Philippians 4:2-3 (audio file)
What goes through your mind when you think of the word Unity? What kinds of things do you think of? Well, I hope if you have been here for this series in Philippians it would mean some of the things we have seen Paul talk about in earlier chapters. I hope that you would be reminded of Paul’s exhortation to have one spirit, one mind and walking side by side. You might remember that as citizens of the Gospel, we are to be primarily focussed on our right standing with God through Christ, and flee from secondary issues as our source of unity. That the power of the Gospel breaks through cultural, sociological, economic and political barriers and unites people who would otherwise have nothing in common. That because like Paul, we have the righteousness of Jesus Christ placed upon us, that as we look at our brothers and sisters who may have differing backgrounds, and belief systems, we see as God sees, that if they are in Christ, They are his children, and his loved ones, a precious child for whom he sent his son to die so that they along with us could be called his child. That makes us brothers and sisters, a family. And the thing that unites family more than anything else is not interests, or beliefs, or hobbies or vocation, it’s the blood that is in their veins.
Now today is one of those days, where we come to a passage in scripture that a lot of people might want to gloss over. there is a great desire in people’s hearts to read this, possibly affirm it at an outward level, and walk away unchanged. Why might that be? I think it is because at our root, we don’t believe that there is sufficient grace in Christ to hold us together, so we begin to look to other things as a means of our unity. And when those things fall apart, we can use those secondary things as a means of separation instead of clinging only to the Lord Jesus Christ as our ONLY means of unity!
Paul has a hard word for us to hear, and therefore I have a hard word for us to hear. I will tell you something that one of my favorite preachers likes to say and I believe in. Soft words produce hard hearts, and hard words produce soft hearts. If you look in scripture for any length of time, you will see God, speaking hard words to his people. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he spoke hard words to her that revealed her heart, “go get your husband”… Today is one of those days where I believe the Lord has a hard word for us, and as your pastor, I must be faithful to hear that word and apply it to my own life, and then bring that word to you, because the Glory of God is on the line here, and if we are to grow into the fullness of God in Christ we must be submitted to His word.
Whats so hard about this text you ask? well, read by itself it may not seem that difficult, but read in light of all that Paul said before, this is a loaded statement. Lets step back a minute and look at this. Paul, the Apostle, is calling out two women from the church in Philippi, who had some type of disagreement. He is calling them out under the inspiration of God, to be preserved in scripture such that we are reading it and studying it today. How does that sound to you? Would you be up for that? There are places and people in scripture that we would love to be in their shoes right. Even ones that got some stuff wrong, like David, and solomon, or Peter. But there are people in the Bible that you just would rather not make it in there if it was in their circumstances. I think Euodia, and Syntyche would probably rather not have their names preserved for all eternity in the Bible, besides having just unfortunate names, can you imagine in Heaven, your meeting with people, and you meet them. Thats awkward. “oh yeah, you guys were the ones that couldn’t agree, did you guys ever get that worked out?”
So we don’t know much about these two women, but what do we know? We know that they are believers, he says their names are in the book of life, we know that they worked personally with Paul. He says they labored with him side by side in the Gospel….They had a track record of faithful service. and they had a disagreement, and it seems it was a public one at that.
So there is a couple things clear here from this text. Christians will have conflict. Big surprise right? We, as believers are not immune to disagreements. Does that surprise you? I mean once we meet Jesus, don’t we all suddenly agree on everything? well if that is not true, why not? Well, let me first make a distinction. There is a difference between a disagreement, and a sinful exchange. Disagreement about things to which scripture does not explicitly speak to does not always mean that a sin has taken place. Now, disagreements can lead to sin, but they in themselves are not sin. Why is that? Well, simply because there are many decisions in our lives to which scripture does not specifically speak. For instance, the Bible does not tell you who you should marry, what you should do for a living, how you should educate your children, What church to go to, what house to buy, or rent, or lets hit close to home, what candidate to vote for. When there is no specific guidelines in scripture for a decision that must be made, two Christians can and will disagree on how to go about that decision, and that doesn’t make one of them to be in sin. Now, if one of them tries to muscle or maneuver or judge, or strong-arm, then there is sin involved, but the disagreement in itself is not sinful. Part of believing the Gospel for others is the recognition that only God alone can speak to an individuals heart about a certain matter.
Now, there are issues that we can speak to one another about where God has spoken directly in his word, those are not up for discussion. Issues such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lying, stealing, and the like, are issues that are not up to individual choice as to what to do. If you have a friend who says, “I know I’m married, but I really want to date this other person that I have met, and I feel like it is the right thing for me to do.” It is clear from scripture that that person is in sin. They may say that that is what their heart is telling them, but scripture is also clear that our hearts are wicked, and if we follow only them, they will lead us straight to Hell.
So we know that these disagreements are going to happen, how do we deal with them? Let’s look at how Paul deals with this situation as he instructs them on what to do.
1. Remember the Gospel. v. 2
a. We are on the same footing before God: children.
b. We have the same blood in our veins.
c. Remember the humility of Christ.
2. Get Help v. 3.
a. God puts us in a family so we can help each other out.
b. Remember that our salvation is not to an island, it is to a people.
c. Our relationship with God is fleshed out in our relationships with others.
3. Look to eternity. v. 3
a. Whatever you are disagreeing about probably won’t matter in eternity.
b. You will spend eternity with the person you are disagreeing with. Seeing them as God sees them with the righteousness of Christ placed on them.
How I’ve seen this fleshed out here…. Politics…