Sermon Tone Analysis

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“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
We do not know who these two women were; we do know that they had a disagreement.
That disagreement was large enough to demand the Apostle’s attention.
Their spat spilled over into the congregation, contaminating the unity of the Faith.
Unresolved conflicts seldom remain minor; they inevitably contaminate the church.
Imagine you are part of the congregation—the New Beginnings Baptist Church of Philippi.
The church is a well-recognised congregation established by the Apostle to the Gentiles.
The founding of this congregation included the notorious “earthquake prison break” followed by the conversion of a great number of people, not least of which was the jailer of the very prison from which Paul and Silas had been freed.
A description of the church would include the fact that it is young—having only been established a few years earlier.
The congregation is opposed by and even persecuted by many people in the city.
This is a generous congregation, advancing the cause of Christ though it is still plagued with imperfection.
So, here we sit awaiting the reading of a letter that was sent by our beloved founder, the Apostle Paul.
After prayer and a hymn, one of the elders stands up to read the letter in our assembly.
Our ears are attuned to catch every word as we find ourselves transfixed by this content.
Then we are surprised—no, stunned—by what the elder reads.
He intones Paul’s admonition, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.”
In his missive to the congregation, Paul just called out two women by name.
In somewhat gentle language he told these two women, “Work it out!”
The elder reading the letter pauses and looks at the two women.
You notice the remainder of the congregation, despite trying to avoid being obvious, furtively glancing at these two women in an attempt to gauge their reaction to being publicly named.
Paul turned up the heat by naming them in such a public manner.
It speaks of the urgency of the situation.
We often think that church squabbles are inconsequential.
The petty pique that marks many of the saints seems rather insignificant.
However, much as a tiny stone in our shoe finally forces us to stop, take off the shoe and dump the rock, tiny matters threaten the life of a church.
The argument mentioned in this verse is central to the letter—it is central to the gospel!
*THE GOSPEL, OUR RESPONSIBILITY* — Ultimately, Christians are not citizens of this world.
God saved us and we are being fitted for Heaven.
We are charged with a great task—“proclaim[ing] the gospel to the whole creation” [see MARK 16:15].
This is a big world; there are over seven billion people in the world [3], the majority of whom have yet to hear the Gospel of Christ the Lord.
However, ultimately this is a great task because it is assigned by a great God.
What is this “gospel?”
We talk about the gospel quite a bit, claiming that it is important; but, what are we actually talking about?
Jesus came preaching, and what He preached was identified as “the gospel.”
Listen to a couple of introductory passages.
In Mark 1:1 we learn that what Mark wrote was, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Soon after writing this, Mark made this revealing declaration: “After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” [MARK 1:14, 15].
Twice, Matthew writes, “[Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” [MATTHEW 4:23].
Later in the book, Levi writes, “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” [MATTHEW 9:35].
After revealing Himself as Messiah, Jesus invested His time “proclaiming the gospel.”
This gospel is identified in these passages as “the gospel of God” or “the gospel of the kingdom.”
At other times, the translation I use identifies this as “the good news of the kingdom.”
[4] So, the gospel is good news; specifically, the gospel is the good news about God and about His kingdom.
When John the Baptist was questioning whether he had been correct in his service or whether he had erred, Jesus sent this word to John through the men John had sent, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” [MATTHEW 11:4, 5].
Moreover, this good news was intended to be declared to all mankind.
Jesus commanded His disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” [MARK 16:15].
Jesus had informed the disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” [MATTHEW 24:14].
Therefore, those who are followers of the Risen, Ascended Saviour, Jesus the Christ, are responsible to proclaim the gospel.
And these followers of the Master will be successful, for the gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world.
This gospel is powerful—it transforms lives and delivers from death those who believe it.
Those dead to God are made alive through the gospel.
We read Paul’s declaration to the Romans concerning the gospel, though we act as if we question the veracity of what he wrote.
Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” [ROMANS 1:16, 17].
Let me summarise the gospel of the kingdom, then.
This is the message that begins with the bad news that all are dead in trespasses and sins.
However, the good news is that God sent His Son, Jesus, born of a virgin.
This Jesus lived a sinless life, presenting His life as a sacrifice because of our sinful condition.
Crucified and certified as dead, He conquered death, rising from the tomb and presenting Himself as alive to those whom He chose to witness His resurrection.
This Jesus, having offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin, ascended into Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He now calls all to life through believe Him.
Those who believe receive forgiveness of sin, being made alive to God.
This same Jesus is coming again to receive His own people who have believed and to judge all the wicked, those who have not believed.
Our authority for this gospel is the Bible, the inerrant, infallible Word of God.
Throughout this Letter to the Church in Philippi, Paul has been focused on the gospel.
The Philippian Christians had been partners with Paul in taking the gospel throughout the Empire [PHILIPPIANS 1:3-8].
The Apostle had paid a heavy price for preaching the gospel, but he saw God working, extending the message even through there were some who were intent on harming him [PHILIPPIANS 1:12-18].
In this letter, Paul quickly came to the point of urging the Philippians to stand firm and to stand united in the gospel.
The Apostle urged this saints, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.
This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God” [PHILIPPIANS 1:27, 28].
*CONFLICT IN THE CHURCH AND THE RESOLUTION* — Anything that threatens the advance of the gospel displeases God.
As he begins to draw this missive to a conclusion Paul turns his attention to a very real threat.
Immediately after the words of the text, he pleads with one of the members of the assembly to assist two women who are in conflict with one another.
“I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” [PHILIPPIANS 4:3].
The construction of this plea reveals quite a bit concerning this conflict that was now threatening the congregation and perhaps even the advance of the gospel in Europe.
These two women had once laboured together with Paul, and now they were at odds with one another.
They were no longer co-operating and assisting in advancing the gospel; rather, they were squabbling.
The tragedy of this quarreling is that they were no longer engaged in the work to which Christ assigns all believers; they were hindering the entire congregation through dividing the people of God! Focused on their own desires, they were now in opposition to God and His work.
Thus, Paul pleads with one he identifies as his “true companion,” “help these women.”
The word translated “help” is usually translated “arrest,” “seize” or “apprehend.”
What is conveyed by the use of this word, then, is that Paul is pleading for this man to “take hold of together,” and thus, assist.
[5] He is to intervene in order to ensure that damage to the cause of Christ is avoided.
It is fascinating that Paul affirms these two women.
He commends them as women who laboured by his side to advance the gospel; he confesses his confidence that their names are written in the book of life.
Paul is seeking not only to settle the conflict but to ensure that these two women are not so damaged in the eyes of the congregation that they are no longer effective in the work God has assigned to each of us.
“By praising [these two women] as honorable ministers, [Paul] effectively backs them into a corner.
He calls them to find an honorable resolution to their dispute.
Holding their grudges and maintaining the battle lines would result in bringing shame on themselves and those who sided with them.
While no one wants to admit fault in such cases, asserting their superiority and right to win—particularly after such pointed teaching about these matters in Paul’s letter—would have led to significant loss of honor and standing in the community.
Not resolving their dispute meant rejecting or manipulating Paul’s message.”
If we ever hope to fulfil the mission God has assigned, we must work together.
In fact, Paul states in one place that “We [who believe] are God’s fellow workers” [1 CORINTHIANS 3:9a].
Since God’s purpose is to ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed to all people, it is humbling in the extreme to realise that He has entrusted the prosecution and fulfilment of this divine task to mere mortals.
We Christians are God’s fellow workers; therefore, we must get along.
My desires must be submitted to the task of advancing the message of life in Christ the Lord.
The two women Paul named, Euodia and Syntyche, had a dispute.
We can’t know what their conflict was, but the dispute was serious—serious enough that Paul was compelled to acknowledge it in this rather open fashion.
It may well be that this dispute had grown into an intra-congregational battle and that this growing, church-wide conflict was the primary reason for writing this particular missive.
The Apostle named names.
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