Stand Firm in Unity (Philippians 4:1-3)
Stand Firm in the Lord (verse 1)
Before Paul even addresses the issue at hand—disunity in the church—he makes sure that the Philippians know exactly what intentions lie behind the exhortation. Of all the churches, Philippi was especially beloved by Paul, as the crown and joy of his ministry (c.f. Phil 1:8; 4:15), and he wants them to know that. In the middle of five different expressions of Paul’s love for the Philippian church, is the exhortation to “stand firm in the Lord.” To be “in the Lord” is to be united to Him through faith, so that we experience all blessings and privileges that Christ has earned for us in His saving work. We are to “stand firm” in the Lord in the way that Paul has just described in chapter three from his own example: counting everything as loss in order to have Christ (v. 8), trusting in the righteousness of Christ alone (v. 9), seeking to know Christ more (v. 10), pressing on to lay hold of Christ (v. 12), and keeping our eyes on the prize of becoming like Christ (v. 14).
Standing firm is not an individual reality, but a corporate one. Paul uses the same phrase in Philippians 1:27, where standing firm is to be done “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Standing firm means that you are one with the body of Christ, pressing on together with other believers in service to Christ. It means you are concerned not only for your own personal joy and growth in the Lord, but the joy and growth of others as well. Since “standing firm” is a matter of corporate unity, it makes sense that Paul next addresses a matter of corporate disunity between Euodia and Syntyche.
Live in Harmony in the Lord (verses 2-3)
What’s the issue? The problem is not that these two women disagree, since disagreement will naturally be present in a body as diverse as the Body of Christ. The issue is that they have allowed the disagreement to lead to a disruption and severing in fellowship.
Who’s involved? We don’t know a lot about Euodia and Syntyche, but the Apostle Paul does give us some hints. First, they were known personally by Paul. Most likely, these women were among the earliest converts during Paul’s first missionary trip to Philippi when the church began. So, at the very least, we know that these women were not brand new believers. Second, we know that they had a good track record in the Lord. Paul groups them together with his “fellow workers,” those who were most faithful in laboring alongside Paul for the sake of the gospel. Third, these were prominent and influential members in the church, since it seems that their personal division had affected the entire church.
How does Paul handle it? In dealing with the problem, Paul calls on his “true companion,” or “faithful yokefellow,” to help Euodia and Syntyche. The task is not an easy one, so Paul asks for help from someone he can depend on, someone he can trust to fulfill his responsibility and do what needs to be done. In the exhortation to the two women, Paul uses the word “urge” in addressing each of them, so as to make it very clear that each of them have a responsibility. Neither of them has a right to stand at a distance, blaming the other party. Instead, they are both responsible to do everything in their ability to be at peace with one another. Specifically, what Paul urges them to do is to “be of the same mind in the Lord,” or more literally, “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” We see this same exact phrase—“be of the same mind”—back in Philippians 2:2. There, it is clear that the “mind” that they are to have is the mind of Christ—not doing anything from selfishness or pride, regarding one another as more important than ourselves, being concerned for others’ interests and not just our own (Phi 2:3-4).
When we are confronted with personal conflict, the most important thing we could do in that moment is to put on the mind of Christ. He humbled Himself by becoming a man and dying the shameful death of the cross for our salvation. If God resolved the greatest conflict between Himself and sinful humanity by sending His Son to die in our place, then we are stripped of every excuse not to seek peace with one who has been redeemed by the same precious blood.
- In what ways are you standing firm in the Lord? In what ways are you struggling to stand firm? In what ways are you standing firm in the Lord in the corporate context?
- Is there any other believer with whom you are refusing to be reconciled? Are you harboring bitterness in your heart toward another person? What does it look like in that situation to be of the mind of Christ?