September 11

The Need for Redemptive Friendships

“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)

How would you react if your name appeared in a letter to the editor, calling you out for a difference of opinion about your politics? Some of you would be fine with it since political debates are the norm these days. Others of us keep our political views to ourselves, so we would not be comfortable having them aired. I imagine (but do not find biblical proof) that spiritual beliefs were openly discussed in Paul’s day, much as political views are discussed in ours. But we do know that one of the big problems in the early churches was the prevalence of false teaching. Magnetic preachers who confused believers with nice-sounding philosophies may have been so convincing that Christians didn’t realize they were false teachers, just as it happens today. When we hear the truth, we may be inclined to reject it because it doesn’t appeal to our human creature comfort zones like other preaching. This is when we need the help of our friends, because if there’s one thing our sin nature seeks, its escape from confrontation by the truth.

The church in Philippi was Paul’s first church plant and undoubtedly very precious to him. He had received news about the church and wanted to let the congregation know that their brother, Epaphroditus had recovered from a serious illness (Philippians 2:25-28). Furthermore, Paul encouraged members to continue growing in the Christ and rejoicing in their salvation (Philippians 1:18b; 3:1; 4:4). As beloved brothers and sisters in the faith, Paul was concerned that Philippian believers would stick to the truth of the gospel as taught by him without deviation. Perhaps Euodia and Syntyche were leaders in women’s ministry at the church. (1) They had labored with Paul side-by-side for the gospel, but something has happened now that needs correcting—something essential to the faith. Euodia and Syntyche had a good friend in Paul, who,  although far away in Rome, cared deeply about their beliefs and their ministry. (See Philippians 3:12-18.)

Paul was not their only good friend. There is another “true companion” to whom he appealed for help in the matter; perhaps this was Epaphroditus. So far the women have two good friends, but then Paul mentions others, “the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Paul is identifying the women and the others as the redeemed who have received eternal life in Jesus Christ. The friends that Euodia and Syntyche need now are not those who will pass the time distracting them. They do not need friends who will tell them not to worry or agree with them. The friends they need now are those who will help them to distinguish truth from error, and remember what they were taught. Euodia and Syntyche need friends who are in the “book of life” with them. Paul and the others love them too much to leave them in confusion.

Can your friends count on you to help them with their essential biblical doctrine if needed? Do your friends know what you believe? Do you have a group of friends with whom you can discuss questions and doubts? Are you willing to be corrected by your Christian friends?

* ESV Study Bible Notes (digital edition), Crossway, 2008, (Philippians 4:2)

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