Philippians 4:1-9 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I want to personally thank everyone here for praying for the Panama team. Your prayers were felt and gospel progress was made with the Ngobe people. On top of people in the villages hearing the Gospel, gospel progress was made in the hearts of each member on our team. We have seen so far in the book of Philippians the overwhelming emphasis for gospel partnership and unity within the church in order to accomplish the task of reaching the nations with the Gospel and I want to assure you that through your prayers and support Gospel unity was on display in Panama.
I debriefed with Mike for a couple minutes earlier this week, and I mentioned that it is one thing to be unified with fellow members of your local expression of faith, which is glorious no doubt and honoring to God, but to be able to share space and meals with strangers, namely the other YWAM team that was also serving at the Outpost, is even more glorious. The desire for everyone on base to serve each other was seen and experience and I think I speak on behalf of team when I say this.
To experience gospel unity with strangers is truly a work of the Holy Spirit. The passage from Ephesians 3:10 regarding the global church came to mind after reflecting on this trip, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers, authorities, in the heavenly places.” God’s glory and wisdom is on display to the universe when the church, big C church and little C church, are living in unity under the authority of Christ and fulfilling the great commission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
The world can not make sense of this type of unity. How is it possible that 20 people from all over the world, with different life experiences, different conversion stories, different gifts, different cultural backgrounds, different languages all work together for one cause with ZERO team building exercises and ZERO prayer sessions prior to working together? The answer is simple, the indwelling Spirit, which makes us alive together with Christ and unities every believer under the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Would you pray with me as I thank God for his answer to our prayers and as we open up his word to hear from him this morning?
Well, we are in the final chapter of Philippians this morning. Last week Mat helped us see that the prize and goal of christian living is holiness. Chapter 3 closes with the call to have a mature mind that thinks like Christ. Mat also helped us see the deadly warning for those that chose to not pursue holiness in this life. The upward call of the Christian life is sober, mature thinking that is grounded in the example of Christ’s death and resurrection.
And 2 weeks ago Kyle pointed us to the justifying faith that is found only in Jesus. Our good works and religious zeal part from faith in Christ and the righteousness that he purchased for believers is worthless and void of hope for eternal life.
I wanted to point your attention to the passages of the last 2 weeks because I believe the first verse of chapter 4 is bringing to close the call in chapter 3 to have a mature understanding of the upward call to holiness in this life which can only be brought about by the Spirit of God and faith in the justifying work of Jesus’ on the cross.
The first word of chapter 4 serves as both a signal for a concluding thought of Paul’s pervious argument and a hinge to the door of application in light of his argument.
I believe Paul’s argument from chapter 3 can be summed up by this: Mature gospel thinking is centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ such that our primary goal in this earthly life is holiness as we await the promised return of Jesus who will usher us into an eternal glorified and purified state to enjoy trinitarian fellowship.
The main point of our text this morning is: Gospel obedience promises peace and confirms our citizenship as we await our king.
Philippians 4:1 serves as both a concluding exhortation and a bridge to unpacking what “mature christian” behavior looks like within a twisted and crooked generation.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to live mature lives in Christ and verse 1 of chapter 4 begins to unpack what a mature christian mind and life looks like.
This bring us to the first point from the text:
Mature Christian thinking and behavior begins with standing firm in the Lord.
The Christian walk towards holiness begins and ends with Christ.
Paul could have given a host of biblical commands to the Philippians as they battle the divisive behavior and language of the gospel opponents, but he begins with the person of Jesus.
He says, “Stand firm” in the Lord. In your fight for maturity and unity Philippians, “stand firm in the lord” in your fight against those that are seeking to under cut the gospel and provoke disunity, “stand firm in the Lord.” In your struggle against pride and evil thoughts, “stand firm in the Lord.” As both Kyle and Mat have already said, our only hope to attain the resurrection from the dead is to “stand firm in the Lord.”
If we choose any other starting point in our fight for holiness we will fail! The person and work of Jesus Christ is the foundation for all God glorifying fruit that comes from our unity with him by the Spirit.
Our union with Christ is both the starting line and the finish line in this race of faith. If we are to make any progress in the upward call of God to holiness and maturity it beings with Christ.
Now, I want to draw your attention to something in this verse that I missed as well in my initial preparations to preach.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to “stand firm in the Lord” as they work out their salvation with fear and trembling, but with one word Paul models his faith in God’s ability to bring about the holiness and sanctification that is produced when we “stand firm in the Lord.”
In the first half of verse 1 Paul references a crown. I am not sure if this is the case with you, but when I think of a “crown” I think of a gold “many pointed” hat that a reigning King would wear. This is not the type of crown that Paul has in mind.
The type of crown that Paul has in mind is the Olympic crown that an athlete would receive after they won their particular athletic event.
The question that we should ask is how Paul can call the Philippians church his “crown”? If an athlete receives a “crown” for winning their athletic event what event did Paul win?
I would argue that Paul is so certain of God’s ability to bring to pass his promises that Paul can say, Paul has won his race in the present because of the definitive work of Christ in his life and in the Philippians church. In Paul’s analogy the “race” or “event” that Paul was competing in was holiness.
Paul says in Philippians 1:6 “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Paul already knows that he will win the race, even though he says in chapter 3:13, that he has not already obtained it, because it is God at work in the sanctification process of those who have faith in in Jesus. Paul’s victory is secure because Jesus has already said, “it is finished.” The Philippians are Paul’s crown because it was Paul’s call to reach the gentiles for the Gospel and God will finish that work that he started.
Don’t miss Paul’s example of standing firm in Jesus’ work on the Cross in the same breathe that he is exhorting the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord.
How before we move on I think there is one more question that we should ask, what does someone’s life look like who is standing in the Lord?
I went through the book of Philippians and found 22 attributes that describe someone who is standing firm in the Lord.
I am going to give you all of them very quickly here and we will not be able to unpack all of them, but the remainder of this message will unpack the 3 that are in the remaining verses of our text.
- Filled with the fruit of righteous
- Suffering for Jesus’ sake
- In the Spirit
- Servant minded
- Obedient to death
- Confess that Jesus is Lord
- Working out their salvation
- No grumbling
- No questioning (of God’s will)
- Hold fast to the word
- Showing honor
- Worship by the Spirit
- No confidence in the flesh
- Righteous by faith
- Press on towards holiness and godliness
- Await the appearing of Christ
Paul provides at least 22 attributes that articulate what it means to be “in the Lord.” The list should serve to both push us towards mature thinking and godly behavior, but it should also serve as an encouragement to our souls of our union with Christ when these attributes are present in our lives.
I would like to challenge everyone here that this week in your homes, or at work, or at your DG to point out these attributes when you see them in people’s lives. May Grace church continue to be a place of encouragement for believers to fight the fight of faith together. If there is anyone here who feels discouraged as you reflect on these attributes and hard pressed to identify any of these mentioned attributes in your life my response would be to turn to Christ, pray, repent and stand firm on the promise of righteousness and salvation for those that are trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection as the only means to be reconciled to God.
The first point from the text this morning was: Stand Firm in the Lord found in verse 1 of chapter 4.
The second point from the passage this morning is: Agree in the Lord.
Verses 2 and 3 of our text call for a corporate responsibility for unity in the church.
As I mentioned earlier the remaining points from the text are 3 attributes that mark mature Christian thinking and affirm those who are standing in the Lord.
Look at verse 2 with me.
This verse has 2 amazing features for resolving conflicts in the church.
The first feature is what I will call the two party responsibility. Notice that Paul exhorts BOTH Euodia and Syntyche in this verse. He uses the verb to “entreat” or “admonish” twice in this verse once for each party that is contributing to the disunity.
The second feature that this verse teaches us about resolving conflicts in the church is WHERE Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche to agree.
Lets step back for a minute. Sometimes in our bible reading and interpreting it is just as important to identify what is not in the text. What do I mean by this?
Paul does not provide any specific details about what these two ladies are disagreeing about. We might have hints throughout the rest of the book about what they might be arguing about but Paul does not tell us. By not naming the the actual cause or topic of division I would argue Paul is rightly focusing on the command in verses 2 and 3 to “agree in the Lord.”
Paul is not afraid to call out specific issues and or people by name. In our text he calls out people by name, but he does not call out the issue, which I believe to be very important in his efforts to bring unity between Euodia and Syntyche again. Paul points these women back to Christ. Paul does not want Euodia and Syntyche to agree necessarily on the topic or issue at hand, he wants them to agree in the Lord.
There is great wisdom here for us at Grace especially as we pursue a Biblical counseling ministry. The call of the biblical counselor is to point them to mature thinking and behavior in Christ. What I believe God is teaching us through Paul’s exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord is that true and pure unity is only found in the Church when we are agreeing “in the Lord.”
To unpack the implications of verse 2 a bit further, the call for unity in the church does not start with an agreed upon budget, or what type of music we are going to sing, or how we are going to parent. The call for unity in the church begins with unity in the Gospel.
Kyle mentioned this several weeks back, but it worth saying again, we have more in common with those who are members of our church community than that co-worker or neighbor that shares all of our same interests and humor. The healthiness of Grace rides on our desire to agree in the Lord.
When we fight to “agree in the Lord” the rest of our conflicts take a back seat and rightfully so, because they do not carry the same punch or seriousness when they are seen in light of the glorious gospel of Jesus and his coming return.
The last observation that I would live to make about verse 2 is Paul’s exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche. There is no hint of who is more at fault. There is not a clue in this verse as to who’s side Paul is on in this dispute. Paul is asking Euodia and Syntyche to both take responsibility in reconciling over this argument.
What great pastoral wisdom for us as we find ourselves in any dispute with a brother and sister in Christ or any dispute for that matter. The application for us from this feature in the text is that it is up to each Christian to pursue reconciliation. I hope you see that from Paul’s use of the verb “entreat” with each party involved in the dispute.
Christian, our response to disunity should not be, “well that person wronged me first,” or “I was way more hurt by that particular person’s sin than they were by my response.” Or how about, “I am willing to reconcile if they would be willing to reach out.” Paul makes it crystal clear in this verse that it is the responsibility of each Christian to purse unity and reconciliation.
Conflict management in the church is each Christian’s responsibility. It is not the one who is more at fault for disunity that should be pursuing reconciliation. Parents, we will do a great service to our kids if we model this in our marriages, and teach this response to our kids when they are fighting. One person’s sin does not justify a sinful response. Let us teach our kids to own their own sin and to repeat. It is the Spirits job to soften and convict the heart of the other individual.
As we move on to verse 3 we receive more pastoral wisdom from Paul in the fight for corporate unity in the church.
Remember this letter was probably read out-loud to the whole church to begin with, but Paul makes the disunity of a couple church members the responsibility of another mediator in the church as well. Paul asks for his “fellow companion” to help bring reconciliation between Euodia and Syntche. There is some speculation as to who Paul is referencing here, but it is not clear. The importance of this other “true companion” in the fight for corporate unity is that Paul expands the responsibility of unity to a mediator that could step in to help restore unity.
This mimics how Jesus called for disputes to be resolved in the church in Matthew 18. If the two individual parties are not able to reconcile take 1 or 2 other members to help bring restoration.
I would argue there are 3 spheres in verses 2 and 3 of this chapter in the call to unity within the church. Paul calls each party involved to reconcile in the Lord. He then calls a mediator to help with this reconciliation and finally the implied sphere is the corporate church to which this letter is being written and read to.
The fight for unity between a couple believer is a corporate call. To suggest that other member’s disunity is not “my problem,” Paul I believe would say, “no” you are wrong. To believe that you should stay out of other people’s arguments in the context of the church or to remove yourself from helping to reconcile two parties that are fighting is to disobey Paul’s and Jesus’ exhortation to fight for unity within the church as a church.
Let me just make a few more practical comments about conflict management in the church that I believe flow out of verses 2 and 3.
The primary goal in restoring broken relationships in the church is for all parties involved to submit to Christ. Remember the main point of verses 2 and 3 is to agree in the Lord. If you are a mediator do not take a side, counsel in such a way that encourages each party to view their perspective through the lens of the gospel. Point each party to verses that could bring wisdom and light into the disagreement.
Even if you believe the fight to be over something petty or small or silly, remember the list of attributes we listed earlier from Philippians of mature Christians. One of them was sympathy, one of them was encouragement, one of them was comfort in love, one of them was servant mindedness, one of them was humility.
For the church as a whole, remember that one of the means that we work out our salvation is being in covenant community with other sinners. May we see disunity in the church as an opportunity to grow in holiness, not as a reason to pull back or pull out of community. God is at work as we work for unity in our church.
This bring us to our third point from the text.
Verses 4-7 captures a second attribute of a mature Christian which is to “Rejoice in the Lord”
Point #3 this morning is “Rejoice in the Lord”
I am not sure if this feels disjointed to you as well, but I certainly found myself asking how verses 4-7 relate to the previous verses.
After spending time in the text I believe the link can be seen in verse 7. Paul is calling the Philippians church to rejoice in the Lord because of the promise of peace that is found through prayer for those that are standing firm in the Lord.
Verses 2 and 3 were all about fighting for unity in the midst of disunity and verse 7 brings these two sections together with the promise of peace enjoyed through a robust prayer life.
Verse 4 calls for a worshipful response towards God in the midst of disunity because as conflict and disunity rises in our life the promise of Peace in Christ becomes more sweet.
Let me say that again, as the waves of disunity, discomfort, and suffering rises the promise of God’s peace in our hearts through our union with Christ becomes that much more sweet.
I believe this is precisely what Paul means in Romans 8:28 when he says, “all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.” All things including suffering, conflict, disunity, and sin. God, because of the work of Jesus Christ, is able to work all things together for the good of those how are standing firm in Christ.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding is our guardian from hopelessness, anxiety, depression, and sinful responses when we are standing firm in Christ through a robust prayer life.
Prayer brings about peace in our hearts and minds because we are turning our eyes off of ourselves and our present circumstances to the work of Jesus and our eternal Citizenship in heaven.
Chapter 3 ends pointing us to the set our minds on our heavenly citizenship and the power of Christ to subject all things to himself.
When we cast our cares onto to Christ and trust in God’s power to make all things right we are able to experience peace even in the midst of turmoil and disunity.
It is as if Euodia and Syntyche agreed with Paul after his exhortation for them to agree in the Lord and they needed a first step to obey this command, Paul gives them the first step, which is to rejoice in the Lord and to lift up all of their anxiety in prayer to God who will bring peace.
I believe the logic that Paul is trying to instill in the minds of the Philippian church is that if we have Jesus as an advocate before God who brought peace at the cross between God and man, than God can certainly bring peace between blood bought members of the Philippian church.
Let me say this another way, If God did the harder thing of bringing us into peace with him through the death of his son, than bringing peace between two mature christians that are struggling to be unified in their approach to ministry is also possible.
Paul turns Euodia’s and Syntyche’s attention away from their dispute with each other and points them to the peace that they enjoy with God. This is want it means to be standing firm in the Lord. We have a blood bought filter for all disunity that we experience. The filter is the cross. If God sent his Son to die for enemies in order to reconciled them to himself than the cross certainly has the power to bring unity and peace within a community of blood bought believers.
Prayer is the means though which we are able to experience peace with God despite our current circumstances, and through prayer God promises an incomprehensible peace that will inevitably lead to our hearts to rejoicing in the work that God has done on our behalf which then inevitably leads our hearts and minds to be reconciled with brothers and sister’s in Christ.
Prayer provokes godly peace, which produces an overflow of joy that causes us to rejoice in our union with Christ.
Let me say that again. I believe this text has taught us so far that prayer brings about a peace in our hearts that products an overflow in joy in the work of God such that the only proper response in out hearts and minds is to rejoice in our union with Christ.
This brings us to the final point of the text which is also the 4th command and third attribute of mature Christian thinking this is to “practice these things”
Point #4 is: Practice godliness.
There are 4 commands in our text, “stand firm,” “agree,” “rejoice” and “practice.” The first 3 commands in this section are followed by the resounding phrase, “in the Lord” the place that the Christians should be standing, agreeing and rejoicing is in the Lord.
Which brings us to the final command: to practice godly behavior.
In verses 8 and 9 Paul holds up the high standard of mature, Christian thinking and behavior.
Let me read verse 8 again.
To provide just a bit of cultural and historical context to this list of 8 characteristics of holy living, one commentary wrote, that Paul’s list of eight virtues “bears a striking resemblance to lists of virtues in Greek Literature”, he went on to say, “it is almost as if he had taken a current list from a textbook of ethical instructions and made it his own.”
It was very common for the philosophers of the day to discuss ethics and specifically the characteristics that are most honorable and commendable in society. I think what we can say about verse 8 is that in one breathe Paul is holding up positive moral attributes that the secular Roman society would have also held up as right and good, but in another breathe he is holding up his own life as an example of Godly, Christian behavior that would represent the morality and ethics of the heavenly kingdom from which the Philippians are citizens.
In light of the division that is clearly evident in the the Philippian church in verses 2 and 3, Paul’s focus in this text is on the peace that is found in Christ through prayer and obedience.
To make this clear, in verses 6 and 7, it is prayer that brings peace and in verse 9 it is obedience that maintains that peace.
Working out our salvation with fear and trembling maintains the peace we have with God because we are no longer pursuing our own desires but we have come to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are no longer enemies of God when we are seeking to fight against our sinful tendencies. We are no longer striving against God we are striving with God and nothing can offer more peace than being in right relationship with God, and if we are in right relationship with God we will inevitably be in right relationship with each other.
Do you see now how verses 4 through 9 are completely connected with verses 1 through 3? Instead of calling out the sin of Euodia and Syntyche he points them to prayer, supplication and thanksgiving as they cry out to God in their distress and anxiety. Paul then holds up his life as an example of godly behavior as a model for the high call of the Christian ethic. At the center of Paul’s Christian ethic is standing firm in Christ. The bedrock for Paul’s ethics is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the righteousness that was purchased for us in Christ so that we might now be citizens of heaven.
As I close, I want to tie this text in with the running theme in this letter of gospel partnership.
Paul knows that disunity in the church will harm the witness of the church to the surrounding culture and it will stunt the growth of the church. Paul understands that disunity is a great risk to their partnership in the gospel and the continued advance of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Just as I mentioned at the beginning of this message the Panama team was able to witness God honoring and glorifying unity in the mission field, Pastor Mike is going to lead us in communion in just a minute and Paul’s call to the Corinthians right before communion is for unity in the body.
Communion is exactly what Paul is after in our text and it is exactly what we hold up when we eat the bread and drink the cup. We are reminded of our union with Christ and our union to the rest of his body as we partake of one loaf and one cup together.
Would you pray with me?