Summary: Is your gospel big enough to permit you to work together, maintaining the unity of the Faith? Or is your gospel so small that you must prevail in every dispute?
“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 , 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.