Commentary on Philippians, 4:3-4 (Serving in Unity)

Philippians 4:2-3


2 I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord.
3 Yea, I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.  (ASV)


“Euodia and Syntyche”


It’s not known who exactly these women were, but it’s clear that they were prominent women who served in this church….perhaps as deaconesses. They may have been among the women who were with Lydia by the riverside when Paul first arrived in Philippi (Acts 16:11-15). Along with Lydia, they may have been among the first converts of this church.


It’s not known in what capacity they ministered with Paul, but clearly he had a high degree of respect for them for their faithful service. It may have been right there in Philippi, or perhaps they traveled with Paul for a time.


“to be of the same mind”


After talking about the resurrection and our citizenship in Heaven and standing fast in the Lord with all of that in view, Paul switches gears here and addresses a situation someone must have told him about.


Apparently Euodia and Syntyche were having issues with one another. While it’s not known what those issues were, it may have had something to do with the fact that they were both respected members of this church, with a certain amount of status. As is often the case between members of high standing and influence, there may have been a tug-of-war regarding a certain course of action. Not that they were taking the place of the male leaders and making the same sort of decisions, but within their biblical roles they had influence, and so they must have been going in two different directions.


It’s likely that this contention between them was causing division, some siding with one, and some siding with the other, for everything we do affects those around us. But again, it’s not known for sure what the situation was exactly. We can only surmise, base on common experience.


Paul knew them both well, so it must have broken his heart to hear of the rift that was going on between them. Paul wanted to clear that up quick, for he was well aware of how disunity could hinder or derail the work of the Lord. All through Paul’s writings we hear him talk about humility and unity, about being of the same mind. These two women probably heard it many times themselves from Paul personally as he taught God’s people.


“true yokefellow”


A true and close bond or partnership with, functioning in harmony.


Here Paul is addressing someone that he had a close ties with, someone whom he felt a special bond with, someone whom he had served with in the work of the Lord. While it’s not known who that was, I think it’s safe to say that he was one of the leaders of this church.


First Paul exhorts the two women directly. That’s always the first step in dealing with such issues. He then instructed his close friend to get involved to remedy the situation….if necessary. This was to be along the lines of helping these women to get to the root of the problem, so that they could move on in love and forgiveness toward each other. In other words, Paul was instructing him to provide wise counsel, using the authority he had within the church.


“Clement”


Some believe he was the “Clement of Rome,” the “Bishop of Rome.” But no one can say for sure.


“whose names are in the book of life”


Only true followers of Christ are written in the book of life. Those who aren’t, will be cast into the lake of fire, where they will suffer punishment forever and ever (Rev 20:11-15).