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Warring Workers! Philippians 4:2-3

24/05/2020

Warring Workers

Text.  Philippians 4:2-3. 

In Philippians 4, before Paul could give some practical help to the Christians, he has a problem to sort out. Unity in the church, (in the local assembly) is important  – a love for each other that issues in respect for each other.    When Paul wrote Philippians 2:2-3, was he perhaps thinking about a quarrel among two of the local Christians, people who were workers in the local assembly in Philippi.

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Let’s learn a little about that disagreement and how Paul moves to solve it, before he goes on to give further beneficial exhortation to the church.   

 

1 Who were Euodia and Sntyche? 

The first step we need to take is to discover a little bit about these two people.  Who were they and what role were they playing in the life of the local church?  The first, most obvious thing of course is that they had… 

  • Two strange names!  The KJV translates the first name as ‘Euodias’. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.   The NKJV – ‘Euodia.’  Now that matters, for Euodias is a man’s name, and Euodia is a woman’s name.  (The Greek ευωδιαν doesn’t really help). But most preachers and commentators agree that these were two women.   
  • The background.  In most of Greek society, women of good reputation were extremely low-key. Philippi, however is in Macedonia and the rules seem to have been different there.  When Paul visited the towns of Macedonia it was often a group of women who joined him in working together for the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom.  Not that they preached, or taught in the church of course, that was not the rule in any of the churches, but they played a full part in the life of the congregation. So in Philippi, Acts 16:13  One of the first converts there was an influential businesswoman called Lydia, Acts 16:14. In Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-4 In Berea, Acts 17:10-12,  
  • The involvement of these women.  So, how influential and vital to the Lord’s work were Euodia and Syntyche?  See how Paul describes them in his passage… 
    • They were ‘fellow-labourers in the gospel.  ‘help these women who laboured with me in the gospel,  Paul valued these women, and considered their contribution to the Lord’s work to be the equivalent of his own.  They laboured together with him in the gospel.   These two women were his co-labourers! 
    • They were part of a team. with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers,  No-one labours for the Lord alone and no matter what part we are playing we are part of the team, and so were these two warring workers.  But there’s something here what he is even more important… 
    • Their names were written in the book of life.  whose names are in the Book of Life.  These two women were truly born again Christians.  They were not wolves in sheep’s clothing, they were not apostates, or heretics or backsliders or infiltrators.  They were saved, converted Christian believers.  

Now, let‘s think about this and summarise it all.  Here are two women, faithful in the Lord’s work. They were involved, not bystanders, – people that the local church really needs,  Yet People who had come into conflict.  We don’t know why, we don’t know the reason for their argument, but we know that it was so damaging in the local church that Paul is concerned and demands that action be taken to resolve matters. 

 

2 Paul’s True Companion.  3 And I urge you also, true companion,   

Now this is where a third person emerges in the text.  Someone who is called Paul’s ‘True companion!  Who could it be? 

  • Who this is.  We don’t know!  We can speculate, but we don’t know.  Some have suggested it might be:- 
    • Paul’s wife! Would he have been married at this time?  If he was a member of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, (the ‘Council of the Jews) he would have needed to be married, an unmarried Pharisee was unthinkable. Yet when he wrote to the Corinthians, he was ‘unmarried’ –  1st Corinthians 7:7 -9   Had his wife died?  Anyway, a wife should be a fellow labourer in the gospel, should be a ‘true companion’ in every sense of the word!  
    • A person called ‘True Companion!’  The Greek for ‘true companion’ is συλλαμβανου, and that could actually be a person’s name.  Just as Robert means ‘Bright in Fame!’ And Janette/Janet means ‘God is Gracious.’ 
    • Epaphroditus.  The most likely candidate,  Paul had sent this trusted colleague to Philippi to act as a kind of ‘trouble-shooter.’  Philippians 2:25   
  • What they are urged to do.  Whoever this interlocutor is, it is his or her job to get involved in this dispute, to go in and pour oil on these troubled waters.  To HELP them.  Not to wade in wielding the jackboot, but to HELP them to resolve whatever their issue was.   

So, we now have the almost complete picture – well, all of the picture that the Holy Spirit, who inspired this passage, wants us to have.  What conclusions can we draw from it? 

 

3 The Lessons of Euodia and Syntyche. 

What’s the legacy of Euodia and Syntyche?  There are two main lessons for us in this little vignette from the Word of God. 

  • These two left a tragic legacy. The first lesson is that we are forced to ask ourselves, ‘how will people remember my contribution in the Lord’s work?’ Today, all that we remember about these two workers, is that they fell out and it caused a problem in their church. 
  • A quarrel in the church needs the whole assembly to be active in solving the problem. When Christians disagree and fall out with each other is is everyone’s business because it is everyone’s problem, for warring workers can destroy a church.  It simply can’t be ignored, and that’s why in this letter Paul brings it right out into the open and urges that it gets sorted out, before any more harm is done. 

So, what do we do nowadays, when we hear that two Christian workers are at war with each other?  The human tendency would be to make it a subject of gossip, rather than to try to help.  Or to draw back from helping, for fear of being misunderstood by one of the parties or both.  Paul’s call to action here is for a trusted, godly friend, with the prayerful open knowledge of the local assembly, to HELP both parties to reconcile their differences, for the good of the Kingdom.

© BobMcEvoy May 2020

From → Philippians

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