Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Standing Fast with One Mind

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. (Philippians 4:1-3)
“Therefore.” Because there are those who are “enemies of the cross,” and because “our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul urges a certain response: “So stand fast in the Lord.” To “stand fast” means to persevere, remain faithful, be strong and firm in our stance. The sense of the word “so” here is, “in this way.” Which way is that? The one Paul has been urging from early on in this letter, where he said, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

What Paul means particularly here by “stand fast in the Lord” is to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” When we learn to stand fast together in unity, we will be able to stand up to any challenge we may encounter. Pay attention to the word “striving together,” because we are going to see it, or rather the Greek work behind it (synathleo), again in just a moment.

Up until now, Paul has been approaching this matter in general terms. There has been a tension in the community of believers at Philippi and Paul’s concern about it has been an undercurrent of this letter from the beginning. Now he addresses it directly: “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

These two women are well known in the church and very prominent in the work of the ministry at Philippi. The church as a whole has partnered with Paul in the gospel, through their hospitality and financial support, but Euodia and Syntyche have actually “labored with” him in the gospel ministry. Here again is that Greek word, synathleo. The prefix syn means “together” and athleo is where we get our English word “athlete.” So, these women have been Paul’s teammates, active in the arena with him, for the gospel.

Here is the great irony, then. Along with Clement and other fellow workers, they have been team players with Paul, spending themselves for the sake of the Lord Jesus. But now some sort of division has arisen between them and it is big enough that it has been affecting the mission of the church at Philippi.

“I implore,” Paul says. I urge. I beg. I exhort. I plead with. Paul does not take sides here (except the side of unity) but he is very emphatic. He does not simply say, “I implore Euodia and Syntyche,” which would have the same meaning but with an economy of words. Instead, he breaks it out: “I implore Euodia and I am implore Syntyche,” emphasizing it individually to each one of them.

Now here is the substance of his exhortation: “Be of the same mind.” Simple, yet profound. And it is what he has been writing about for most of his letter. We see this, for example, in Philippians 2:2, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” And in Philippians 3:16, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”

Paul qualifies this with the words, “in the Lord.” Both women are believers, followers of the Lord Jesus and devoted to His gospel. God is at work in both of them, creating in them the desire for His will and also empowering them to do it (Philippians 2:13). Both of them are named in the “Book of Life.” And the Lord Jesus humiliated Himself to the point of death on the cross for both of them so that they may take part in His glory. Paul’s earlier exhortation to the whole church is especially appropriate with regard to these women: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

But there is also someone else nearby, a third party. Perhaps a pastor or elder in the church, or perhaps a mutual friend. Whoever it is, Paul now appeals to him or her: “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women.” The word used here for “companion” is syzugus, from which we get the word “syzygy,” which speaks of connection, conjunction or alignment.

The Greek word for “help” here is quite interesting. It is syllambano, a compound of syn, which means “with” or “together,” and lambano, which means to “take hold of.” It can mean to seize, or take as a prisoner; to catch; to conceive (as of a woman conceiving a child); or to take for one’s self (as with all words, which of these meanings is actually used is determined by the context). But there is another meaning, and that is the one Paul has in mind here: “to take hold together with one, to assist, help, to succor” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions); “to assist, take part with” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).

Paul uses this word in the middle voice (as compared to the active or passive voice). That is, he wants this person to be a part of the situation. Not to be a busybody, and not to be just a bystander, either, but to get involved in the process of reconciling these sisters in the Lord. Perhaps this person has been off to the side with hands in the air, thinking there is no way to resolve it, or perhaps simply not knowing what to do. But Paul has now given quite a lot of instruction concerning it and has provided a solid basis for appeal by the example of the Lord Jesus, and even his own example and that of other team members. So here is an opportunity to apply the lesson and be the “true companion” Paul knows him to be by helping these two women reconnect and come into proper alignment with each other, all standing fast with one mind.

Focus Questions
  1. How does standing fast together in one spirit and one mind help us remain strong and faithful in the Lord?
  2. What would it take to be a “true companion” who can helps others come together in unity?
  3. What is the balance between being a bystander and a busybody?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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