A surprising passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (surprising for us) addresses a situation involving two Christian sisters, Euodia and Syntyche, in chapter 4:2-3. We don’t know the details of their relationship, but it appears that there was some sort of “friction” between these sisters that had the potential to disrupt their Christian fellowship. Verse 3 makes it clear that they had labored together with Paul, Clement, and others, in spreading the gospel. Even though they had worked together in the kingdom, “something” arose between them that threatened to derail their relationship. Paul took two steps toward resolving this issue; first, he begged (“I implore,” NKJ) these sisters themselves to be likeminded (united in their outlook or opinion). Second, he urged another member – or perhaps all who would consider themselves “true yokefellows” of Paul – to help these ladies in being reconciled. One of the lessons we learn here is that even Christians will sometimes struggle to get along with each other, and we may experience conflicts even among ourselves. All of us can make the mistake of allowing personal opinions, ambitions, or desires to interfere with our efforts to be of “one” mind, even though we are supposed to be “likeminded.” When this happens, our responsibility is to focus on loyalty and faithfulness to God and His word instead of our opinions or preferences!
Philippians 4: 4-7 and 8-9 relate to the “mindset” (attitude) Christians should cultivate and nurture within ourselves. As God’s children, we should be happy, open (about our reason for joy), and untroubled by worries about worldly things (vs. 4, cf. Matthew 6:32). This is why we can live joy- filled lives! Paul emphasizes that this kind of outlook on life will result in Christians being able to have a peaceful, serene, and protected attitude (vv. 6-7). In verses 8-9 he gives a very specific “prescription” as to “how” Christians ought to think – along with an exhortation for us to deliberately fill our minds with the qualities he has described here. Paul uses himself as an example of the kind of dedication these Christians needed.
Paul writes in verse 11 of having “learned” (come to understand) how to be content regardless of his own physical circumstances, something many Christians struggle to accomplish. His words mirror the image presented in Psalm 131:2, and they highlight the point that we have to “learn” contentment instead of expecting God to send it to us. The reason for Paul’s ability to be content surfaces in the familiar words of God’s generous provision (vs. 13),
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
We should also note that the Philippian church evidently supported Paul financially in the course of his travels and work (vv. 15-20). It may be that Philippi was one of the churches Paul said he had “robbed” (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:8) to avoid hindering the growth of the Corinthian congregation. Note that even in this, however, he stresses that it is God Who is ultimately able to equip them and provide whatever they might need (vs. 19).
One additional noteworthy point comes in verse 22, when Paul mentions “saints in Caesar’s household.” What a fascinating and challenging thought, to realize that the gospel of Christ had even penetrated among the servants of Caesar himself (and possibly even his family)!