Reading: PHILIPPIANS 4.2– 9
4:1 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.
4:3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
Two or three thoughts (maybe more) at our service this Tuesday. First of all the two women mentioned in 4:2.
- The two women – the need for unity
There are different theories about these ladies – especially the meaning of their names. Perhaps Euodia (with the long o), means fragrance; but we are told the correct reading is with the short o, the meaning being prosperous journey. Syntyche means happy chance. Others suggest that Euodia means literally “prosperous journey” (eu, hodos). Syntyche they say means “to meet with” and so “pleasant acquaintance” or “good-luck” Either way it would have been better for them to get on together. Paul has to get the team motivated as co-workers in the cause of the Gospel. (See John 17 on Jesus’ prayer for unity and its impact on mission).
And of course Paul is in prison – the next thing that challenges us as he calls us to rejoice always!
- Paul in prison – rejoicing in every situation
John Henry Jowett (b1863 – 1923) shares his experience regarding Christian joy:
Christian joy is a mood independent of our immediate circumstances. If it were dependent on our surroundings, then, indeed, it would be as uncertain as an unprotected candle burning on a gusty night. One moment the candle burns clear and steady, the next moment the blaze leaps to the very edge of the wick, and affords little or no light. But Christian joy has no relationship to the transient setting of the life, and therefore it is not the victim of the passing day. At one time my conditions arrange themselves like a sunny day in June; a little later they rearrange themselves like a gloomy day in November. One day I am at the wedding; the next day I stand by an open grave. One day, in my ministry, I win ten converts for the Lord; and then, for a long stretch of days, I never win one. Yes, the days are as changeable as the weather, and yet the Christian joy can be persistent. Where lies the secret of its glorious persistency?
Here is the secret. “Lo! I am with you all the days.” In all the changing days, “He changeth not, neither is weary.” He is no fairweather Companion, leaving me when the year grows dark and cold. He does not choose my days of prosperous festival, though not to be found in my days of impoverishment and defeat.
I think we get his point. And then thirdly, we are challenged by our commitment – are we those who strive for the Gospel to reach others?
- Contending – striving for the main thing
The image in Greek is drawn from athletic contests. Usually, athletes competed one against another; in Php 1:27 Paul asks the church at Philippi to compete together as a team of athletes to help advance the faith that comes through the preaching of the gospel. (We saw that he also mentions Euodia and Syntyche as those who were contending for the gospel side by side with himself.)
In the first chapter of this letter he writes this: Php 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
And in this passage when trying to get them to get along. he says: Php 4:3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
What a challenge. Do we strive for these things?
And of course the rest of this well known passage lists other things we should do as a consequence of following Christ. (On this Sunday coming we will look at a similar list in 1 Thessalonians 5):
- Paul’s exhortation to strive after other Christian virtues as well
Paul exhorts the Philippians to strive after four basic Christian virtues: (1) “rejoice in the Lord always” (v. Php_4:4), (2) be gentle to all people (v. Php_4:5), (3) be prayerful, not anxious (v. Php_4:6), and (4) meditate on excellent things (v. Php_4:8).
I encourage you to read this passage a number of times as you reflect on your journey with Christ.
Tom Wright’s translation of Philippians 4 is helpful as we close:
Celebrate in the Lord!
2 I have a special appeal which goes jointly to Euodia and Syntyche: please, please, come to a common mind in the Lord.
3 (And here’s a request for you too, my loyal comrade: please help these women. They have struggled hard in the gospel alongside me, as have Clement and my other fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.)
4 Celebrate joyfully in the Lord, all the time. I’ll say it again: celebrate!
5 Let everybody know how gentle and gracious you are. The Lord is near.
6 Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well.
7 And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over your hearts and minds in King Jesus.
Wright, Tom (2011-11-30). Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 128). SPCK. Kindle Edition.