READ PHILIPPIANS FOUR
The first verse of this chapter points out two key components of spiritual friendships.
Look back at the beginning of chapter four. What are the two key components of spiritual friendships we saw yesterday?
Spiritual friendships would not be what God intended them to be without affection and a call to stand firm in the Lord. Today, we’re going to see the outworking of this reality as Paul calls the believers to have unity among themselves.
Read Philippians 4:2-3. We don’t know much about the Philippians situation, but what do we learn about key characters in the church from these verses?
If you were to modernize these notions, how would you imagine this playing out in your local church today?
Spiritual friendships are rooted in the Gospel, and, as such, they will flourish in unity. In so many ways, unity has been key to Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. He reminds them of their union with Christ, encourages them to be of one mind, and, in our verses for today, encourages two women in particular to live into their unity in Christ. In order to understand what Paul has in mind for Euodia and Synteche, we need to recall his broader vision for unity in the church. This vision is woven throughout every line of this letter.
Read through the entire book of Philippians, making note of every reference to unity. Try to mentally sort these references into a few different categories (unity among believers, union with Christ, etc.).
We don’t know the specifics of the situation that Paul references in chapter 4 verses two through three, but we know the discord was substantial enough that Paul, in prison in Rome, has heard about it. This isn’t a disagreement about how to lay out the cookies on the coffee welcome station at church. This is significant disagreement. And though we don’t know the details, we do know this: no matter how severe the disunity is among these believers, it is not beyond the power of the Gospel to bring unity. Throughout this letter, Paul urges the believers towards unity, and that unity should be rooted in their shared inheritance and destination: the Kingdom of God. The believers’ ultimately identity is that of being united to the Son of God in salvation. This union with Christ will lead them into deeper unity with one another, as they lay down their own rights and consider each others’ interests ahead of their own. This union with Christ will lead them into a unity in the church that the world does not know and cannot understand.
Disunity in the church is so easy. In my own experience, I’m ashamed to say, I have had disunity with other believers in a local church frequently. More often than not, the disunity between myself and another believer arises when I place my primary identity – or the primary identity of the other person – somewhere other than in Christ. I don’t often want to share my own application in too much detail for fear that it will be distracting, but I think it’s appropriate here. Often, my disunity with other believers in the church has arisen over my desire to teach in the church. As a woman who is passionate about the Word, was Bible school and seminary trained, and is an active participant in the local church, I deeply desire to teach the Word. Sometimes, this is met with skepticism, hesitation, or opposition. And deep disunity is the result.
But, in the midst of these difficult situations, I often fail to realize how much of the disunity has arisen from misplaced identity – both my own view of myself and of other believers. When I think the most important thing about myself is my teaching gifts as a woman, than anyone who opposes women teaching in the church is going to breed an abundance of disunity. I causes me to see those who disagree with me as if their primary identity is as a person who opposes women teaching in the church. And the humbling reality is that neither is true! My primary identity is in Christ! My brothers’ and sisters’ primary identity is in Christ! And let me tell you this: by God’s grace I heave learned that no amount of disunity is beyond the reconciling power of the Gospel.
Consider your own experience for a moment. Have you experienced significant disunity with other Christians? Could any of the disunity arisen out of misplaced identity?
What do you think Paul would say to you and me in those situations? How do you think he would urge us on towards unity?
If you find yourself currently in a situation of disunity with another believer, how can you seek unity? How can you bring other believers around you to help you, like Paul instructs the Philippians?
If you and I are united to Christ, and if all other believers are united to Christ, then unity must be the result. This will not mean that we agree on everything or that we won’t have hard conversations as we seek unity. But it does mean that, in Christ, unity is possible. Paul concludes this short section by pointing the believers to an ultimate perspective: both of the names of the disagreeing parties are in the book of life. Both of these women will walk, one day, into the Kingdom of God. They will both stand before Him as members of His Body. One day, they will truly be of one mind as they, freed from sin, enter the Kingdom of Heaven together. This ultimate view makes way for them to seek unity today, now, and here … on earth, just as it is in heaven.
PRAY & REFLECT
Ask God to bring unity where there is disunity. Thank Him that nothing is beyond the power of the Gospel! Thank Him that you are in Christ, and that other Christians are in Christ as well. Pray for an open spirit to receive the unifying power of God in your own life and relationships.