Ordinary Time Bible Study
Philippians: Friends in the Gospel
Study Sixteen: Friends Helping Friends
• • •
Philippians 4:2-9, JB Phillips NT
Euodius and Syntyche I beg you by name to make up your differences as Christians should! And, my true fellow-worker help these women. They both worked hard with me for the Gospel, as did Clement and all my other fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life.
Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.
Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.
Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you.
• Philippians (WBC), p. 177
If you’re a friend, you want to help your friends. When they are struggling with issues, you want to be there for them. As we have said often here at Internet Monk, the best way of doing that is simply by being faithfully present with them, listening, loving, letting them know you are available should they want counsel or assistance.
Paul had no such access to his Philippian friends. There he was, a long distance away, sitting in prison, incapable of providing the companionship and pastoral care they needed. And although we have no specific picture of how serious and dangerous the spirit of disagreement and dissension had become at Philippi, it was alarming enough that the apostle felt he had to address it. After all, he did not know if he would ever be able to be with them again. The only tools he had in his pastoral toolbox were words.
So he gets real with them, and he gets specific:
- He appeals to two prominent women in the congregation, women who had worked faithfully with Paul himself, to work out a dispute they were in.
- He appeals to a leader in the congregation who may have had special credibility and influence to help these women resolve their differences.
- By urging them to rejoice in the Lord, he is reminding them again to focus their attention on their True Leader, who did not pursue selfish interest but humbled himself to serve others (2:1-11).
- He encourages them to cultivate a spirit of to epiekes,(v. 5), which may be understood as, “magnanimity,” “generous selflessness,” “respectful courtesy that does not insist on its own rights but seeks to benefit others.”
- He encourages them to remember that “the Lord is near” — he is with them, among them, his real presence and help available to them — the same Lord who emptied himself and set the pattern for their own relationships.
- He addresses the anxiety that was apparently besetting the congregation — was it related to the relational conflicts that were intensifying? — and urges them to seek God’s peace (both within and with each other) by praying together.
- He urges them to work on thinking differently as a congregation by accessing two resources:
- The virtues that all human beings recognize as being healthy and positive — the list in v. 8 is taken right from the moral philosophy of Paul’s day and is not exclusively “Christian” but the common heritage of wisdom and love that is recognized among their neighbors as well.
- The example of loving service Paul and his coworkers have showed them throughout their friendship.
This is a path to experiencing “the peace of God” as we trust and walk with “the God of peace” in our midst.
Gerald Hawthorne comments on this list of practical exhortations and encouragements from Paul to his friends:
There have been indications throughout the letter that all was not well at Philippi. Hints have been given of selfishness, self-interest, conceit, pride, and so on existing with harmful effects within the Christian community. Now one of these problems surfaces: that of intense disagreement, along with the names of those party to the quarrel. Two women could not agree and the church may have been in danger of taking sides and dividing. What was equally troubling to Paul was that the spiritual leaders within the congregation were not taking the problem seriously enough to become involved in solving it. He was forced to ask them specifically to do what they should already have been doing.
In the rapid-fire commands that Pul now flings out in all directions one gets the impression that there were many other spiritual irritants present at Philippi, such as depression, harshness of spirit, anxiety, failure to take prayer seriously, troubled minds, minds filled with all the wrong kinds of things, and so on. Paul is confident that there are solutions to the problems at Philippi, and thus he encourages them to change not only their actions, but more fundamentally their attitude.
• • •
Ordinary Time Bible Study
Philippians – Friends in the Gospel