Summary: We must reconcile relationships for the sake of the Kingdom
Last week, Paul used the analogy of running a race to talk about living the Christian life. He called us` to the endurance and focus of a top-level runner.
He reminded us that we will need to get rid of the things` that hold us back if we are going to run well – things like the things in our life that we think should really impress God, and things like the things that we know are wrong in our lives.
The writer to the Hebrews says something very similar:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In this passage he deals with one of those things that is holding the community back from running as well as they could. But before we get to this, Paul has this word of encouragement.
The Chapter break should not be at 4:1 – verse one is a conclusion to the previous passage about ledgers and races and citizenship. But he invites us to stand firm.
The command sounds like a military command to stand one’s ground in the midst of an enemy attack.
There are some of us that forget that we are in a battle – it is a battle for our Soul, and for the Kingdom of God – not a call to a religious war against people who believe differently than us, but a call to do battle against “sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
We are often at the risk of being tempted one way or the other – either toward religious pride, or toward letting our appetite for more take over. Paul says it’s a battle & we have to stand.
If Paul is the commander encouraging his troops, he is encouraging them, and us, out a deep love –
Paul is no stoic: he says to them, “You whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown!” These are words usually reserved for your beloved child, or you lover, not a Church! But we need to remember that Paul started this church in Philippi, it is his baby, and they have been doing really well in the face of opposition.
Really well, except for two of them: Euodia and Syntyche. You’ve seen it happen before – two good friends working side by side together for years – then one is having a bad day and says something that offends the other, the other responds harshly as well, and now they are both offended – a week later the hate each other and they may not even remember the first offence!
Paul begs them to reconcile, and asks a friend to intervene for a few reasons:
He loves them both – like a father with the desire to see his children get along. As Paul loves them both, they should remember the love that they had for each other.
For the sake of the work of the Gospel
These two women had contended at Paul’s side
Side note, Paul treats these women as equals to the men in their work for the Gospel