When Church Members Fight – Philippians 4:2-3


I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3, ESV)


How does Paul, who is in Rome under house arrest, know about this unhappy division? Either the Philippians asked for aid in a letter, or Paul had quizzed Epaphroditus.

Who were these women? It’s likely they were in the company of the first Philippian convert: Lydia (Acts 16:11-14)

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

They weren’t just servants of the church, they stood, like soldiers, shoulder to shoulder with the Apostle Paul. (v. 2)

What was the nature of the division? We do not know for certain, but the text may give some clues. Because these women were courageous enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Apostle, it’s likely that their division was as strong as they were. (v. 3) Was it doctrinal, ethical, personal? Was there jealousy? We are not told.

What is Paul’s entreaty to them? First, notice that he refuses to play favorites. He doesn’t not say, “I entreat you both.” Rather, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche.” It means to beg on one’s knees; to plead, and he applies it to them equally.

What is he pleading? : “Agree in the Lord.” They must think about one another as Christ thinks. They are to treat one another as Christ has treated them: service, humility. They are not to stand on their dignity. (v. 2)

Notice, as well that he calls for aid from among the membership. This letter would have been read in the gathering on the Lord’s Day. He’s naming them and asking for public help because they, not Christ had become the focus of the church. (v. 3) Why does he invite a third party (true yokeman)? Perhaps they were refusing meet and solve it themselves. And who is the True Companion (v. 3)? Epaphroditus, Lydia, Luke?

When he invites this companion to help, it’s the same word construction that is used in Luke 5:7

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.

This spat was so heavy that it may break the church. There must be one goal: preserve true Christian unity. All hands on deck. No one can sit this out. Pray, listen, demonstrate patience.

Why? Three reasons.
• First, Paul had just exhorted the church to stand firm. (4:1)
• Secondly, these women had been faithful laborers in the gospel. (Elaborate, women teach women, Titus 2, mission work)
• Third, their names are written in the book of life. (v. 3)


The Christian church is not problem free. As the church faces opposition from the outside, she must also guard against division internally.

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit (Phil. 2:2)

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? (James 4:1)

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:1)

Sadly, the church is really good at shooting it’s own wounded.


Christian unity is not warm feelings, it’s recognizing and aligning my life with a reality.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.

What’s the reality that I recognize and align with? I am one with all Christians in Christ. Christ has won our unity. It’s not something we produce. It’s something we enter into as we come to Christ.

In the Creed, we confess that there is one holy universal church. Christ has one bride. He is not in heaven saying, “I wonder who will get here.”

The community of the Triune God, serving as the concrete manifestation of God’s eschatological kingdom in the world. – P. L. Metzger

Our congregation is a local and visible manifestation of the one true church eternal, glorious, sinless, divisionless.

You are free to have your own favorite color. You are free to wind the spaghetti noodles around your fork or to cut them up like a heathen. But you are not free to see fellow Christians in any way other than how the Lord Christ sees them. You are not free to treat another Christian as if they are not your brother or sister in Christ.


We don’t create it. But we are called to maintain it.

  • Treat division seriously (“I urge you”)
  • Embrace the Christ Pattern (Who took on the form of a servant, who didn’t insist on his rights)Humiliation before Exaltation
    • Cross before the Crown
    • Death, then Resurrection
    • All of this pattern for all of your life.
  • Focus on Essentials (In Christ, not minor differences either doctrinal or ethical)
    • “How big of an issue is this?”
    • How much can you overlook?
  • Recruit Help
    • Encourage others to come to terms.
    • Exhort others to admit their own blindness.
    • Discourage gossip and slander.


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