COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“1Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. 2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlaborers, whose names are in the book of life.”
(Philippians 4:1-3, KJV)
Faith is exceedingly practical, touching every aspect of life. In this regard, it competes with “the law of sin
and death” with which we grapple. While we have been liberated from this inward spiritual law (Rom 8:2),
we must be exhorted and admonished to live in the energy of the Spirit. In these verses, the Spirit deals with
friction between fellow believers, and assisting one another in the good work of God. The saints must not
despise such exhortations. They call us away from self and sin to Christ and righteousness. If heeded, they
also move us away from the lures of the evil one, giving us a proper regard of our brothers and sisters in
STAND FAST IN THE LORD
“Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved” (NKJV). “THEREFORE”–here is a spiritually reasonable conclusion to the preceding affirmation. This exhortation follows the Spirit’s reminder of the coming of the Lord and the changing of our “vile bodies.” The following reasoning is not based upon mere rules of conduct, but upon the fact of Christ’s return and our coming“change.” These are powerful incentives to sobriety and godliness.
Behold the affection of the Apostle for these brethren! He describes these saints from four different perspectives. First, they are “beloved”–preferred in Christ with strong affection. They are also “longed-for”–he desired their company and was profited by their presence. This is the only place in the Bible where this is phrase is applied to people. Paul longed to be with the Roman brethren to impart some spiritual gift to them (Rom 1:11). His longing for the Philippians, however, was of a more profound order (Phil 1:8). It is marvelous that God’s people can so endear themselves to other saints. How fervently we should long to be so described by righteous men and women.
The Apostle also describes them as his “joy”-, i.e., the cause of spiritual joy. Again, this is a very rare Apostolic expression. Only the Thessalonians were also so described (1 Thess 2:20). Some believers are the cause of great concern (Gal 4:11; 2 Cor 11:28). The heart of the Apostle was refreshed and his load lightened by a recollection of the Philippians. It is a noble objective for believers to seek to give this kind of advantage to their brethren.
These precious saints were also Paul’s “crown”–another expression only said of the Thessalonian brethren (1 Thess 2:19). By this, Paul means these brethren were the crowning work of his ministry–a supreme display of the power of the Gospel he preached. If the Gospel laborer will “suffer loss” by the failure of his followers to pass the judgment of God (1 Cor 3:15), those who do pass the test will be a shining diadem to those bestowing labor upon them. Such individuals have always been rare. Yet, you can be one of them.
“STAND FAST IN THE LORD!” That is, in anticipation of the coming of the Lord and the changing of our “vile bodies.” Those who stand fast are like the 50,000 of Zebulun, “expert in war,” who could “keep rank” and were “not of a double heart” (1 Chron 12:33). Such hold their ground “in the evil day,” standing against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:13). Those who “stand fast” bring great encouragement to their brethren (1 Thess 3:8), relieving the fatigue of spiritual battle and strong testing. This exhortation assumes an inclination to defect or draw back. The fierceness of spiritual battle produces this inclination, thus requiring this exhortation.
Notice, the stability is found “in the Lord.” He is the One in Whom the roots of our faith are found. Spiritual solidity is not found in adopting a right position, or being part of the properly patterned church. It is found in personal affiliation with the Lord Jesus. Christ is not honored by unstable souls, nor are His saints helped by such. Standing fast involves effectively resisting and repulsing the advances of the wicked one. It also includes a more thorough merging of our persons with the Lord Jesus. We are unmoveable (1 Cor 15:58) only to the degree we are consciously connected to Jesus.
BE OF THE SAME MIND
“I implore Euodia (EuodiasKJV, meaning ‘prosperous journey’) and I implore Syntyche (meaning ‘pleasant acquaintance’) to be of the same mind in the Lord”(NKJV). These were apparently two women of rank in the Philippian congregation. There was some form of disagreement among them that was disruptive to the congregation, and to Paul as well. We learn from this not to expect all difficulties to be instantly resolved, even in exemplary fellowships.
Notice how the Apostle pleads with these ladies: “I implore” (NKJV),“beseech” (KJV), “exhort” (ASV), “beg” (Douay), “entreat and advise”(Amplified). This is not “beg,” “like beg for my life.” Rather, it is “beg” or“implore” as speaking to your heart–appealing to your basic spiritual constitution. He wants these ladies to see the sharp conflict between their disagreement and the nature of Christ and His Kingdom.
The prominence of women in the Philippian assembly is attested to by the church historians. The first converts in Europe, so far as the record goes, were women, namely Lydia and those with her (Acts 16:13-15). After their experience in the Philippian jail, and the conversion of the jailor there, Paul and Silas immediately went to the house of Lydia (Acts 16:40). All of this highlights the special sensitivity of the occasion.
Two great deficiencies exist in the contemporary church. The first is a near-total disregard for Kingdom matters. That disinterest means that relatively few professed believers have a strong conviction about spiritual matters. The second condition is a lack of focus that allows for a tolerance of varied, and sometimes, serious differences of view. However, where hearts are not united, the work of the Lord is placed in jeopardy.
As it is written, “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:18). No significant work for God will be done where the saints are not in “one accord.” That is why Euodia and Syntyche are admonished to “be of the same mind in the Lord.” Notice, their oneness is “in the Lord.” Their affection was to be set on things above, and their minds renewed in the energy of their faith. The fact that Paul appeals to these ladies in this manner reveals their spirituality, in spite of their differences.
You can detect a sense of urgency in this appeal. It is given against the background of the Lord’s return to change our “vile bodies.” In consideration of that appointed return, it is wrong to continue in disagreements that have their locus in the flesh. Just as the Lord Jesus is the center of all heavenly activity, so He is to be the median of the thoughts and lives of His people. God has determined to “gather together into one” all things in Christ (Eph 1:10). That gathering begins in Christ Jesus, and among His people, right now. A church at variance with one another is a spiritually ineffective one.
The Spirit has just reminded us of our heavenly citizenship (Phil 3:20). Failing to be of “one mind in the Lord” conflicts with that citizenship. It brings us closer to the earth and, consequently, further from heaven. Jesus is coming “from heaven,” and thus it behooves us to be looking for Him. It is no wonder the Apostle urges the two Philippian women to be of one mind in the Lord. He does not chide or rebuke them, but entreats them in love.
BE A HELPER
“And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life” (NKJV). We do not know who this“true companion” is. Whoever it was, the person must have occupied a place of preeminence. Not only does Paul draw attention to Eudoia and Syntyche in the letter, but also publically pleads for another to assist them in the good work of reconciliation. We should learn from this that a record is kept of our differences in heaven. If they are not resolved in this world, God will make them manifest in the last day.
What is a “true companion?” Some have suggested it was Paul’s wife. However, he was not married, having received the gift of continency (1 Cor 7:7-8). This was an individual who had participated in Gospel labors with Paul, Clement, and other “fellow workers.” Paul does not think of himself as a tentmaker, which he did for a while (Acts 18:3). Nor, indeed, was this merely someone who traveled with the Apostle for company. This was a Kingdom worker, whose fellowship was in the Gospel (Phil 1:5). It is good for us to regard men in this manner today. There are some people who have distinguished themselves by becoming involved in Gospel labors. Those people can be trusted to assist in matters like reconciling brethren.
The basis of Paul’s exhortation is that “these women” had labored with him “in the Gospel,” as well as with Clement and others who worked with the Apostle to the Gentiles. It reminds me of something said of the Apostles while they were waiting for the “promise of the Spirit.” It is written, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14).
Mind you, these women, now exhorted to “be of the same mind in the Lord,” had labored together with Paul and others in activities directly related to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Their names were “in the Book of Life,” and thus they were worthy of every effort to bring them to single-mindedness. Whatever their variance, it was inhibiting, and contradicted their heavenly citizenship. Because their names were written in “Book of life,” Euodia and Syntyche were worthy of a hearty effort to reconcile them to one another.
It is not often that we hear of such noble efforts today. Those engaging in such works are, indeed, “peacemakers,” and will be called “the children of God” (Matt 5:9). There are probably people in our very town who have distinguished themselves as laborers in the Gospel, yet now, like Euodia and Syntyche, have come into debilitating disagreements, or other forms of conduct that are not harmonious with the place of their citizenship–heaven. Such individuals are worthy of every effort to bring them into accord with heaven and their brethren. Surely the cry still comes from heaven, “Help these” men and woman!
I must again draw attention to the unacceptability of variances among the saints of God. It is not that we seek perfect accord in unessential matters, or areas of conscience, where Divine directives are not given. Our unity is actually in our focus–the direction of both our thoughts and our lives. As we live as citizens of heaven, we will find ourselves coming closer together.