Paul’s Advice to Euodia and Syntyche: “Agree with Each Other” (Philippians 4:1–3)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.



Toward the end of the first chapter in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he called his brothers and sisters to let “their manner of life be worthy of the gospel.” What does that look like? This call is lived out as we are seen “standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”! How does God bring us to that place?

Paul describes the attitudes of the Lord Jesus that we must embrace if we would live in this “manner worthy of the gospel.” As our Father builds into us the very heart of His own Son through the ministry of His Word and the power of His Spirit, we see how to live out this new Kingdom lifestyle in our church. Then God gives us the power of the indwelling Christ to make these relationships possible!

Later in his letter, just in case we are still confused about how to do this, the apostle gives us a real-life model to follow. Two women in the church at Philippi were struggling in their relationship with each other. Paul provides wise counsel for them, telling them how to navigate through this great difficulty:

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)

What is happening in Paul’s heart as he is reaching toward the conclusion of his letter? After writing about the strategic partnership they share, the glory of the gospel, and our willingness to suffer for its sake, the power of the cross and the surpassing worthiness of Jesus, does he just now remember that he did want to make a comment on this situation between these two ladies before finishing his letter?

Absolutely not! Two issues prompted the writing of this letter by Paul to the Philippian church. One was his desire to thank them for the deep and full partnership they shared in the gospel, not only financially but also suffering with him and confirming the gospel together before the eyes of the watching world. The other issue that prompted this letter was the division between Euodia and Syntyche.

Sins, Hurts, Disagreements, and Disappointments

We do not know what had happened between these women. It does seem obvious that they were not arguing about whether Jesus is truly God, or whether He had in fact risen from the dead. This was a personal issue. Something had happened, perhaps a hurt or disappointment, a failure or sin of one against the other.

Paul sets the solution clearly before them. He calls them to agree with each other. He then asks co-workers to help them to that place. He had begun what we have designated “chapter 4” with a second call to “stand firm.” Nothing shakes us quite like divisions in intimate relationships!

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

Why is this personal issue so important to the apostle Paul? We have already seen in this letter that Paul is “all about the gospel.” He is discipling this wonderful church to orient all that they are and all that they have around the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything that distracts us from the primacy of the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us is an enemy of the gospel.

Surely, you have seen in your own family, or perhaps your church, how great a distraction problems in relationships become. Issues with one another seem to immediately consume all the energy available to us. Every conversation, every prayer, every moment of time, and every resource of strength must now be focused on solving this problem.

Whatever had happened between Euodia and Syntyche was affecting not only their relationship with each other but also the unity of the church at Philippi. This issue was distracting them from the work of the gospel, and Paul tells them how they must get through this: they need to agree with each other.

We Cannot Do This

Why does Paul place this exhortation where he does in his letter? He has just portrayed so beautifully, with such eloquence and power, the humility of Jesus. The very Son of God did not grasp on to what was rightfully His; He came as a servant. He laid down His life. Jesus humbled Himself.

What would it take for Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other? They would need to humble themselves. When Paul calls them to agree with each other, this does not come across to these sisters as a mystical exhortation; there is no confusion about how they must respond. Jesus had modeled before them vividly how to do this, and now He lives within His people to make this possible and the normal response of His children.

But we know very well that we cannot do this. In our churches in the West, and even increasingly throughout the world, it is not possible for us to walk in what is most basically Christian. Why can’t we do what the apostle Paul is calling these two ladies to do—to agree with each other? There are two devastating reasons.

First of all, we highly value the independence of the system in which we live, and we have learned to see the gospel through the eyes of our culture. Our independent spirit and the individualism we so highly value make it very difficult to submit to one another. Alongside this reality is our commitment to what we have learned to see as our highest good: the need to be right. We pursue our “rightness” and defend the positions we hold at any cost.

How much will we sacrifice for the sake of maintaining our rightness? We will destroy our marriage; we will split our church; we will walk out of an intimate and treasured relationship, because being right is more valuable to us than anything else. In fact, there is nothing we will not give up for the sake of being right. It is our highest good.

God Is Other than What We Are

The second reason we cannot do this is because we love justice more than mercy. We are not like our God, whose holiness defines both His person and His nature. What does it mean for God to be holy? Surely He is pure and without sin. Yes, God is completely separated from everything evil. But the first definition of holiness is “other.”

God is “other” than what we are. In every way, His uniqueness and separation from everything that we are fills our eyes with wonder, just as it does the angels around His throne. Sometimes we celebrate this aspect of God’s holiness when we sing together, “there is none like you!”

This is the place where we see most clearly that “we are not like God”: He values mercy over justice, but we value justice over mercy. That is why we would not have promised mercy to Adam and Eve in the Garden when there was no repentance on their part, or confession of their sin, or any sense of responsibility for their actions. We would have reminded them about the consequences of their choices. We are not like God; He is other than all that we are, in every way.

This is why we cannot do what Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche to do. Our commitment to justice over mercy prevents us from humbling ourselves and agreeing with each other for the sake of the gospel. Being right is a higher good than the ministry of reconciliation, and at whatever cost, whether it is a broken marriage, a broken friendship, or a broken church, we will hold out to defend our “right position.”

You may well be struggling with much of what I am saying here. On one level, this is very confrontational concerning who we are and our culture as Christians. On another level, it might seem very confusing when we talk about the attributes of God like this.

When we list the attributes of God or the characteristics of His Person, we must know that He is forever, and at every moment, fully every one of those qualities. God does not diminish one attribute at the expense of another. He is always fully just, for example. In His justice, God’s wrath must be satisfied toward all His enemies. That is why the cross was so terrible. God’s hate-filled wrath toward His enemies and His righteous justice were poured out on His own Son.

But God is also always fully mercy. He loves mercy! He gave His own Son so He could cover us with His mercy. Because we are “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3–14) and because all our God’s affections are focused on His Son, He loves us, too, and pours His mercy upon us.

Transformed Hearts Lead to Transformed Relationships (Philippians 2:1–13)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.


The apostle Paul now calls the church at Philippi to own deeply in their life together those things for which we all hunger in our relationships with one another:

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy . . . (Philippians 2:1)

How we all long for encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship, affection, and compassion! This is the nurturing, secure, life-giving environment in which God’s people flourish and grow to maturity. Now, Paul says, if those are the very things you desire to flow through the relationships in your church, you also must know that they spring from these realities:

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2)

Before we can share together those heart-healing realities described in verse one, Paul says, we must share together a common mindset, a common love commitment to one another, and we all must be moving in the same direction. Then, he reminds the church at Philippi that all this flows from a heart attitude that must reside deeply in every believer.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)

What is this attitude? Seeing others as more important than ourselves! It is the same response of heart that Paul described to the church at Rome when he said to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Is it actually possible in this world to look at a brother or sister as more important than we are? Or to prefer another person to ourselves? Is Paul describing an ideal world? No, he is telling us of the new creations in Christ that we are becoming, and the new Kingdom in which we live. Paul is describing the normal Christian life.

Grasping and Giving

This new attitude that transforms hearts and relationships is the very attitude of the Lord Jesus:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7)

Jesus, very God, in the presence of the Father, owning the worship of the angels and the glories of eternity, did not hold tightly to those things that were rightfully His. He emptied Himself, not of His deity, but of His eternal prerogatives and privileges, and was born as a man.

We know well about “grasping.” Jesus did not grasp, but grasping is often the story of our lives. Because we were in Adam when he sinned and when he died, we inherit both his rebellion against God and his death. We come into this world as empty people, and we spend our lives grasping to be filled. We grasp at things, experiences, success, relationships, pleasures, and powers. Whatever we think will fill up . . . the gnawing emptiness of our souls, we grasp onto with the hope of satisfaction. Jesus came into the world full and chose to be emptied!

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus did not come as any man; He did not appear as a king or a ruler. He came as the lowest form of man, a servant. He did not give Himself to any form of death; He did not die as a hero. Christ died the lowest death, that of a common criminal. He willingly gave Himself to His Father, and for you and me.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9–11)

Since Jesus was willing to come as the lowest form of man and die the lowest form of death, God has given Him the highest place and the highest name! Someday, every knee will bow before Him—those in heaven, those on the earth, and even those under the earth. Someday, all of God’s angels of light, every person who has ever lived, and even Satan and his hosts will fall before Jesus Christ and recognize His lordship. And today, God has given you and me the privilege and joy of worshiping the One we will exalt forever!

It is critical for us to understand that we cannot live out by means of any human resource the attitudes that Paul is calling us to embrace in these Scriptures and those that follow in this letter. Only because God is giving us both the desire and the power can we live in a way that brings joy to one another and glory to our Lord.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)

Reflecting on Our 2020 Global Summit

 

Dear friends,

It was a week I will never, never forget – now for more reasons than I first thought.

In March, one hundred thirty of our global partners and staff members gathered for a Global Summit in Brazil – the realization of a dream we’d had for years. It was a week filled with profound conversations, vision casting, learning, and worship.  

The Lord far exceeded our expectations. New partnerships formed. A shared vision for a movement of the Word deepened. Complicated problems were discussed and, in some cases, resolved. The book of Acts was expounded. And the Lord was magnified in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Amharic (Ethiopia) – indeed, a small preview of Revelation 5:9! 

There was universal delight in our time together. The Lord graciously deepened our love for one another and our commitment to a common vision and mission.

 

Pastor José from Peru described his experience this way:

Having all of that fellowship with pastors from around the world was amazing – having the opportunity to have lunch at one table with people from Asia and then another meal with people from Russia, and from this country and that. And even if we were from different cultures, we were talking the same language – not only English but the language of the hermeneutical principles. I felt like I knew those pastors for a long time! I felt that we were a big family with the same vision. . . . I felt really blessed to be part of this summit.

Pastor Aeron from the Philippines said,

Pastor Aeron

The Summit gave me a larger and global vision. It enlarged my heart and my vision of the glory of God. I praise God to be a part of this desire to see God’s Word flow to every nation. [I saw that] everything in the church should be shaped by the Word of God. I was refreshed and excited to echo this blessing to my congregation.

The immediate fruit of the Global Summit in Brazil was that I launched a Bible-reading movement now, even in the midst of the pandemic. . . . Over the last five weeks, God has enabled me to introduce members of my congregation to the training tools on how to study the Bible, and it has helped them to be able to do their own Bible studies in their own homes. . . . It’s a real comfort for me that the Word of God is like a fire that has spread. It’s my prayer that God will sustain the movement.

As you can hear, what God did during our time together was amazing.

 

As I look back, two events surrounding the Global Summit gave it even more significance:

 

The first event was a global pandemic that threatened to throw everything into disarray

We had been in Brazil only a few days when the COVID-19 alarm bells began to ring. Each day they became louder and louder. Should the conference continue? Country borders were closing and travel began to be restricted. These actions stirred concern among family members back home as well as among attendees. By the mid-point of the summit, there was one thing on everyone’s minds: home. So, we encouraged our partners to head home as soon as they were able. 

Programming was rearranged to end two days early. Our staff worked heroically to rebook dozens of flights on razor-thin deadlines. (Our Polish partners arrived in Warsaw on the very last flight before the airport shut down!) There was certainly some anxiety, but there was no panic as we turned to God’s Word for assurance of His sovereignty and care. The remaining meetings continued to be fruitful even as hearts turned homeward. As one staff member reflected, “Nothing was stolen from us.” 

The one burden in our hearts is that two pastors from Haiti, Serge and Ezechiel, were not able to return home before Haiti closed its borders. Our Brazilian partners (and hosts), Preach the Word and PIBA (First Baptist Church of Atibaia), as well as a Haitian church in Brazil, have done an absolutely amazing job serving and caring for them until they are able to go back, hopefully next month. Until then, we ask you to please pray for them and their families.

Everyone senses that the Lord orchestrated the time in Brazil to accelerate a global movement of His Word, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Only God can do that – to Him be the glory!

 

Bill with Alonso Ramos, from Costa Rica

The second event was the homegoing of our friend and founder, Bill Mills

Looking back, what a precious gift the Lord gave Bill to cap off fifty years of ministry. The Global Summit was Bill’s last ministry trip, and the Lord allowed him to see the amazing fruit of a ministry that began in the laundry room of his and Karen’s home. After decades of trusting God for the work, Bill was surrounded by ministry partners from thirty-five countries around the world – brothers who are carrying on the legacy of teaching God’s Word with God’s heart and equipping others around the world to do the same. 

Those global partners loved Bill. José from Peru told us,

I had the opportunity to say thank you to Bill for establishing this ministry – because this ministry has changed my life. And he was so humble the whole time to answer every question. . . . He took the time to tell me his story. Just listening to him from his own mouth tell how everything started was really something that impacted my life.

Our hearts are amazed at how God orchestrated such a monumental event in the life of our ministry. But it’s not just something to look back on. With hearts of faith, we eagerly look forward to all that God will bring about from our time there. 

And yet we know that none of that would have been possible without the partners God used to get us there. And so, with hearts of gratitude we thank you for helping to make what happened – and what will happen – possible. You are part of what God is orchestrating not just in Brazil but all around the world.

 

With much gratitude in Christ,

Craig Parro

 

P.S. The full impact of the Brazil Summit won’t be known for years, but already we’re seeing wonderful ways God is using it to advance His Kingdom. And God is using your prayers and support to enable that. Would you consider a gift today so that we can continue to serve and strengthen our global partners who are faithfully leading a movement of His Word?

 


 

Below are a few encouraging quotes from attendees:

 

I count it a great privilege of my life to be part of this partnership network. — Lito Manguera, the Philippines

 

I saw God-transformed people, united around one vision, learning and teachable, ready to work with God and where He is working. I felt like I was participating in an event like the gathering of Israel under Moses’ or Ezra’s teaching or in the apostolic council in Acts 15. — V., LRI’s Director for Russia

 

[The Summit was] a reminder that the Holy Spirit empowered ordinary men to do extraordinary things. Of course, I know this, but somehow this truth was profoundly impactful during the summit. — Doug Dunton, LRI’s Director for Africa

 

LRI’s president, Craig Parro, leads a session titled, “A Vision for Global Partnership.”

 

Latin American trainers dressed in their traditional clothing.

 

Our Haitian brothers, (left to right) Ezechiel, Serge, and Dony, blessed us with powerful singing.

 

Pastor Harold from Zambia participates in a session.

 

 

 

 

The Asia team listens to the Africa team share their vision for their region and how God has worked.

 

 

Watch a few highlights of our reflection time:

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