Truth Magazine - EXPOSITIONS: Making a Strong Church Stronger by Danny Linden

Truth Magazine - EXPOSITIONS: Making a Strong Church Stronger by Danny Linden

Posted by Danny Linden on Mar. 20, 2024

Truth Magazine

(February, 2024 | No. 2 | Vol. 68)

Edited by Mark Mayberry

EXPOSITIONS: Making a Strong Church Stronger

by Danny Linden

Synopsis: Philippians 4:1-9 shows us how a church that is already doing most things right can still improve and become more effective in its work for the Lord.


Philippians is a positive letter that, by and large, does not deal with the kinds of serious problems that Paul’s other letters are forced to address. The Philippian brethren stand as a light in Paul’s ministry and bring him joy to remember. However, they still needed to be encouraged and emboldened in their faith. Let’s examine Philippians 4:1-9 to see how Paul’s love for them led him to call on them to resolve their differences and be settled in their faith. In this way, Paul is working to make strong brethren even stronger.

Care and Resolve

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved (Phil. 4:1).

Paul’s effusive love for the Philippians is obvious. His time in Philippi was difficult—he faced an unjust beating and imprisonment, both of which violated his rights as a Roman citizen. Paul was punished for simply preaching the gospel (Acts 16:16-24), but he did not look back on it bitterly. The brethren who were converted there were a source of great joy to him. Lydia and the jailer and their families represented the kind of people who submitted to the gospel in such a harsh environment.

In writing to his beloved brethren, Paul was in prison, facing an uncertain future (Phil. 1:7). Yet, he knew that his suffering was a benefit to the kingdom (Phil. 1:12-14) and that the Philippian brethren were partners with him in his work (Phil. 1:5).

Because of his great love for them, Paul urged the Philippians to remain firm in the Lord. Their previous work will be of no benefit if they lose heart now. They need to imitate the aged apostle and patiently await their exaltation in Christ in the resurrection (Phil. 3:17-21).

Agree in the Lord

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 (Phil. 4:2-3).

The inclusion of Euodia and Syntyche is sparse but instructive. What stood between these two women that prevented them from getting along? Paul doesn’t say, and we don’t have many clues. The exact cause of their disagreement is unknown. Yet, some reasonable conclusions can be drawn.

The dispute was not doctrinal. The evidence of their previous work is helpful here, but not conclusive. What is even more compelling is that Paul does not take a side. In other cases where individuals were teaching error, or when false doctrine had taken root in a congregation, Paul was quick to step in (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-17; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 4:14-18). He always defended the truth, rebuked false teachers, and urged churches to be united in truthful practice of the law of Christ. With Euodia and Syntyche, Paul does not take sides, but simply entreats them to agree in the Lord. It does not seem to matter if one or the other or both give way in the dispute, so long as it can be solved or set aside.

Euodia and Syntyche were not false disciples. They had previously worked together with Paul, Clement, and other Christians and were an important part of kingdom work. They were not rebellious troublemakers who had a habit of stirring up division. Nevertheless, their dispute had become disruptive. For Paul to know about it from a distance, it must have long since surpassed the level of a private quarrel. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and the Philippian church must have been choking on the smoke of this argument for Paul to become involved.

I suspect it was some personal dispute. Even when we agree on doctrine, personalities can clash, and personal slights can offend. Many righteous men and women have been weighed down by interpersonal conflicts that begin with the smallest of offenses. We can only speculate who initially wronged the other, but Paul places the responsibility of reconciliation squarely on both women.

Paul even goes a step further. He asks for his “true companion” to assist with the mediation between these two women. It is unclear to whom he is referring, but it apparently was self-evident to the Philippians [Note #1]. The resolution of this conflict was not optional, and they should do whatever it takes to resolve it. In truth, Paul has done more than bring one mediator into the matter. By including this in the letter that was read to the whole church, he has made it the mission of all the brethren to help these two women get along. As embarrassing as this seems for them, it goes to show how important it is to be united as brethren.

Joy and Peace

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:4-7).

It seems that the Philippians were also afflicted with anxiety. Likely, the stress of wondering how Paul was doing in prison and enduring whatever opposition they faced in their community contributed to this. Paul reminds them that they have much over which to rejoice. The Lord has blessed them. He is near to hear their requests and to give them peace.

Two things are necessary considering their anxieties. First, their “reasonableness” (“gentle spirit,” NASB) must be manifest to all. Stress and persecution can harden us into combative, unreasonable people. Although the Philippians were going through a lot, they needed to maintain their gentle approach. Jesus rules within their hearts, and He is at hand to bring judgment against their enemies. Why give their opponents any legitimate reason to malign them? Second, they needed to rely on God. Turn it all over to God and tell Him what you need. He offers the only real and lasting peace.

Think and Practice These Things

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).

These verses give further credence to the idea that the disciples at Philippi were distracted with anxieties and other unprofitable things. Paul’s goal is to settle them and recenter their thinking. Do not waste your time with fears, impurities, corruption, and distractions. Fill your mind with things that come from God. Meditate on things that would be praised if they were put on display for your brethren to see. This is part of how God answers our pleas for help. While we might be looking for a magic bullet to take away our problems, God, instead, gives us tools to deepen our faith and fill us with righteousness.

One mistake often made is reading verse 8 in isolation, limiting the instruction given to only include our thoughts. Actually, Paul immediately adds more to the picture in verse 9. The things that you learn, receive, hear, and see need to be practiced in your life. Mind and body must be joined together in the truth of Scripture. Our thoughts, words, and actions all reinforce each other, so live excellently in every way.


Paul loved his brethren so much that he wanted them to thrive spiritually. It is obvious to us that, above any concerns for their health, jobs, and safety, he most of all wanted them to remain faithful to Christ. This must be our goal as well. May we set aside our differences, overcome our anxieties, and demonstrate faithful service to God each day. Likewise, our constant prayer should be that God’s people around the world maintain their faith and glorify the Lord who saves us. May the weak be made strong, and may the strong become even stronger!


[Note #1] Another option is that the “companion” as translated by the ESV, actually is the Greek name Suzuge/Syzygus. If that is true, we still don’t know anything more about this mediator, but it may explain how the church was to know to whom Paul was referring.

Danny Linden has worked with the Hebron Lane church of Christ in Shepherdsville, KY, since March 2023. He and his wife, Lauren, have four children. The church website is here. He can be reached here.