were having a little bit of a disagreement. Finally, in exasperation the husband said to his wife, “You must think I’m a perfect idiot.” She said, “No. I don’t think anybody is perfect.”

There are no perfect churches on this earth. In the Philippian church, there is a small problem brewing between two women. It doesn’t seem to be a major problem. However, a small problem can sometimes cause unpleasantness. I encourage you to read this chapter carefully. Paul is going to address this relationship problem and teach us to how to handle such problems today.

I. An Appeal to the Enriched People

sepia_stacked_hands.jpgAs we study these three verses, we will see firsthand the logical, understandable order because he makes several appeals. As Paul is appealing to the people in the congregation, you will sense the fragrance of love that is in the atmosphere of this whole passage of scripture.

We Are To Cultivate A Christian Atmosphere Through Community

Paul says, “Therefore, my brethren.” He calls them brethren. Today we say, “brothers and sisters.” There are times today, people use this terminology in a trite and casual manner. However, Paul never used it that way. The Apostle Paul started out as an antagonist of the Christian faith. He started out hating the Christian faith and trying to wipe the Christian testimony from the face of the earth. He had no problem killing “brothers and sisters” of Christ.

You will recall when he was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians and the living Lord Jesus Christ accosted him on the road. Paul was saved and when the believers there in Damascus came to him, the first thing that was said to him was, “Brother Saul.” I think when he heard that word brother, it must have just broken his heart. Just think about this for a moment, Paul who had been their enemy, is now their brother.

Do you know that the words brother and sister mean we are in the same family together? We are brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a moving word that we use in the church. We should never use this word casually.

Through Compassion

Now, Paul writes, “Dearly beloved and longed for.” You will notice in the first verse that he uses “dearly beloved” two times. He is saying to them, “I love you people.” Paul didn’t just like them. He loved them. There is the fragrance of love in this atmosphere. He says, “And long for.” The word there means, “I pursue you.” He’s saying, “I dearly love you people and I am running after you with my love. I am reaching out to you in my love.”

How sweet it is, when there is love in a fellowship. All through my ministry years I have been blessed by the wonderful atmosphere of love. We have a love in the Body of Christ that is special and greatly meaningful.

Through Celebration

Paul writes, “My joy and crown.” He has led so many of these people to faith in Christ. When Paul uses the term “My joy and crown” as he’s talking about these believers, I can imagine Paul pictures the different individuals in the church in his mind’s eye. He can almost feel the warm handshake of Sister Lydia and the bear hug of the burly jailer that he had won to Christ in the jail in the night. He says to them, “You are my joy and crown.”

When you lead people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, those people become a source of joy in your life. The further along you go in life the more you will understand that one of the great sources of joy in your life as a Christian is having had a part in leading people to faith in the Lord Jesus.

With the expression, “My joy and crown,” He is saying to them that in the present you are my joy, but in the future that you are my crown. It’s as if he is saying that on earth you are a source of rejoicing and in heaven you are a source of reward. Here is an amazing thought: In Paul’s mind, earth recedes and heaven opens up and Paul sees himself before the judgment seat of Christ, with the Lord handing out the crowns of rejoicing for people who have faith in Christ. One of the crowns which comes to Paul has engraved on it: “Philippi.”

It’s wonderful to win people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are a source of joy down here, but they are going to be a source of reward up there. Will you have any crowns of soul winning, people you have led to the Lord, in heaven? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get up in heaven and have some people come up to you and say “Thank You. It’s because of you that I’m in heaven. It’s because of you that I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior?”

We Are To Commit To A Christian Advance

Paul states, in verse 1, “So stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” It is an appeal to firmness. The phrase “stand fast” is a present imperative that means to keep on standing. It was used by a soldier who stood his ground against the onslaught of the enemy.

This is a day for God’s people to take their stand. When many are abandoning the field of battle, and when many are stepping aside and not standing up for the Lord Jesus Christ, the call of this verse of scripture is “stand firm in the Lord.” When others are running, stand firm. When problems are mounting, stand firm. When the going gets tough, stand firm.

You may ask, “How do you do it?” Do you notice the little phrase “Stand firm?” He says, “Stand firm in the Lord.” There is the secret of standing firm. It is in the Lord. It is not in our strength that we can stand firm, but in the strength of the Lord.

In Colossians 2:7, we learn we are rooted and grounded in Him. It’s just like an oak tree. There is an oak tree and when the winds beat against that oak tree, the oak tree stands firm. Why? Not because the oak trees hold upon the soil, but the soils hold upon the oak tree. If you are firmly rooted in the Lord and if you take your stand in the Lord Jesus Christ, when the winds of adversity blow, when the enemies in our culture attack the faith of the believer, we can stand firm in the Lord.

II. An Address to an Estranged Problem

In Philippians 4:2, Paul appeals to the problem. The problem has been hinted on gently, along the way, through this Philippian letter. He has made appeals for instance, “let this mind be in you.” He has talked about unity and the importance of harmony in the fellowship. But now Paul meets the issue head on and he addresses directly the problem in the fellowship.

He says “I beseech.” The word “beseech” is a very tender word. It’s a word that literally means to come alongside of. The picture is of the great Apostle Paul, this great man of God. There is a problem in the church; and Paul, rather than being dictatorial, becomes very pastoral in this difficulty.

He says, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche.” These are two ladies in the church. Euodias means a safe journey. Syntyche means good luck.

When you got these two sisters together, the arguments would begin. However, we have to keep in mind two things Paul says in verse 3 about them: 1) That their names are in the Book of Life; and 2) That they have been of great assistance in the ministry of Paul. We read, “These women have labored with me in the gospel.” These were good women. Yet, they’ve had a fall out in their fellowship.

I want to say first of all that I thank God for the women of the Church. Think what women have contributed to the church of the Lord through the ages. Think about the sons and daughters they have trained for the ministry. Think about the service the women have rendered in places where their names never got mentioned and behind-the-scenes situations. Think about the songs that women have written. Think about the supplications, the prayers, which the women of the congregation have offered up to the Lord.

Not only is it possible for the sisters in the congregation to have some problems with one another, but it’s possible for men in the congregation to have problems with one another. In fact, it’s even possible for deacons to have problems with one another. It’s even possible for choir members to have little squabbles. It’s even possible for young people to fight with one another.

We don’t know exactly what happened in Philippi. We don’t know what the problem specifically was. He doesn’t go into the details of the problem. Who’s right in this situation? I don’t know who was right. Maybe they were both wrong.

I heard about two ladies on a train and they got in a squabble about the window on the train. One of them said, “If you lower that window I’ll die of pneumonia.” The other woman said, “If I don’t lower that window I’m going to suffocate to death.” One of the passengers got tired of hearing the squabble and said, “Why don’t we just lower the window until you die with pneumonia and raise the window until you suffocate and the rest of us will have a little peace.”

We don’t know exactly what the problem was in the church. Maybe just a word was said. Maybe it was just a little minor disagreement. Maybe there was some difference of opinion over something trivial, like the color of the carpet in the dining room or maybe a little difference of opinion of how the carpet is to be laid out in the Sunday School room.

Yet, maybe the argument escalated from something small at first. The next thing you know one says a little hateful word and the other says another little hateful word and one leads to another word. Then, they’ve got themselves an argument, and they are not even speaking to one another at all.

Then, they get their spouses involved and begin to start enlisting sympathizers in the church. “Would you believe what my sister so and so said to me? How ungodly can that be?” The next thing you know the church is choosing sides. It’s like a dead fly in the perfume. It causes the whole thing to have an odor. That’s what was going on in this church. It had reached the point where Paul had to deal with it.

Let’s get the picture here. These were letters that were written to the early church. This was a letter that was written by Paul to the believers in Philippi. The news gets out, “Paul has written us a letter.” The next Sunday, the crowd is just jammed packed. They are all there to listen to Paul, as the Pastor reads this letter. They are reading through this letter and reading through this letter and then all of a sudden like a bolt out of the blue, like a clap of thunder, like a crackle of lightning, Paul says, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” He uses their names. He calls out their name. There they sit. He says, “Euodias,” and she just nearly swallows her tongue. He uses Syntyche and she bursts into tears.

Can you imagine the electricity in the home where it was that day when he called these sisters by name? The time comes when you have to call names directly.

Let me ask you a question: Could Paul have called your name? Is there some little squabble going on between you and some other believer in the fellowship? Is there somebody you won’t even speak to at church, in the choir, in the youth group? Is there somebody you just shun and weave and get around?

Can you imagine how it was when people got to heaven and they are introducing folks in heaven? There are new arrivals in heaven and the Angel Gabriel or the Apostle Peter is introducing folks in heaven and he says, “I want to introduce Euodias and Syntyche.” The new arrival says, “Euodias and Syntyche? You are the two ladies who had the fuss that Paul mentions in the Bible.”

How would you like to be introduced to heaven as getting your name in the Bible because you had a fuss with another believer? Am I getting close to you? Are you living like this?

Notice what he says. “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” He’s saying, “Settle your differences. Get on the same page.” That doesn’t mean that they always have to agree on every point.

Believers are different and they have their different opinions. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree together on dress or diet or agree together on your football team and all of these kinds of things. But it does mean that you all agree that the most important thing in a church is to win people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to be sure that nothing is done to harm the unity and the harmony and the ministry and the testimony of the church.

You may say, “But I’m right.” It doesn’t matter whether you are right or not. There are times when you need to be silent before the Lord and let God work out the problem.

III. An Appeal to an Excellent Peacemaker

Notice carefully the words Paul has chosen in verse 3: “And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow.” Some people believe that the Greek word used there for yokefellow, which means someone who works well in harmony, is a reference to a proper name. There are others who believe that it is a reference to Epaphroditus, the man who brought this letter back. The truth of the matter is we don’t really know who it is, but it was somebody in the church who was uniquely gifted in being a peacemaker.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Paul says, “True yokefellow, help those women.” The word means come along side. It was used in Luke 5 where we are told that one of the boats had a big catch of fish and some others from another boat came and helped them get in that catch of fish. Paul is expressing, “Come along side these women and help them.”

Sometimes we get our problems so tangled up and our own pride gets so involved in the argument and things have gone so far that we are not able to solve the problem ourselves. We need a peacemaker.

Are you a troublemaker or a peacemaker? Are you a source of confusion or are you a source of reconciliation? Are you the kind of individual who can be turned to, to help people out? It’s not an easy job to be a peacemaker. It’s a dangerous job because sometimes the fire will fall on you when you try to help people.

“Help those women.” How did the yokefellow go about it? We can use our imagination. Maybe after this letter and after things kind of settled for a moment, the peacemaker said, “Euodias and Syntyche, I want both of you to come over to my house for supper Friday night.”

“Well, I don’t know if I can get in the same room with her or not.” The other one says, “After what she said to me, I don’t know if I can be in the same room with her.” He says, “Come on now, do it for me and for Jesus.”

So, they come over to his house. Can you imagine the atmosphere? This true yokefellow, who was a peacemaker, says, “Euodias, I remember the Sunday when you got saved, and Syntyche, I remember that you were in the counseling room with her and you personally led her to faith in Jesus.” Tears begin to well up in Euodias’ eyes.

He says, “Girls, I remember when you used to go visiting together and I remember what a joy it was on Sunday morning to see you two ladies in the congregation with smiles on your faces. Then, when the invitation was given, you walked down the aisle with someone you had led to Christ at visitation.

“Euodias and Syntyche, let’s get down on our knees and thank the Lord for all of the good things He’s done for us, for His goodness to us and for saving us and for putting up with us and all of our failures and faults.”

They get down on their knees and when it’s over they embrace one another, and the spiritual atmosphere is instantly changed.

Is there anybody in your church that you have a problem with? Could I urge you to make an effort to get it settled? You say, “I don’t know how they will respond?” It doesn’t matter how they respond. Could I urge you to get it settled? As the poet has said, “A little explained, a little endured, a little forgiven, the problem is cured.”

IV. An Ask for an Eternal Perspective

Paul articulates one of the greatest statements of all time, with “Whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:3) The Bible makes it clear that there is a Book of Life. Every name I believe is in that Book of Life. When people come to the point of decision about the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, if they receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, their name in the book of life is inscribed indubitably by the blood of Jesus. It is now, as Revelation 1, verse 27, says the Lamb’s Book of Life. Is your name in the book of life?

Do you remember how you would take examinations? You take an exam and then you want to know how you did, whether you passed or whether you failed. Do you remember when the professor would post the grades on his office door? Do you remember how you would go up there and look at the professor’s door at the list and you would look to find your name and to see if your name was on the list of those who had passed?

Let me ask you a question. As you look toward the Lamb’s Book of Life, is your name written there? Have you personally invited Jesus into your heart and into your life? Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

In Revelation 21:15, we read some of most heart-wrenching words, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Notice the scope of this verse. John, the Revelator says, “Anyone.” There are no exceptions. Anyone’s name who is not written in the book of life will be lost forever.

In addition to the scope of it, we need to understand the salvation of it. How does anyone have their name written in the book of life? There is only one way. A person must come to Christ and be born again. When I accepted Christ as my savior on July 15, 1973, Christ wrote my name in the book of life. Are you saved? Have your sins been forgiven?

Next, comes the hard part. John gives us the scope and the salvation, but now is the sentence. Every person, whose name is not written in the book of life, will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Can you imagine anything more tragic? To be forever lost, without the forgiveness of sin, but with Satan and his fallen angels, is beyond the description of mere words.

If you are saved, I encourage you to shout and thank the Lord for his forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. Additionally, pray for the Lord to use you to win the lost and make hell smaller and heaven bigger. We need churches filled with the sweet aroma of salvation and saints who are committed to loving each other and this lost and dying world.