Okay, lovely ladies, we’re finally there: the last chapter of Philippians. We’ve seen the examples of Paul, Christ, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. We’ve seen the appeals to be selfless and the instructions on how to do so (click here for part 1, part 2, or part 3). Now at last we get to see the central problem in the Philippian congregation: two fighting women.
Before we get to that, though, I want to look at one other significant keyword: agape. You may or may not know that in the Greek New Testament there are two main words for two main kinds of love. Phileo is used for brotherly affection, but agape is used for the deep type of love that involves self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice, hmmm? Sorta fits into what we’ve been talking about, doesn’t it! Oh, I love the Bible. So inter-connected and wonderful. Agape occurs seven times in Philippians, and it’s always translated “love” or “beloved.” See if you can find them for yourself. 🙂
Diving back in…
The Problem—Euodia and Syntyche (4:1-3)
At the beginning of this chapter Paul starts to bring his letter to its clincher: “Therefore, my beloved brethren… in this way stand firm in the Lord” (1). How do we stand firm in the Lord? Maintain this spirit of selflessness that we’ve been talking about. Now he’s going to get into the real point. Take a look at verse 2: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”
“Look, Melissa, I don’t know. You say Euodia and Syntyche were the main problem, but if that’s the case why do they pop up so late in the book? How do you know they’re that important?”
Well, I’m going to show you. 🙂
The word for “urge” in this verse is the Greek word parakalo, and it’s special because it’s a petition verb. In English writing, we often use bold lettering, italics, or capital letters to stress an important point. Greek petition verbs are the equivalent of all these things plus a few exclamation points for good measure. In other words, Paul really wants to drive this point home. It’s also extremely significant that he uses the word twice in the same sentence. This double-petition verb phenomenon only occurs one other place in the New Testament (in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, if you’re interested). God is never redundant without a purpose. This whole book is redundant! He’s redundant when He’s really trying to drum an important point into our heads. Therefore, this redundancy in petition verbs is really, really, really SUPER important. It’s so important, in fact, that people who’ve studied the book (like Denny Petrillo) consider it to be the key verse in the book.
Now look at the next few words, the action Paul is urging Euodia and Syntyche to perform: “to live in harmony.” That’s our central keyword phroneo! Remember, it could also be translated “to be of the same mind”… And we know from 2:3 that the way to be of the same mind is to “regard one another as more important than yourselves.” This letter was for the entire Philippian church, but it was really written so they could know how to help these two women get along!
Now, we shouldn’t let Euodia and Syntyche go by without giving them a little credit. These weren’t bad women; they were members of the Lord’s church, for crying out loud! Paul asks the congregation to “help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel” (3). They’ve worked with Paul, and they obviously care about the cause of Christ! However, they rubbed one another the wrong way, and they couldn’t let their agape love overcome this dislike and disagreement. So what does Paul do to help? He enlists the church! What an awesome lesson for us! Part of the reason God put the church in place is so we could help other Christians make it to Heaven. We need to be sure and utilize that gift when we’re having a sin problem!
You’re Getting There (4:14-20)
I know that’s a weird section title, but before I explain, take a look at verses 14 through 17:
“Nevertheless, you have done well to share in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”
Phew. Long stretch there, but I want you to see it all.
Remember how Paul started with encouragement? He’s ending with encouragement too. He’s saying, “Hey, you know what? You’re already getting there. You’re already selfless in your generosity towards me and my work for Christ.” Check that last verse again: “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Not only is the church’s giving good for Paul, it’s good for themselves! It’s a step in the right direction toward total selflessness.
I want to clarify, dear ladies— you don’t now know everything there is to know about the book of Philippians. There’s a WEALTH of knowledge that I didn’t even touch on. That’s part of the beauty of the Bible: you never know everything about it. There’s always more treasures to go find.
So I implore you to go find some treasure for yourself. Study the book. Look for more keywords. Explore. More than anything, though, I implore you to apply what we’ve studied to your life. Put Christ before yourself. Put others before yourself. Be willing to compromise your opinions. Live in harmony with one another. I hope this study has been as profitable for you as it’s been for me!
By Melissa Hite
Melissa (age 16) attends Bear Valley church of Christ with her parents, Michael and Lynn, and her little brother, Matthew. Her goals include continually growing closer to God and eventually becoming a writer and a mom. On her blog, Christ Crossed My Heart, you can find other poignant, well-written posts.