Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PLEASE, HELP THOSE WOMEN”

Philippians 4.2-3

 

The seeds of the ruination of my ministry here at Calvary Road Baptist Church have already been sown and are presently germinating in the lives of some of the best Christian women in our church. That is the sobering realization of any experienced pastor. I speak of women who I like, women who I admire, women who are important to this church’s future, women who might not intentionally or consciously do anything to harm me, but who nevertheless might come to exhibit a pattern of behavior that is hurtful to me and my efforts to be an effective pastor. I do not speak to those women, this evening, who are presently exhibiting this pattern of behavior. Rather, I speak to you who are aware of the problem, who looks on from your vantage point as either a friend or family member, and you see the problem and its growing effect. I stand before you to urge you who observe what is happening to do something about it.

From his confinement in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote what we call the prison epistles. Though he wrote several to churches and several to individuals, it is Paul’s letter to the Philippians that was arguably written to the congregation he was most fond of, that he loved most passionately, and who most demonstrably loved him in return. When Paul expressed himself by writing, “I have you in my heart,” and “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ,” he was not in any way exaggerating his feelings. With the feelings he had, it is no wonder that he prayed for them as he did.[1]

I recognize that I am certainly no Apostle Paul. While Paul loved the Philippians above all the churches he planted and watched over, I have only you to love and watch over. I have only you to be concerned about and to pray for, other than our missionaries. So, understand me when I say that it pains me to realize that there are women in our church who do not love each other as they should, who do not interact with each other in a Christian manner, and who cannot be counted on to minister to each other in time of need. However, you already know this to be true. You see these things as clearly as I do. You recognize when two strong-willed women clash over what are essentially petty issues, with both of them determined not to give an inch. The one woman who is a bit more outgoing than the other, perhaps a bit more outspoken, but no more willful and determined to get her way than the one who is somewhat quieter. Mistrust and hurt feelings, frustration, suspicion and resentment. Interestingly, you have observed that both assign to themselves the status of victims in the conflict. A dash of judgmentalism and the questioning of the other’s motives is also obvious . . . not openly, at least not so everyone can see, but perhaps visible to you. You have seen the subtle changes of direction so the one would not have to pass by the other, the turning of the head so that the one would not feel responsible to acknowledge or greet the other, the eyes straight ahead to avoid the chilly glance. You have noticed the standing apart, and even exiting the church through the doorway that was not the most convenient, so as to avoid passing near that particular person.

The one is somewhat more commonly angry about it. Perhaps frustrated is a better word. Or maybe dismissive. The other capitalizes by being resistant, stubborn, feigning ignorance of the problem’s cause, and being unwilling to be the blessed peacemaker. We must remember what the Savior said in His famous Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”[2] If you are unaware of these conflicts then I am not speaking to you this evening. If you are a visitor to our service, then I must beg your forgiveness. We are a flawed congregation, and from time to time we need to tend to some family business that is so important it must be dealt with even when friends are visiting. However, the upside is that sometimes people learn how to address certain issues by observing others deal with them.

Of course, this type of problem is not a new one. Paul dealt with just such a matter when he wrote to the Philippian congregation. As a matter of fact, though Paul deals with a number of important doctrinal issues along the way to mentioning it, I am convinced that this problem was the primary reason Paul wrote the Philippian letter. He would not have waited for someone to undercut the pastor, sniping and backbiting the gospel preacher. He would not have dallied while someone tried to take another’s pastor away from her. Paul’s personal philosophy was to address sinful conduct, to lance the boil before it erupted. He did not wait. He felt Christians were too valued by the Savior to allow irresponsible damage to be done by someone who thought only of herself and did not take in the larger picture. We learn of Paul’s directness in dealing with issues in both Galatians (when he took the Apostle Peter to task) and in First Corinthians (when he addressed a number of different issues in that congregation). He was not one to beat about the bush and insinuate. He was open, honest, direct, forthright, and clear in his dealings with others, as we should be.

Turn in your Bible to Philippians chapter 4, where we will read of the two women in conflict who placed Paul’s efforts in that church at risk. When you have found that portion of scripture, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

1      Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

2      I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

3      And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

 

My text is verse 2 and part of verse 3:

 

2      I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

3      And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel.

 

Euodias and Syntyche were two Christian women Paul loved and certainly must have thought a great deal of. They were not women who should be thought by anyone to have been worthless and good for nothing women. I am absolutely convinced that they were both fine Christian women who had labored with Paul in the gospel in Philippi. However, it came to be known to Paul that they had issues with each other. Precisely what the issues were we are not told. It really doesn’t matter, does it? All that matters is that the effect of their disagreements, division where there must be unity, was serious enough that Paul wrote an inspired letter from a Roman prison to deal with it.

Allow me to make four comments to you in the church who see this problem, whose friends perhaps are doing this, in an effort to persuade you to do something to bring it to an end:

 

First, THE REQUIREMENT FOR UNITY

 

Unity in a congregation like ours is not a preference, but a necessity. Not only is our love for one another the way we are to be distinguished from the lost of this gainsaying world, but the unity that results from our expressed love for each other is crucial to bringing the lost to Jesus Christ.[3] And why should we not express our great love for each other? After all, we have in common our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (who loved us and gave Himself for us), we know the forgiveness of sins and the cleansing made possible by His shed blood, we know the adoption whereby God has made us children in His family, and we are sealed by and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God who gives us life and who produces in our personalities the fruit of the Spirit. We have so much in common with each other that we do not have in common with those who are merely our blood relatives. Therefore, unity for us is a must.

So, what groundwork does Paul lay in his letter to the Philippian congregation before addressing the problem with Euodias and Syntyche directly? There are three things necessary for unity in a congregation, three things that Paul reminded his readers about:

First, for unity to be possible there must be conversion and commitment. Of course, real conversion will result in commitment. In Philippians 1.29, Paul writes, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” This is Paul’s way of showing the necessity of having a foundation of conversion and the commitment that is produced in the child of God for real unity with others to exist. There was no doubt that Euodias and Syntyche were both converted and deeply committed Christian women, but Paul still shows such to be the foundation for his appeal to them and to the rest of the congregation. Without real conversion unity between two people is simply not possible, since they who have different destinies live in different kingdoms and have diffrent loyalties.

Second, for unity to be possible there must be humility. Throughout the second chapter of Philippians we see Paul painting a portrait of humility in the minds of his readers, beginning with the humility of the Lord Jesus Christ as our ultimate example, and ending with Epaphroditus, Paul’s co-laborer from their own church sent back to them by Paul, as an example close at hand. That said, what is humility? My young friend Aaron Coe, the eldest son of preacher friend David Coe, recently posted on Facebook, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” That is entirely correct as far as it goes, but there is more. Humility is also seen by yielding to the will of another. The Lord Jesus Christ condescended by coming from heaven’s glory to earth. But that was not humility on display. That was condescension. Humility was displayed when He submitted to the Father’s will even so far as being crucified on a cruel Roman cross. Philippians 2.8: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Euodias knew Syntyche wanted something from her, but she refused to give it. She refused to yield to the will of that other Christian. And Syntyche, for her part, did likewise. But Paul urged the entire congregation, in Philippians 2.12, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Do you see this? You cannot work out your own salvation with fear and trembling without humbling yourself to the point of yielding to the will of others, ultimately yielding to the will of God. This is why he commends them for their past behavior, “as ye have always obeyed.” Theirs was a pattern of compliance that was being disrupted by the conflict between those two women. Indeed, Paul shows in Ephesians 5.21 that spiritual behavior, Spirit-filled behavior, the kind of behavior he had come to expect from the Philippian church members, but the kind of conduct that was not being displayed by the two women, is doing what the other Christian wants you to do: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Does that other Christian want you to fellowship with everyone outside? Then, for God’s sake, fellowship outside with everyone else. Does a Christian want you to stop this incessant distancing of yourself from others so you can love and be loved by your sisters in Christ? Then, for heaven’s sake, desist from standing outside in the dark by yourself. If you want to sulk, do your sulking at home and not at church, unless your strategy is to attract attention to yourself as little children so frequently do by such behavior. Are you upset by someone’s unwillingness to do what you want? Why not try submitting to that person rather than being agitated because she does not do what you want? Humility is not just a state of mind, but includes putting shoe leather to your disposition. “. . . in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” God wants me to submit to you. Your problem is more important than my problem because you are more important than I am.

Third, in addition to conversion and commitment, and in addition to humility, unity requires that Christians press toward Christ-likeness. There are a number of issues Paul raised in Philippians chapter 3, but the highlight of the chapter is found in verses 13-15, where he shows the connection between pressing toward Christ-likeness and unity, without actually using the word unity:

 

13    Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14    I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

15    Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

 

What does this show us? My friends, this shows us that the Christian life is a struggle. We sail in troubled waters. Our course is charted through storm-tossed seas. We have to work hard to get to where we are going, because we have not yet arrived. Does this mean that anyone gets to heaven by works? Oh, no. Salvation from start to finish is all of grace, but the means that God uses to accomplish His consecrating and sanctifying work during this lifetime involves a great deal of personal effort on the part of Christians, the experience of many setbacks, and the overcoming many personal difficulties. Through it all, notice Paul’s comment in verse 15: “Let us therefore. . . .” Thus, it is no proof that Euodias and Syntyche were either immature or unspiritual that this conflict had arisen. It was one of the things that just happens in the Christian life. But such things do have to be dealt with rather than allowing them to continue. Euodias and Syntyche had for some reason become individualistic. Each was thinking about “I” and “me” and “mine.” Paul’s goal is to restore them to the corporate Christianity of the congregation that thinks and acts in terms of “us” and “we.” This would be accomplished once they were again “of the same mind in the Lord.” The Savior, obviously, must be central in every Christian’s mind.

 

Next, THE REASON FOR WRITING

 

I have already touched on this, but reexamining Paul’s thinking wouldn’t hurt us at all:

First, Paul wrote to the Philippians generally, and Euodias and Syntyche specifically, because what those two were doing endangered his ministry. What happens when Christians fail to forgive the little slights and offenses committed by other church members? Over time things build up, and trouble brews. This is because sin never goes away. Sin always has to be dealt with as being the infection that it really is. On this subject of forgiving, which is much like disinfecting, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ.”[4] Please forgive others for the benfit of your loved ones and friends, so your loved ones and so you will not become infected. Do you have a problem with me? Forgive me for your unsaved loved one’s benefit, as much as for your own. Forgiving and being forgiven is so very crucial in every Christian’s life and mission. Why so? The very next verse Paul wrote to the Corinthians tells us: “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”[5] Oh, my goodness. Who wants Satan to have any advantage? And how can you tell who has yielded an advantage to Satan? In addition to his characteristic lies and pride? How about accusations, Revelation 12.10, where the Devil is declared to be “the accuser of our brethren”? Do you know someone who has nothing better to do than make accusations against Christians who are serving God? They are Devil run. So you see, the so-called “issues” between Euodias and Syntyche gave Satan an advantage. And whenever Satan is given an advantage there is danger. Paul wrote because he knew there was danger, even if most of the Christians in that congregation were not aware of it. The shepherd sees the dangerous wolves approaching long before the sheep detect their presence.

As well, Paul wrote because he knew there was division in the church. We’ve gone over it before, but disunity destroys a church’s effectiveness to reach the lost. Is it reasonable that two women neutralized the ministry and effectiveness of everyone else in that church over a personal issue? I don’t think so. Were their issues more important than the gospel ministry? I don’t think so. Neither did Paul. Unity is profoundly important in any church’s ministry that seeks God’s blessings and the Spirit’s fullness. There is only one thing more important than unity, and that is Bible truth. Paul was willing to forsake unity by publicly rebuking Simon Peter for a serious error that put the gospel message at risk.[6] However, there is no hint whatsoever that the dispute between these two women was anything more than a clash of personalities.

Danger to his ministry in Philippi, division in the church in Philippi, Paul also wrote to the congregation because of the disagreement between the women in Philippi. How sad that these two fine Christian women’s reputations and personal testimonies have been tarnished for 2000 years because of an issue forgotten 20 centuries ago. As well, how sad that those two women allowed themselves to get sidetracked into grieving the Holy Spirit of God, robbing themselves of the joy they might have experienced, and hindering the work of the gospel ministry. We can be sure that for the 2000 years they both have been in heaven they have regretted what they did, the harm they caused, and the needless advantage they gave to Satan. If only they had tended to the problem before Paul saw the need to involve himself.

 

Third, THE RATIONALE FOR DISUNITY

 

What possible reasons could those two have had for their behavior?

It certainly was not a doctrinal issue of any kind. We know how Paul dealt with anyone who perverted the truth. As already mentioned, he withstood the Apostle Peter to the face and told everyone what his problem was.[7] Hymenaeus and Alexander were named and exposed as blasphemers.[8] Alexander the coppersmith was also exposed.[9]

However, when it came to Euodias and Syntyche, we are given no clue as to why they were not “of the same mind.” It certainly was not an issue that was serious enough to merit disciplinary action of any kind, such as Paul dealt with in Corinth and advised the Romans and Titus about.[10] That leaves us with only one reasonable conclusion. Their reasons for the issues they had with each other were of such minor importance, such trivial significance, that we must conclude that they were essentially irrelevant.

It is likely that, if now given the chance, those two women would admit their so-called reasons for behaving the way they did were, after all, petty, childish, and nothing in comparison to the potential for harm they caused by their unspiritual and un-Christlike behavior toward each other. So sad.

 

Finally, THE RESPONSE CALLED FOR

 

Paul actually urged two responses:

First, as already mentioned, he urged those two women to “be of the same mind in the Lord.” I am reminded of what he wrote, at about the same time, to the Ephesians in 4.1-3:

 

1      I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

2      With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

3      Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

I once dealt with a portion of this passage at one of our church’s communion services some years ago. Let me remind you what I then said. Peace is given by the Holy Spirit to people who experience true unity. However, in order to experience real unity, in order to walk worthy of the vocation of your high and holy calling as a Christian, you must be lowly of mind, meek, longsuffering, and forbearing toward others. In other words, you must be humble, not so prickly when someone in the congregation doesn’t do what you want them to do, tolerant of other church member’s shortcomings, and willing to sustain and support other church members. Then, in Philippians 2.1-5, we are given our supreme example:

 

1      If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

2      Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

3      Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

4      Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

5      Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

 

To paraphrase, Paul is saying, If you have any feelings as a Christian, if you have any real love, if the Spirit of God works in your life, then make me happy. Get along with each other and really love each other. Don’t fuss or get petty for any reason, but value that other person as though she is better than you are. Forget what you want, and make sure that other person gets what she wants. This is the way the Lord Jesus Christ was, and the way you should be. Well, Euodias? Syntyche? Will you deal with this the way a real Christian is supposed to? Whoever made the first move was the spiritual leader in that situation. If the matter ever got fixed, those two women would have both again showed themselves to be spiritual.

However, Paul did not leave the matter with them alone. There was another Christian on the hook for this. His name is not given to us, so I will apply what Paul says to you, the friend of our church’s Euodias or Syntyche. You have seen this nonsense for long enough. You have heard the comments and mutters, but without dealing with it properly. Now it’s time to step up. Don’t you agree? Sure, you do. Paul wrote, “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel.” In other words, I am pleading with you, as well, my reliable friend. Help me fix the problem between these two good women. “Well, I like to mind my own business,” you might be thinking. Or, “What if I say something wrong?” Don’t you realize, this evening’s message is the go-ahead from the pastor to deal with a matter that has already gone on too long, so long that the two women involved are not likely to resolve the matter themselves. However, it is not always an issue between two women. It can be an issue between two men. It can be an issue between a man and a woman. It can be an issue between two young people. Whoever the issue is between, those two people are called on to address the matter, with any onlooker who notices them to be reluctant to reconcile authorized to give them a nudge. In Galatians 6.1, Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” This is your signal to act. Do you observe someone who needs to make the first move toward reconciling, but won’t? Step up and encourage that one. May God bless you as you do the work of a peace maker.

 

Ladies, and also men, this is a serious problem. It is not a doctrinal matter. Neither does it yet merit calling the offending parties before the church for disciplinary action. But it was a matter that was serious enough to merit writing a book of the New Testament. And it is serious enough for me to deal with publicly. Why have I not deal with this matter privately? Several reasons:

 

a.   First, I have not seen enough with my own eyes to take matters into my own hands. Pastors do not know everything that is going on. Pastors are not supposed to know everything that is going on.

b.   Second, I have not heard enough to take matters into my own hands, as Paul did when he told the Corinthians that a matter had been commonly reported. This has not yet been commonly reported.

c.   Third, this matter is not an offense that merits church disciplinary action . . . yet.

d.   Fourth, there are a couple of women in our church who I think are about to step up to the next level spiritually, and I want to see what they do about this matter that I have raised.

e.   And finally, I am exhausted. I don’t think I have the clarity of thought right now to exercise the kind of wisdom that I would need if I stepped into the matter. And I would want to be sharp to make sure that both Euodias and Syntyche were aware of my respect and concern for both of them equally.

 

Please know that there is more than one Euodias and Syntyche situation brewing in our church. Such is always the case with churches, because we are flawed people. I say that so you won’t assume you are off the hook for one situation should you see another situation being dealt with. If we have any of these kinds of situations between church members the Spirit of God is grieved, Satan is given advantage, and my ministry is threatened. So you see, such behavior is really intolerable here. And what happens if these matters are not resolved? Then I will have to involve myself in a way that I would rather avoid, because this type of thing simply cannot be allowed to continue.



[1] Philippians 1.7-11

[2] Matthew 5.9

[3] See John 13.34-35 and 17.21

[4] 2 Corinthians 2.10

[5] 2 Corinthians 2.11

[6] Galatians 2.11-21

[7] Galatians 2.11

[8] 1 Timothy 1.20

[9] 2 Timothy 4.14

[10] 1 Corinthians 5; Romans 16.17; Titus 3.10


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org