Preserving Unity

 

 

Scripture: Philippians 4:1-3, NLT

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work. Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.

NRSV

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

INTRODUCTION

Let’s begin with what we know and what we do not know. First, we know…

  • Philippi is a good church noted for its loyalty to Paul and its giving.
  • Paul loved the folks at Philippi. He uses terms of endearment here that he uses no where else, the closest was Thessalonica. [I Thes. 2:19-20, After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.[NASB reads hope and joy]
  • We know that they had a division, a disagreement in the church and that women were involved.
  • We know their names were Euodia [yü-o-dē’-ä] meaning  fragrant and Syntyche  [sün-tü’-khā] meaning ‘with fate.’
  • We know from Polycarp that the church at Philippi was a very good church in 2nd century which means they got things worked out.
  • We know the argument was between two women who had been helpful to Paul in the past.

Now, what we don’t know.

  • We don’t know what the disagreement was about.
  • We don’t know how long it took to get it resolved.

Three Lessons to Learn From the Story

[1] THE WORLD MOCKS A DIVIDED CHURCH

Division in a church is never good. I am sure the devil loves it when we fight among ourselves. He knows that it destroys our influence and witness. Jesus told His disciples, “By this all men shall know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” Think about it this way…”By this all men shall know you are not My disciples because you do not love each other.” The world has us figured out when it comes to loving each other and getting along. Junior Hill tells the story of driving through a Southern Bible Belt town and he saw three Baptist Churches on the main highway: Harmony, then further down the road New Harmony and then as he drove out of town he saw Greater New Harmony. We have a church in our own Association by the name of Unity. It is a split, off of a split, off of a split. I think I would have come up with another name. I had a seminary professor who told us that he was driving up through Mississippi on the way to a preaching assignment and he passed a Baptist church that had red roofing on one side and green on the other. The curiosity was killing him so he stopped at a near by store to get a coke and he ask the manager of the store why the church had a multi-colored roof. He said, “Well, long story short, that church is divided. It has two factions and they cannot agree on anything. One group wanted red shingle and the other wanted green so they compromised and did one side red and one side green. A divided church is a joke to the community. Unless we want the world to mock us, we must get to the altar and get with Jesus, one and all.

[2] SATAN CELEBRATES A DIVIDED CHURCH

There is a myth that Satan will not mess with a good church. The opposite is true. When you study the N.T., especially if you are a preacher of missionary; the Philippian church is going to be your favorite. It has always been number one in my mind. This is a church that gave generously to the poor in Jerusalem simply because Paul asked for their help. Such generosity is very rare. There are a lot of churches mentioned in the N.T. but there are none who gave like Philippi. Time and time again that sent love offerings to Paul if for nothing more than to encourage him but it seems that each offering met a specific need in the Apostles life. We are talking about a good church that did more for the Apostle Paul than any other congregation. How important was Paul to the Church? How thankful this congregation will be throughout eternity that they helped the greatest Missionary the world has ever known. By helping Paul, Philippi played a key roll in the growth of the kingdom. Bro. Inman always said, “When God goes to blessing a church, you better look out because the devil is going to get stirred up and he is good at getting things stirred up.” To a degree, if the devil is a attacking, it is a good sign. It means he considers your church a threat. C.S. Lewis says, “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” We are in a spiritual war and the devils strategy is to divide first and then conquer. He will plant his tares in every congregation and they will sow discord among the brethren. The devil celebrates a divided church.

[3] GOD GRIEVES OVER A DIVIDED CHURCH

Ephesians 4:30 comes to mind, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. When a church is divided, it means two things for certain. [1] We are not standing on Christ the solid Rock and [2] We are not thinking the way Jesus thinks. As stated in verse  2, we don’t have the same mind in the LORD. Jesus is the common denominator: If I want what He wants and you want what He wants then we will want the same thing.

In verse 1, Paul says, Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord. The phrase Paul uses is in reference to a Roman Soldier. In ancient warfare, hand to hand combat, standing firm was the key to victory. In most cases, if a soldier lost his footing, he was a dead man. I wear boots in the winter. Not only do they keep my feet war, they give me stability. I went to a fellow member’s cabin on the lake yesterday for retreat. His cabin is about 50-60 feet above the water level. In order to use the bathroom I had to go down to the lake and get a bucket filled with water. The bank of the lake was muddy and slick and on a slope. I knew this was a recipe for disaster so I walked a little further down and found a rock. I stooped from the rock and got the water.  The water was deep and the weather was cold but I did not slip because I was standing a solid rock. Our steadfastness depends on our foundation. Paul said, “Stand firm in the LORD.”

One of the greater joys is to return to a place of service and see someone actively serving the LORD that you baptized years before. A little over a year ago, I went back to my first church [college days] to do a COL service and a young man walked up and said, “Do you remember me?”  His face was familiar and I said, “You look like a Blankenship.” He said, “That’s right, I’m David, you baptized me when I was 9 years old and I have been active since.” We are talking 45 years later and he is a faithful leader in the church. Wow, what joy to know that God used you to help another human being come to know His Son. As John said, “What greater joy than to see my children walking in truth.”

There is a passage in Ephesians four that sums up what I am trying to say:

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. 28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. 30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Verse 32 was my Mother’s favorite verse. Do you see all the things here that can grieve the Holy Spirit: lying, uncontrolled anger, stealing, foul language and notice all the sins of the tongue….harsh words, slander and rage.

What  grief there is when God’s children do not get along together! My father and mother raised two families. I have four older siblings all born before WWII: they were born 1936-38-40-42; three brothers and one sister. After the war he had four more and this time three girls and one boy. As we were growing up, our older sibling had already moved out on their own but every Sunday night after church they would all congregate at the house. One Sunday night some unkind words were spoken and feelings were hurt and all of the adult children left angry or crying. I will never forget going by Mother’s bedroom on the way to the attic and I heard her weeping. Fighting children will break a parents heart. Fighting church members can grieve the Spirit of God.

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