Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat 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. (vv. 1-3)
The long parenthesis of the third chapter concluded, the apostle again exhorts to steadfastness and unity. It is very evident that there was incipient division of some nature working in the Philippian assembly. It was in order to meet this, as we have already noticed, that the letter was written; but Paul did not immediately put his finger upon the difficulty. Through the three previous chapters he has been ministering that which should prepare the hearts of the offenders for a final word of exhortation. In this section, he calls them by name, and pleads with them not to let self-interest hinder the work of the Lord.
With expressions of deepest affection, he addresses the assembly as a whole. They are his brethren, dearly beloved, for whom he yearns, and who will be, at the judgment seat of Christ, his joy and crown. It will be noticed that this expression is analogous to that of 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20. There, addressing the saints who had been won to Christ through his ministry, he could say, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” When, as a servant, he stands at the judgment seat of Christ, that which will fill his heart with gladness will be the sight of those for whose eternal blessing he had been used while laboring in this scene. Rutherford beautifully expresses the same thought when, speaking of the town in which he had labored so long, he cries,
Oh, if one soul from Anwoth
Meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens,
In Immanuel’s land.
Then “he that soweth and he that reapeth [will] rejoice together,” as each servant shall come bringing in his sheaves, and, looking up into the face of the Lord, will be able to say, “Behold I and the children which God hath given me.”
The crown of rejoicing is the soul-winner’s garland, composed of those he has won for Christ. Such must ever stand in a more precious relationship to the one who has been used to their conversion than they possibly can to any other. They are his children in the faith; his sons and daughters in Christ Jesus. Their happy progress in the things of God gladdens his heart, and is, in itself, rich reward for his service in their behalf. While, on the other hand, their failure or breakdown by the way, as evidenced by loss of interest in divine things, dissension, worldly ways again taken up, must rend his heart with grief, and also fill him with a certain sense of shame. “Now we live,” writes the apostle elsewhere, “if ye stand fast in the Lord.” A brother servant, the apostle John, writing to his converts, says, “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28). Notice, it is not that they may not be ashamed, but “we,” that is, those who were instrumental in leading them to Christ.
So it is in view of all this that Paul earnestly exhorts his beloved Philippians to stand fast in the faith. It is always the effort of Satan to hinder the people of God from steadfastly clinging together, and presenting a united front to the enemy. Alas, that his efforts to introduce dissension so readily succeed because of the flesh in us.
And now, without further delay, and in perfect frankness, the apostle speaks directly to the two offenders against unity, whom he had in his mind from the beginning. And yet there is no sternness, no seeking to lord it over their consciences, but he pleads with them, as though Christ Himself were beseeching, and entreats Euodia and Syntyche. They had been earnest laborers in the gospel, but had fallen out with each other, as we say, and they are exhorted to be of the same mind in the Lord. He certainly does not mean by this that they must think alike in everything or see all things from the same standpoint. This can never be while we are in this world. The very possession of mind, which differentiates man from the brutes, of necessity gives occasion for differences of judgment as to many things, and so calls for much patience toward one another.
No two men ever saw the same rainbow. The slightest difference of position gives each a view at a different angle. The formation and contour of the eye itself has to be taken in consideration. One may discern clearly every distinct shade, while the other may be color-blind, and no amount of argument or persuasion will enable the second to see that which is so clear to the first. And so we may even say no two men have ever read the same Bible. Not that there is one book from God for one person and a different one for another, but the difference is in our apprehension of things. We are so influenced by our environment, by our education, or lack of it, that we are prejudiced when we least realize it. Even when we try to be the most open-minded, we are often misled by our impressions and the limitations of our understanding. Therefore, the need of great patience one with the other.
But if what we have been saying is true, how then can we be of one mind? The verse does not end without making that very plain: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche,” he writes, “that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (emphasis added). If both alike have the mind of Christ—which is the lowly mind—if both alike seek to be subject to the Lord, even though there may be differences of judgment as to many things, each will respect the other’s viewpoint, and neither will try to force the other’s conscience. Thus all occasion for dissension would be at an end. Alas, that we so little realize this and are often so insistent on what seems to us exceedingly important truth, when nothing vital is at stake, while a brother or sister equally honest and earnest may fail to see things as we see them. At the judgment seat of Christ it may be manifested that, after all, they, and not we, were right or perhaps that both were wrong.
I take it that the third verse was spoken by Paul to Epaphroditus personally, who was, I presume, his amanuensis in the writing of this letter. He was about to return to Philippi, having fulfilled his mission, and now, strengthened after his illness, was to be the bearer of this epistle. The apostle entreats him, as a true yokefellow, to help these women upon his return to that unity of mind to which he had been exhorting them. He mentions that they had labored with him in the gospel, with Clement also, and with others of his fellow laborers, whose names though not given here are in the Book of Life. We are not to understand by this that they occupied the public platform or taught in the assembly of God, participating with Paul and Clement and these other laborers in public testimony, for this would contradict the words of the Holy Spirit through the same apostle as preserved for us in 1 Corinthians 14 and in 1 Timothy 2. But there were many ways in which devoted women could serve the Lord in the gospel. In fact, in oriental, as well as in occidental lands, work for women is of tremendous importance. There were many places where a man could not go, where godly women may have free access. And “laboring in the gospel” implies a great deal more than simply speaking from a platform. In fact, it is a question if this latter be not, in many instances at least, the lesser thing, and the individual heart-to-heart work the greater.
It seems clear that Epaphroditus caught the note of inspiration in these personal words to him, and so he embodied them in this letter. We can be thankful to God that they have come down to us, for they give us deeper insight into the working of the spirit of grace in the mind of Paul, and will be valuable to all who seek to serve the Lord until the church’s history on earth is ended.