Devotional # 136. 5/11/15. Philippians 4:1-3
Intro. Last week we finished chapter 3 and as we start chapter 4 we’re confronted with remaining “steadfast in the Lord” and several people that not much is known about, but in that we can learn a lot!
v. 1. As always “therefore” is a key and important word. Paul is referring to what we studied last week: we must mature in our walk with the Lord (v. 17) and remember that “our citizenship is in heaven” (v. 20). With this in mind we can understand how Paul would consider the believers in Philippi his “joy and crown” in heaven, because they had matured, by “standing fast in the Lord”.
We can see Paul’s love for these believers in the fact that he uses “beloved” twice in one verse! Most historians think that Paul was short and bald. That the years of being whipped and tortured would have left his back looking like poorly planned crisscrossing city streets. Having survived so many things means that Paul was tough. But knowing the love of Christ actually changed him. He was still a man’s-man but had the ability to care for others with an empathy putting himself aside. He didn’t continue to grow harder but instead he says that they are his “longed-for brothers” and sisters. Paul wishes that he wasn’t in prison so that he could see them. A month ago I had to go to central California on business and I was gone from my family for a week. The saying is true: “absence makes the heart grow stronger.” I wasn’t even in prison and it was for only a week but can you imagine what it would have been like for Paul to miss his friends in Philippi? Not only that but he knew that there were some people that he had ministered to that considered themselves Christians but instead “set their mind on earthly things” (v. 19, as we talked about last week). Paul’s desire was that this church in Philippi would not be influenced by these “enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18).
Earlier I said that Paul considered the Christians in Philippi his “joy and crown” in heaven. Why do I say that? There are six different crowns mentioned in the New Testament that Christians have the ability to receive in heaven*. The word here for “crown” is stephanos (G#4735) which was a “crown given to an athlete who had won the race” (not the crown of a king) (Source 1). So the crown Paul is talking about here is known as the “Crown of Rejoicing” (see 1 Thess. 2:19) also called the “Soul Winner’s Crown” it is given to the Christian for those who have a hope and a joy to present people to Christ. Just as it would be a “joy” for Paul to have had a hand in these people knowing Jesus, we also can receive this crown. It gives us direction and focus when we realize that Jesus expects us to take action on our calling. Obviously we don’t do this for the crown in heaven (since we will end up laying it at Jesus’ feet anyway) but knowing that God does recognize our efforts in loving others to Him is encouraging. This should be our “joy” just as it was Paul’s. I was reading a book today that said the only thing worse than hell would be to go to hell and find out that your son was there and when you asked why he was there he responded, “I followed your example.” Wow. Weighty words for us to consider how our lives impact our children, our parents, our co-workers, our church family and even the strangers we come in contact with throughout our life!
v. 2. We don’t know much about these two women but it appears that they were at odds with each other. “Euodia” means “fragrant” (Source 2) although it doesn’t sound like she was living up to her name. Syntyche’s name means “with fate” (Source 3). Neither of these ladies are mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.
Notice that Paul doesn’t pick a side to try and solves the problem but instead he tells them to “be of the same mind in the Lord.” This is a great encouragement for us nowadays. I know some people who stop going to a certain church because they don’t get along with someone else. We balance Paul’s words “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18) and recognize whether the issue causing conflict is opinion, doctrine, dogma or sinful.
If it’s a matter of opinion or even of doctrine (most of the time), it is better to be unified with another believer instead of being in a quarrel. Remember it’s not just the two people that this is hurting but the rest of the church and many times non-Christians who are watching and we don’t even know it. But if it is an issue of dogma (i.e. the foundations of the faith, see last week’s Devotional # 135 for the distinctions) then Paul has just finished telling us what to do (Philippians 3:17-21). And if it is an issue of sin we’re told in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 that a Christian who is willfully sinning should be kicked out of the church, always with the hope of repentance and reconciliation.
v. 3. This verse tells several things in what it doesn’t tell us. We don’t know who the “true companion” mentioned here is. We don’t even know for sure who “Clement” is. He may be the Clement that was a leader in the church in Rome who wrote two letters to the Christians in Corinth (Source 1). And we don’t know who else was part of the group called “the rest of my fellow workers.” But we do know that the “true companion” and Clement were trustworthy and competent to restore the unity among these women. We also know that they were all going to heaven since their names were written in the “Book of Life.” And we do know that women had a big part in the churches in this day, which was uncharacteristic of the cultures of that day and age. However, it is fitting with the respect Jesus gave to women.
I like how Paul says, “labored with me in the gospel” because he recognizes that although it may be a joy to share salvation with others, it is also very hard work. But of course it’s not worth doing, if you’re not going to do it right. Sharing the gospel has a price, we must “labor” together, not divided and alone. One of the reasons that we are told to fellowship with other believers is because it encourages us, keeps us on the right track and is fortifying.
*The Six Possible Crowns of the Believer:
- Imperishable crown – 1 Cor 9:25-27. The Victor’s Crown- For the one who strives for certainty, precision and discipline.
- Crown of rejoicing – 1 Thes 2:19. Soul Winner’s Crown- For those who have a hope and a joy to present people to Christ.
- Crown of righteousness – 2 Tim 4:8. For those who Love His appearing.
- Crown of life/ The Martyr’s Crown – James 1:12, Rom 2:10. – For those who endures temptation and those who love Him. Not for the way you died for him but the way you lived for Him.
- Crown of glory – 1 Pet 5:4.
- Elder’s Crown – Rev 4:4, 10-11. For those who Shepherd the flock of God, willingly, eagerly and as examples. (This is where we chime in and cast in our crowns).
Conclusion. I think one of the best things I saw in studying this section was something David Guzik said. He asked if our entire life was going to be summed up would we be a “Clement” or a “Euodia” and Syntyche” (Source 1)? It’s a good question. Would you be the peacemaker or the squabbler? I know what we would all like to be, but how do we get there? Next week we’re going to cover two of the famous verses of the Bible that I quote all the time: “rejoice always” (v. 4) and “be anxious for nothing” (v. 6). Of course the Bible is full of examples and ways for you to be a peacemaker but the idea of rejoicing in all things, at all times is a great one. Also the idea about giving things over to God and not letting anxiety overcome you is crucial. Go ahead and think on these this next week…be a peacemaker!
Source 1: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Phl/Phl_4.cfm?a=1107001
Source 2: Euodias in Greek, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2136&t=KJV
Source 3: Syntyche in Greek, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4941&t=KJV