Summary: What does an argument that took place 2000 years ago between two ladies have to do with our church here today? We will find out plenty.
A few years ago I was talking to a minister that told me the story of his church. He said that at one time the place where the church is located was very heavily populated. It went through a period of depopulation. There were two churches in the area but as people left neither church could afford a full time pastor. So they did what seemed logical to them, they decided to form together as one congregation to hire a full time minister.
A problem arose from that amalgamation. Now this one congregation had two facilities. The decision on where to meet was an easy one for them. Just meet in the facility where they always had been meeting. The problem was though; both groups had the same idea. A conflict emerged. It was impassible. Then a solution came. They would keep both facilities even though they did not need both. One week they would meet in one facility and the next week the other.
This decision to meet in alternate places took place about 40 years earlier. But this pastor noticed something. Some from each facility would only attend church when it was held in their own facility. There was a grudge that the church members had held on to for forty years.
Conflict and bitterness in the church might be the single most damaging thing to the work of the gospel. We need to be sure that in out church we do not let any hindrance in our relationships keep the gospel moving forward. Could you imagine moving to that town and looking for a church? You would probably ask to be directed to the nearest town where the people could meet together as one congregation.
Philippians 4:1-3 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow,a help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Paul wants to make it clear how important it is for members of a church to get along together in peace and harmony. It seems so difficult for people to get along with one another. If you would talk to someone who does the hiring of college graduates for a major business you would find that he is not worried about the grade point average. Very seldom is someone not hired because they are not able to perform the arithmetic required for the job or the reading required for the job. Nine times out of ten when a young person enters the job market the problems found are relating to the other workers. They find it very difficult to relate properly to others around them. It is so important in the church that we can look others in the eye and say I love you in the name of Jesus Christ and that we let no hindrances come in our walk with Christ because of our relationship to others.
What a blessing it is for a congregation when it gets a vision to start a mission. That mission is blessed of the Lord and starts to grow and pretty soon the mission becomes self supporting and the mission church constitutes to be its own self governing church. But two become separated. But it is an entirely different matter when churches because of inward turmoil divide and split and become two separate congregations. The difference is that one honors the Lord and the other is a disgrace to the name of the Lord.
It is inevitable with a congregation with so many people that differences are going to arise among the people. Yet we need to agree and seek to work out reconciliation with others. Inner conflict in a church that interrupts the work of Christ is a very serious matter. Paul in the book of Philippians has been making passing reference to inner conflict in this beloved church. When we think back to the great churches of the first century and the church at Philippi was probably one of the greatest of them all. But this church stood on the brink of destruction because of the internal conflict between the individuals of the church.
Paul’s first instructions to them is to stand firm in verse one. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! In chapter 3 Paul was exhorting the church to press on in Christ, and he was reminding them of their heavenly citizenship.