This post examines the harmony and joy that Paul wants the Philippians believers to have (based on Phil 4:1-5). In my introduction to the book of Philippians I emphasized that conflict resolution might have been one of the main reasons that Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians. As you will see in this post, Paul clearly urges two believers to settle their disagreement.
If you have missed my past posts about the book of Philippians, you can see them below:
- An Introduction to the Book of Philippians
- Paul’s Greeting, Gratitude, and Group Focus (Phil 1:1-11)
- A Leader Rejoices When His Cause Advances (Phil 1:12-18)
- Paul’s Life for Christ (Phil 1:19-26)
- Leaders Lead and Live in an Ethical Way (Phil 1:27-30)
- Leaders Focus on Others (Phil 2:1-4)
- Have the Same Attitude as Christ (Phil 2:5-11)
- Leaders Shine Brightly for Christ (Phil 2:12-18)
- Christian Leaders Have Confidence in Christ (Phil 3:1-6)
- Righteousness Is Through Jesus Christ (Phil 3:7-11)
- Perfection Not Yet Reached (Phil 3:12-16)
- Living as Citizens of Heaven (Phil 3:17-21)
Photo Credit: Paul Signac
The Text of Phil 4:1-5
1Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, you are my joy and pride, so stand in the Lord. 2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to think the same thing in the Lord. 3Yes, I ask you, my true comrade, support them, those who helped me in the Gospel and they also helped Clement and my many other helpers. Their names are written in the book of life. 4Rejoice in the Lord at all times. Again I say rejoice! 5Let everyone see your kindness. The Lord is near.
I. STAY TRUE TO THE LORD (4:1)
“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, you are my joy and pride, so stand in the Lord.” (Phil 4:1)
A. Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοὶ καὶ ἐπιπόθητοι, — Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters,
1. Ὥστε – Therefore
This conjunction is an inferential conjunction which could be translated as “and so.” It is used in this way to draw a conclusion from Phil 3:17-21 while also beginning to conclude Paul’s letter. Because there are many enemies of the cross (Phil 3:18-19) and because believers are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20-21) believers should stand in the Lord.
2. ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοὶ — my beloved brothers and sisters
Again Paul uses similar terms to address the Philippians as he had used in Phil 3:1, “Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters” and in Phil 3:17, “Dear brothers and sisters.” This phrase appears in Paul’s letters often when he is appealing to the people to do things or to act in a moral way.
3. χαρὰ καὶ στέφανός μου, — you are my joy and pride
This phrase starts to conclude his letter. Throughout this letter we have seen Paul’s ministry and his desire for the Philippians to live righteous lives. Paul writes that the Philippians are his “joy” and “pride” or as the New Living Translation renders it, “joy and crown.” It is refreshing that Paul gets to have a benefit and enjoyment from his ministry in spite of the suffering he had to endure for his faith (Phil 1:7, 12-14). What is “joy” and “pride?” What is this crown?
The translation of this word “pride” is from the Greek word, στέφανος, which has several meanings in the New Testament.
- The first is a wreath made of foliage or designed to resemble foliage and worn by one of high status or held in high regard. It is often translated, wreath or crown as is described as a ‘crown of thorns’ in Matt 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2, 5. This first use is a literal physical item that is placed on the head of a person.
- The second meaning is what we see here (Phil 4:1) as something that serves as adornment or source of pride. It is often translated, adornment or pride as in Phil 4:1 and 1 Thess 2:19. This second use is figurative and serves as the idea of pride and adornment, but is not expressed with a physical item, but is instead an inward feeling.
- A third meaning of this verb is an award or prize for exceptional service or conduct, prize, reward as described in 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev 2:10; 3:11 (BDAG, 943-944). These are physical prizes and rewards.
Based on the range of meaning of this word and the specific use here, this “crown” or “pride” is the feeling that Paul has because of his work with the Philippians. It is not a physical crown he receives when Christ returns because he was a super-Christian. Instead, it is simply a feeling that Paul receives because of his work to believers.
4. οὕτως στήκετε ἐν κυρίῳ, ἀγαπητοί. – so stand in the Lord.
Three options are available for translating the Greek “present tense” of the word, στήκετε into English.
- Progressive would stress the continuous action such as “so at this present time stand in the Lord.”
- Customary would stress that the action regularly occurs or is an ongoing state such as “so stand in the Lord.”
- Iterative would stress that this an action that occurs repeatedly, “so continuously stand in the Lord” or “so repeatedly stand in the Lord” (See Wallace, Greek Grammar, 516-525).
All of these emphasize that it is something we do now and in the future.
Why stand in the Lord? Earlier in his letter Paul had told the Philippians, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” (Phil 1:27, NLT). Then Paul continued his letter on and described the dogs (Phil 3:2) and then those headed for destruction (Phil 3:18). This phrase, “stand in the Lord” seems to echo his original command in Phil 1:27 that the Philippians were supposed to live as citizens of heaven while among a perverse and crooked generation.
5. Paul’s Terms of Love and Affection
O’Brien writes, “Before he [Paul] exhorts his readers, Paul commends them [the Philippians] in some of the most effectionate and endearing langage he ever uses in his letters” (O’Brien, Philippians, 475). This is not flattery, it is sincere love.
A brief list of Paul’s terms used here: ἀδελπηοί “brothers and sisters;” ἀγαπητοί “dear, beloved, prized, valued;” ἐπιπόθητοι “longed for, desired;”
II. EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE’S DISAGREEMENT (4:2-3)
A. The Disagreement (v. 2)
“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to think the same thing in the Lord” (Phil 3:2)
1. Εὐοδίαν παρακαλῶ καὶ Συντύχην παρακαλῶ — I urge Eudia and I urge Syntyche
From the Greek text, it is important to note that each women’s name is placed first for emphasis. It is almost as if Paul is calling out to each woman. In our culture someone might call our name in order to get our attention, “Christopher! I need you to do this.” Not only is each woman’s name placed first for emphasis, but Paul provides the verb twice for each woman. His address is the same to each woman, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche.”
Additionally, both women’s actions are condemned here regardless of who is at fault.
2. τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν ἐν κυρίῳ. – to think the same thing in the Lord
This idea of “to think the same thing” is an appeal to these two women to have the same mental attitude, and to have the same basic aim, direction, and orientation of their behavior (O’Brien, Philippians, 478). This small phrase echoes Paul’s earlier encouragement to the Philippians “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose” (Phil 2:2, NLT). For these two women to think the same thing would require that they have a correct and kind attitude toward each other and therefore be able to work with each other.
Paul’s connection to “in the Lord” here is interesting. One possibility is he wants these two women to have agreement because of their common bond in the Lord. Alternatively, he also could be encouraging these women to have a submission to the Lord in their disagreement.
3. Disagreement Only Among Women?
Someone that does not know the Bible well or does not study this text carefully might make the incorrect conclusion that women cause issues in the church! However, when you study the Bible thoroughly you will notice that the Philippian church began with women. Acts 16 tells of the beginning of the church in Philippi.
“We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days. On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. ‘If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my home.’ And she urged us until we agreed” (Acts 16:11–15, NLT, emphasis mine).
The Philippian church was started and likely based in the home of Lydia. She had Paul and Silas in her home and she likely invited people to be there. No only was the book of Philippians likely written mostly to Gentiles, but possibly mostly to women too!
4. The Identity of These Two Women
Much speculation has been provided about the identity of these two women. Karl Barth describes the Tubingin School which believes that Euodia are “Jewish Christians” and Syntyche are “Gentile Christians.” In this view, these are not real women but instead are analogies. Furthermore, this School taught that Synzygos of Phil 4:3 is Peter (Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Philippians [Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1962], 119). While I do not agree with this, I think it serves as an example of the variety of interpretations about who these two women might have been.
5. Disagreement Among the Southern Baptist Convention
B. The Book of Life (v. 3)
“Yes, I ask you, my true comrade, support them, those who helped me in the Gospel, and they also helped Clement and my many other helpers. Their names are written in the book of life.” (Phil 4:3)
1. ναὶ ἐρωτῶ καὶ σέ, γνήσιε σύζυγε, — Yes, I ask you, my true comrade,
The first observation is that outside help is needed for Euodia and Syntyche. Paul addressed and asked someone else to help these two women to “think the same thing in the Lord” (Phil 4:2). However, the identity of this person is uncertain.
Four major suggestions have been made:
- Paul’s wife since this is a term that can be used to refer to someone’s wife. However, 1 Cor 7:8 clearly states that Paul did not have a wife. John Calvin is known to have commented on this passage, “’How should Paul suddenlty have a wife in Philippi of all places?’ ‘But granting that Paul was married, how came his wife to be at Philippi—a city which we do not read of his entering on more than two occasions, and in which it is probable he never remained so much as two whole months? In fine, nothing is more unlikely than that he speaks here of his wife’” (Calvin and Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, 114, sic).
- Lydia, who was one of the first converts when Paul and Silas went to Philippi (Acts 16:11-15). However, the gender of this word is masculine which greatly limits that chance that Paul is using this word to refer to a female.
- A proper name of someone else. However, that name has not been found in Greek literature.
- Epaphroditus, which would match the masculine gender of the noun used here. This term used to refer to Epaphroditus would give him credentials to help these two women sort out their issues.
2. συλλαμβάνου αὐταῖς, αἵτινες ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ συνήθλησάν μοι μετὰ καὶ Κλήμεντος καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν συνεργῶν μου, — support them, those who helped me in the Gospel, and they also helped Clement and my many other helpers.
a) συλλαμβάνου αὐταῖς, αἵτινες ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ συνήθλησάν μοι – support them, those who helped me in the Gospel
The Greek word used here, συλλαμβάνου is used twice (out of several other meanings and uses) in the New Testament to describe someone who helps by taking part with someone else in an activity, support, aid, help. The word is used in Luke 5:7, “A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking” (NLT).
b) μετὰ καὶ Κλήμεντος καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν συνεργῶν μου, — they also helped Clement and my many other helpers.
“Origen’s claim that he [Clement of Rome] is the Clement mentioned in Phil 4:3 is an unlikely conjecture at best. Nothing is known about his background (Jewish? pagan?) or age” (M. W. Holmes, “Clement of Rome” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments ed. by Ralph Martin, and Peter Davids [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997], 233). Additionally, A.T. Robertson notes that this was a common name in the New Testament and that there is no evidence that this was Clement of Rome (Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament).
These women participated with Paul in sharing Good News. They had an active role in Paul’s work to tell others about Jesus Christ. The also worked along with Clement and Paul’s other coworkers to tell others the Good News too.
The text does not say that these two women were on a stage in front of the entire Philippian church preaching and teaching. Likewise it does not say that they were Paul’s servants that carried his books, cooked his meals, and served as his secretary.
This issue of women and their role in ministry has always been a difficult one. For example, I have a series of books in my library called, “Zondervan’s Counterpoints” in which several authors contribute a chapter to a book, and each author takes a different point of view. For example, one book is titled, Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters. Out of the 26 books I have in that series, the book titled, Two Views on Women in Ministry is the longest!
With that said, no strong conclusion can be made based on this verse (obviously), but most of the time people land in one of two camps. Egalitarian is a position that believes men and women are equal in value and can have the same roles in the church. Complementarian is a position that believes men and women are equal in value but have different roles in the church.
[link blog post to women and leadership in the Bible]
3. ὧν τὰ ὀνόματα ἐν βίβλῳ ζωῆς. – Their names are written in the book of life.
The book of life is mentioned both in the Old Testament (Exod 32:32-33; Pss 69:28; Isa 4:3 [not book of life, but similar idea]; Dan 12:1) and New Testament (Luke 10:20 [not book of life, but similar idea]; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:17). Perhaps the most important thing to remember about this book of life is that it is God who enters men into this book.
“The book of life is the roll of the righteous, who are predestinated to life, as in the writings of Moses. (Exod. 32:32.) God has this roll beside himself in safe keeping. Hence the book is nothing else than His eternal counsel, fixed in His own breast. In place of this term, Ezekiel employs this expression—the writing of the house of Israel. With the same view it is said in Psalm 69:29, Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and let them not be written among the righteous; that is, let them not be numbered among the elect of God, whom he receives within the limits of his Church and kingdom” (Calvin and Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, 114–115).
III. ALWAYS BE FULL OF JOY (4:4-5)
A. Be Full of Joy (v. 4)
“Rejoice in the Lord at all times. Again I say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)
This is showing consideration to one another—setting aside one’s rights in favor of others. Paul urges the Philippians to show their “gentleness” to believers and unbelievers. By doing so, they will display the gospel message’s power to transform and reconcile. (Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible).
Question: How often are we supposed to be full of joy?
We are supposed to be full of joy and rejoice all the time!
Question: Who are we supposed to be full of joy in?
We are supposed to be full of joy and rejoice in the Lord!
B. Be Considerate (v. 5)
“Let everyone see your kindness. The Lord is near.” (Phil 4:5)
1. τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν γνωσθήτω πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις. – Let everyone see your kindness.
These are the activities and tasks that people do which can be seen by others. However, it is important to note the “voice” of the phrase “let everyone see.” The “voice” is passive as in “I was hit by the ball.” The active voice would be “I hit the ball.” Here, Paul uses the passive voice when describing the kindness “seen” by the people doing it. This is not something that we are supposed to do in order that others see what we do. Paul is saying that what we normally do can be seen by others.
The Greek word for “see” is used here as a “command” imperative. While this verb is a third person singular aorist form, it is important to not see a simple “permissive” idea. In order words, Paul is not allowing the Philippians an option of “let it happen” or “don’t let it happen.” The force of the phrase is still strong because Paul wants them to show kindness. While some activities will not bee seen by others, most will. And, with that Paul writes that they “must let everyone see their kindness.” People are going to see us do what we do, therefore we must let those people see kindness instead of jealousy, rivalry, and evil (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 486 and footnote 97).
“Paul exhorted them to gentleness. No single word translates epi-eikes well, and commentators consistently insist that the word contains an element of selflessness. The gentle person does not insist on his rights. ‘It is that considerate courtesy and respect for the integrity of others which prompts a man not to be forever standing on his rights; and it is preeminently the character of Jesus (2 Cor 10:1).’ The word occurs in Paul’s writing as a characteristic of Christian leaders (1 Tim 3:3, of bishops; Titus 3:2). Fairness and magnanimity were to be developed so that they were visible to all. They were to characterize the church. Paul made this emphatic by reminding them that the Lord was at hand. The statement sobers Christians for two reasons: He will come as judge, expecting to see this quality in his people; having personified the quality himself, he knows what it is like” (Melick, Philippians, 149).
2. ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς. – The Lord is near
This verse connects with “You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:8–9, NLT). Here James says that since the Lord is near we should not judge each other.
Two options for translation are important to note here.
a) First, “spatial” nearness could be the idea that the Lord is “near” believers (Phil 4:9).
b) Second, a “temporal” nearness of the Lord could be used to described God’s immanent return for believers (Phil 3:20; 1 Cor 16:22). (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory, vol. 2, 368; A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures).
I take the second option as being most likely.
IV. HOW TO CREATE AND KEEP HARMONY AND JOY AMONG BELIEVERS
Sadly, the Southern Baptist Convention has been known as one of the most divisive denominations. It might just be because we (I say “we” because I am a member of the Southern Baptist Convention) are a large denomination and therefore more conflict occurs. However, no one can argue that there have not been very strong and very public disagreements in the past several years. Here are just a few of the disagreements I have found in a quick search on the internet. In 1980, Judge Pressler publicly announced the strategy of the fundamentalist takeover. In 1985, the SBC formed a Peace Committee to investigate the growing conflict and make recommendations for conflict resolution, yet it was dominated by fundamentalists and the committee failed to approach reconciliation. In 2001, registrations numbered 5,100 at the annual CBF Convention in Atlanta, a new record. Fundamentalists in Texas held their convention at the same time as the BGCT annual convention, which was peaceful and without controversy (only about 50 votes in favor of the new Baptist Faith and Message out of the thousands that attended.
I find Todd Benkert’s suggestions very helpful in this area. He provides 18 things to avoid in Baptist disagreements.
- A willful ignorance in which we choose to embrace a caricature of someone’s view rather than truly seek to understand it – or worse, an intentional dishonesty in advancing such a caricature we know to be misleading or untrue.
- An unwillingness to allow persons to speak in their own words and argue against the actual content of their position.
- Rejection of a view “out of hand” without having considered the merits of the argument.
- An unwillingness to engage in real discussion, either talking past each other by ignoring the honest questions of others or engaging in debate/rhetorical techniques that are designed to win an argument rather than actually seek the truth.
- Taking offense or rejecting an argument because of a perceived practical implication or application of someone’s view rather than the view itself.
- Ascribing a perceived logical outcome of an opponents view and attacking that outcome rather than the view itself.
- A willful blindness to our own presuppositions and or a failure to acknowledge those presuppositions of which we are aware.
- Parsing words to the point of ascribing hidden agendas or extracting meanings never intended by the person.
- Failure to give one’s opponent the benefit of the doubt in terms of personal motives.
- A blindness to our own motives and personal agendas.
- Attacking the character of the person rather than the argument made.
- Responses that are reactionary not thoughtful – i.e., responding to something which we have neither read, sought to understand, reflected, nor considered the merits yet on which we have a strong, unwavering opinion that must be heard.
- Responding to critics from a defensive posture rather than engaging in real discussion in a common desire for truth.
- Name-calling or lumping a person into a particular camp in order to dismiss one’s argument without engaging it.
- A dogmatic approach to issues which are tertiary in nature, on which persons of good conscience disagree, and which are more unclear in Scripture than we are willing to admit.
- A failure to do theological triage resulting in an elevation of tertiary issues to secondary or even first order status.
- A failure to have an irenic spirit and treat our opponents with respect.
- A lack of humility. (adopted from http://sbcvoices.com/baptist-disagreements-things-to-avoid/)