Never Let Up
Explore the Bible Series
April 10, 2011
Background Passage: Philippians 4:1-23
Lesson Passage: Philippians 4:1-9, 11-13, 15-19
Paul closed this wonderful, encouraging epistle with several practical directives and his customary doxology of praise. Of particular concern was a personal dispute between two women, Euodia and Syntyche. The apostle had written much about Christian joy, but these dear ladies did not share in this joy, troubled, as they were, by some quarrel that jeopardized the peace of the entire church.
The apostle devoted much of this chapter to resolving this dispute. He did so with great tenderness and pastoral wisdom. These two women shared a distinguished record of loving, sacrificial service to Christ, and Paul greatly valued their fellowship in the gospel. Their conflict wounded him, and he provided valuable counsel to soothe heightened emotions; then, he closed the epistle with a call to worship and a tender salutation.
I. Counsel for Resolving Church Disputes (vv. 1-9)
A. The nature of the quarrel (v. 2): Euodia and Syntyche disagreed about a matter so trivial that Paul refused to identify its exact nature. Probably, the women’s argument began as some personal problem, perhaps nothing more than a personality conflict. Over time, the difficulties escalated and disrupted the service and worship of Christ. Like so many church problems, trivial disputes became public battles. Innocent people got caught up in the malignant swirl, and the true purpose of the church was hamstrung. This situation had to stop. Please note, these were not contentious women. They gave every evidence of the new birth and, in the past, and had worked side by side with Paul, Clement (an unidentified leader in Philippi), and other fellow Christians. The apostle hoped Syzygos (ESV translates “true companion”) might help these wonderful ladies settle their conflict.
B. Exhortations to help resolve the problem (vv. 1, 3-9)
A. “Stand firm” (v. 1): The church problems had, no doubt, caused some folk to stumble, and Paul sought to buttress their faith with his tender directive. Using clearly affectionate language, he evidently was not angry with the ladies, just concerned. He took great joy in the Philippians and saw them as the crowning glory of his missionary labors.
B. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (vv. 4-5): Paul hoped joy might return to his dear friends, and he called on them to exercise a balanced reasonableness (a gracious spirit that rises above petty offences) that would promote peace. He reminded his readers of the nearness of the Lord Jesus. This reminder may refer to Christ’s union with his people, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; or, the phrase could reflect Paul’s confidence in the Lord’s return.
C. “be anxious for nothing” (vv. 6-7): The church conflict fostered a certain restlessness among God’s people, and the only remedy for such anxiety was a balance prayer life: supplication, thanksgiving, and petition. Robust prayer will promote peace in the church, a peace that passes all understanding. Note that Paul distinguished between the heart and mind. For some personalities, church conflicts trouble the heart, the emotional core. For others, the mind becomes the battleground, constantly ruminating on conflict and perceived offences. Thankfully, the peace of the Lord addresses both the heart and mind.
D. “think about these things…practice these things” (vv. 8-9): Paul multiplied his description of the qualities that must characterize the conduct and attitudes of believers: whatever is true, honorable (worthy of honor and respect), just (fair, noble, or righteous), pure (unstained, undefiled), lovely (that which inspires love), commendable (worthy)), praiseworthy (virtuous)—“practice these things.”
II. Final Thanksgiving and Salutation (vv. 10-23)
A. Paul’s thanksgiving for the Philippian generosity (vv. 10-20): At heart, this epistle is a “thank you” note. These friends provide material support during the apostle’s incarceration in Rome. He did not want to sound like beggarly—God had always met his needs; however, on this occasion, God had used the Philippians to help the apostle (the text indicates they had helped Paul at other times). Also, Paul learned to adjust his expectations to his circumstances. Some situations had forced him to learn contentment in need; other occasions taught him how to deal with the temptations of abundance. Times of hardship him to rejoice in the generous gift brought by his friend Epaphroditus. He compared the Philippian gift to the fragrant sacrifices of the Old Testament, a gift pleasing to the Lord. Furthermore, just as God had helped him, Paul assured his friends that the Lord would always meet their needs.
B. Salutation (vv. 21-23): Paul closed the epistle with a warm greeting from the Christians in Rome, especially those of Caesar’s household. Even Nero’s family had been touched by the gospel of Christ.