Session 14

Philippians Study – Session 14

Philippians 4:1-3

            There is a great old story about man went to doctor because bitten by dog...decided test dog for rabbis...doctor came in and gave man bad news that dog was rabid...ask for pen and paper and began write furiously...thought making out will and tried calm man by saying while serious wasn't fatal...man said I’m not writing will, making list of people I'm going to bite!...

            Many people seem to go through life with that kind attitude...go through life constantly looking for someone to bbbite...always in conflict, always at odds with someone...basically, their lives are miserable and those who come into contact with them aare miserable as well...the church at Philippi must have had some people like that…

            In our continuing study of Philippians have come to a passage which introduces us to two women in the church at Philippi who may have been like that...they were locked in conflict, and apparently their conflict was spilling over into and becoming harmful to the fellowship and mission of the church...Throughout the letter of Philippians Paul makes some thinly veiled references to some conflict which was dividing that church...over and over he encourages the Philippians to rise above the conflict...for example--

--1:9 ‑ Paul says, "I pray that your love may abound  still more and more in real knowledge and all  discernment..." implying that their love for each other was not what should be...

-1:27 ‑ Encourages them to stand "firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together..."

--2:2 ‑ Instructs them to be "of the same mind, maintaining the  same love, united in spirit, intent on one  purpose..."

--2:14‑ Tells them to "do all things without grumbling or disputing..."

All those statements are indirect references to conflict that existed in the church at Philippi…now, in Philippians 4:1-3 addresses the conflict directly...

            It is interesting how Paul addresses the conflict in the Philippian church.  Before dealing with the situation directly, he directs a very encouraging word to the entire church.  Look at Philippians 4:1 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”  I want you to notice two things about that statement.

Notice how positive Paul was toward the Philippians

1.      Christians in Philippi certainly weren’t perfect...they had their faults and shortcomings...but you would never know it from reading Philippians 4:1...Paul could have thought of many negative things to say about them...

--had divided fellowship...apparently was some intense conflict within the church...could have chastised them for that...

--had theological error in their fellowship...were some people among them Paul considered “enemies of the cross of Christ” as he put it in the previous chapter...could have criticized them for allowing the false teaching to continue...

--had spirit of discouragement in their fellowship...their leader was in prison and they had lost some of their missionary zeal...could have degraded them for their lack of faith...

2.      Paul could have said any number of negative things about the Christians in Philippi...but he didn’t...he left the negative unsaid... instead, in 4:1 he makes four great positive statements about the people who first received this letter...

--”my beloved brethren” - Literally text says, “Brothers of mine, dearly beloved ones...”...word translated “beloved” is word used elsewhere in Scripture to describe God’s sacrificial love for us...it is plural, meaning that it applies to all of them...in effect Paul said to them, “I want you to now I love you--each and every one of you--with the same kind of love which God in Christ has expressed to us!”

--”whom I long to see” - The phrase could be read this way: “Brothers of mine, dearly beloved ones and intensely longed for ones...”...Paul was saying, “I don’t want to love you from a distance.  I want to be close to you.  I yearn to have fellowship with you.  I desire to see you face to face.”

--”my joy” - Paul was not in a joyful place when wrote these words...was in prison, probably in Rome...I’ve seen the prison where Paul may have been held there...is dark, foreboding place...certainly not place would associate with joy...but Paul says to the Philippians, “Even in a place like this, just thinking of you brings joy to my heart.”

--”my crown” - There are two basic words for crown in Greek...one is diadema and refers to a royal crown, a crown of kingship...the other is stephanos...it refers to the wreath placed on the head of a winner in an athletic contest...that’s the word Paul uses here...in effect he is saying, “You are my award, my prize for Christian service...I treasure you!”

3.      Can you imagine how Philippians must have felt when whomever was reading this letter aloud to the assembly got to 4:1...when they heard Paul refer to them as “...brothers of mine, dearly beloved ones and intensely longed for ones, my joy and my crown...” they must have thought, “Is this the right letter?  Could that be us he is talking about?  You mean we’re beloved and longed for and a joy and a crown?”...what a lift these words must have given the beleaguered Christians in Philippi...

4.      There is a lesson here about having healthy relationships we must not miss...if you want to have good relationships with others, look for things in them to praise instead of to criticize...most people don’t have a great need for others to point out their faults and weaknesses...generally, we are very aware of those...most of us need people to remind us of our strengths and abilities...If we would develop the habit of focusing on the positive attributes of others and leaving the negative alone, we would improve the quality of our relationships in every area of life...

Notice how encouraging Paul was toward them

1.      Obviously these two ideas go hand in hand...

--if we are positive in spirit toward others we will encourage them...

--conversely, if characterized by negative attitude toward others we will discourage them...

2.      Paul was a great encourager...Philippians 4 is one of the most encouraging passages in the Bible...the basic thrust of this chapter is to encourage those who read it “in the Lord”...three times in the first 4 verses Paul uses that phrase...

--v.4 - “...rejoice in the Lord...”

--v.2 - “...live in harmony in the Lord...”

--v.1 - “...stand firm in the Lord...”

Word rendered “stand firm” is stekete...military term...it pictures a soldier standing firm in the heat of battle...the soldier does not--

--retreat from the charge of the enemy...

--buckle under the pressure...

--give up and run [Harbour, Philippians Notes]

3.      There’s a beautiful picture in this statement...in prison, under constant guard, living in very difficult conditions, the great Apostle tells his friends, “I am not giving up...not overwhelmed by my circumstances...not discouraged...and I want to encourage you to stay with it as well...”

4.      There’s just something in us which draws us to people who are encouragers...it was William Arthur Ward who made this famous statement: “Flatter me, and I may not believe you.  Criticize me, and I may not like you.  Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.  Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” [Illustrations A-Z]

 

            After that positive word of encouragement in verse 1, in verses 2-3 Paul deals directly with the conflict.  These verses provide an interesting insight here into role women in New Testament church...generally in Greek culture women stayed very much in the background...for example—

--in most places respectable women would never appear in street alone or with head unveiled...

--women had own private living quarters in houses and never even joined male members of the family, even for meals...

--women had no part in any public life…

And in places where would have been deemed disgraceful for women to do otherwise, Paul urged  them to maintain background role in church...Corinth, located in Achaia in southern Greece is good example of that kind of place...

            However, things were different in Macedonia where Philippi located...woman enjoyed a freedom and a place in life  there didn't have elsewhere in Greece...and that freedom is reflected in churches...

‑‑Paul's first convert in Macedonia was woman...Lydia,  a successful business woman, who became leading  figure in church at Philippi...

‑‑In Macedonian cities of Thessalonica and Berea, was the leading women of the cities who first came to faith in Christ and who became leaders of the churches...

‑‑And it’s not surprising that in Philippi find two women,  Eudoia and Syntyche, were having a significant impact on church...

            Even though there are no other references to Euodia and Syntyche  in the Scripture, their names provide us a clue to personalities...

‑‑EUODIA means "prosperous journey"...probably woman who had gotten somewhere in life...was an achiever...she was probably kind woman could have been successful in anything decided do...

‑‑SYNTYCHE means "pleasant acquaintance, happy chance, good luck..."...probably one of those pleasant, affable  people who find it easy get along with everybody...in  social circles no doubt known as good mixer...

For whatever reason, these two capable, powerful women were locked in some type of conflict and it was hurting the church.  In addressing the situation, Paul gives us a formula for dealing with conflict.  Want you to see what Paul did not do and what he did do in responding to the conflict in the Philippian church...first notice what didn't do‑‑

‑‑Didn't ignore the problem ‑Didn't say, "If look  other way, bury head in sand, will go away..."...many  problems which can be easily dealt with in early  stages become almost insurmountable if allowed  fester and grow...

‑‑Didn't take sides ‑ Very carefully worded his  statement...took great care say exact same thing to  each..."I urge Euodia" and "I urge Syntyche"...rather  awkward way wording...but from how Paul addressed them it was impossible for either to claim with integrity, "Paul is siding with me..."

‑‑Didn't attempt Lord it over them ‑ When wrote he was recognized leader of church...could have chosen exercise apostolic authority and be very harsh and demanding…but instead said, "I urge you..."... word means "exhort, beg, plead with..."...instead of exercising his authority, in meekness and humility  said, "Please stop what you're doing. You are  destroying the church and you're hurting  yourselves."

Now notice what Paul did do in response to the conflict...

--He appealed to their higher motives - Paul urged them to "live in harmony in the Lord"...wasn’t asking them to think alike, to have the same preferences, have same tastes...but he reminded them that Christians should be bound together by a common commitment to the Lord...one person said this about phrase "live in harmony in  the Lord..": “Sometimes it is only "in the Lord" that  people can get together.  Even within the church, there are personality differences and incompatibilities which make it difficult to have a harmonious fellowship.  When we commit these tensions to Christ, however, we can learn to love and appreciate each  other in spite of the differences.”

--He urged others to serve as peacemakers - In v.3 Paul instructs those who read this letter “...to help these women...” ...there’s an important lesson in that...when people around us are in conflict we can either fan the flames or attempt to cool things down...God’s people should always be looking for ways to build bridges of peace and reconciliation between people in conflict...

Following Paul’s example will help us deal with conflict in a redemptive way...

CONCLUSION

            Jesus told disciples: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.  Even as I have loved you,  that you love one another also.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one  for another."

In letter of I John told "...the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he  has not seen."...

            Of all people, Christians should love and live in peace and harmony with each other...

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