Four Aspects of Unity from Philippians 4:1-3

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A pastor named Vance Havner once said, ““Snowflakes are frail, but if enough of them get together they can stop traffic.”

As individuals we are weak. But when we stand united in Christ together amazing things can happen.

Today we are going to study in Philippians 4:1-3.

And from this passage we are going to look at four aspects of unity.

I. Unity Means Loving One Another With Joy (1)
II. Unity Means Living With One Another in Harmony (2)
III. Unity Means Looking Out For One Another with the truth. Verse 3
IV. Unity Means Laboring With One Another For the Gospel

Philippians 4:1-3

Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

I. Unity Means Loving One Another With Joy (1)

The Ingredient of Unity – Love

In this passage we will see four different types of relationships and the keys to maintaining unity in each. The first one we see in this passage is in verse 1.

And we see Paul’s relationship with the Philippian church. Paul is their leader, their spiritual mentor. And notice the kind of relationship He has with them. He loves them. In the NASB he calls them “beloved” brethren. In the ESV, it says “my brothers, whom I love.” Paul loves the Philippians.

But not all leaders love the flock so deeply. Some pastors go home from church on Sunday night and complain about people in the church. Some serve out of duty. Others do it for money. Others once ministered out of love, but then lost that love.

Love is absolutely essential for unity in the church between the leaders and the congregation. Why? Because people are sinners.

Moses was a good leader, right? Jews revere Moses more than anyone else in their history. And yet the people complained. At one point they were so angry at Moses that they threatened to stone him.

David is probably the next most respected leader in the Old Testament. And yet the nation rebelled against him, and more than once.

And of course Jesus. Jesus came to save His people. He healed them. He taught them. And in return they killed Him.

If these leaders were not guided by love, they would have given up. They would have quit. They would have said, “It’s not worth it. I’m done.” And then gone home. But because they loved their people, they kept going.

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

A friend of ours is pastor of a church in the States. His congregation did not always act in the most loving way. One time one of the deacons was quite upset with him. He came to the leadership meeting with a gun. He held it in his lap the whole meeting. If the pastor was not motivated out of love for them, do you think he would have kept going?

A leader who does not deeply love the flock will not pray for them. He will not put in long hours preparing messages. He will not forgive. He will burn out. His church will not be unified. Division and rot will creep in.

Unity means loving one another.

Application: This application is especially for leaders. Are you a leader? If so, please raise your hand. Keep them up for a minute. There are probably a lot of you who are leaders who don’t realize it. So if you are a parent, please raise your hand. You are leaders too. Husbands, you should be leaders in the home, raise your hands. If you are a boss or a manager please raise your hand. Teachers. Bible study or life group teachers raise your hands too. Serving in ministry directing people under you (for example SS teachers, worship leaders, and ministry leaders.) Do you have younger siblings? You either have to accept being a leader or stop telling your younger siblings what to do! Ok, so we have two groups of people. And one application for each (you can put your hands down now.)

#1 For Leaders – Perhaps you have been leading, but without sincere love for them. Maybe you complain about your students. Maybe you get frustrated with your kids. Maybe there is no joy in it for you. I would like you to pray. Firstly, pray that God will fill your hearts with love for those you are leading. Pray that He will take away any wrong emotion or attitude which have had toward them. Secondly, pray for them. If you really love them, you will pray for them. Have you been praying regularly for those whom you serve? Maybe you have in the past, but you have gotten away from it. Commit yourself again to praying for them. As you do, God will also increase your love.

#2 For Followers – Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Help your leaders respond with joy by following and obeying. Pray for them. Do not carry a gun or a knife to a meeting with them. That should be the lowest possible standard, right? But you can do better than that. You can pray for them. You can encourage them. You can support them. How will you show love to a leader this week?

Unity means loving one another.

The fruit of unity

Longing

You often hear that love is not an emotion. And that is true. Love is an action. It is a decision. However, here Paul talks about an emotion that he feels toward them. It naturally follows from the love that has toward them. He longs to see them.

Here is a simple test to see if you have unity with other believers. Ask yourself if you long to see them. If you dread getting together and enduring a meeting or conversation with a certain person, then you do not have unity with that person. The dread or fear of meeting is a symptom of an underlying problem.

If you really have unity toward other believers, you will look forward to meeting them.

Application: Think for a moment. Is there another believer whom you dread to meet? I know its not a pleasant question, but who is the believer you would like to meet the least? Hopefully some of you cannot think of anyone and that is good. But if a person comes to mind, then there is likely a problem. You probably do not have unity with that person. Ask yourself right now what God would have you do to restore unity? And the answer is probably here:

Matthew 5:23-24 – So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

If we have unity we will want to visit each other. We will want to spend time together. We will want to invite one another to our homes.

Joy

Paul calls the Philippians his “joy and crown.” He doesn’t feel depressed and irritated when he thinks about them. Seeing them do well makes Paul joyful.

So here is another simple test to see if you have unity with other believers. Ask yourself if when you think about them you are joyful. If the answer is “yes,” then most likely you have unity. But if thinking about them makes you grumpy and upset, then it is a sign that there is a problem underneath the surface which you need to solve.

Unity means loving one another with joy.

II. Unity Means Living With One Another in Harmony (2)

Euodia – Syntyche

The second relationship we see in this passage is between Euodia and Syntyche. This is one of only a few cases where Paul singles out individual believers in his letters. It seems clear that he had heard some news (maybe from Epaphroditus) that Euodia and Syntyche were having some issues getting along.

For whatever reason friction or conflict had developed between them and they weren’t living in unity. Such kind of factions are so dangerous to a church’s well being, Paul considered it necessary to single them out to exhort them to resolve the issue before it grew any bigger.

What was their conflict? The Bible doesn’t say. It could have been an insult or a harsh word which hurt a friendship. It could have been perceived or real disrespect. It could have been a heated disagreement on a doctrine. It could have been an argument about the color of paint to use for the walls of the church’s meeting place or a difference of opinion about how to cook a dish of noodles.

The same kinds of things that cause disunity today, caused disunity then. We have all seen division and disunity in the church and it is an ugly thing.

It is all too common for believers to divide and hold grudges against each other. When this happens it is destructive. It is destructive to the church’s testimony. It is destructive to relationships. And it is destructive to each individual’s walk with the Lord.

Charles Spurgeon – Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly intercourse than we do. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

These verses give us important keys to unity. Firstly, the attitude is important. To keep unity, you must be humble, gentle, and patient. Isn’t it better to lose an argument than to lose a friend? Isn’t it better to listen than to push your own opinion. We are commanded to be quick to speak and slow to listen. Proverbs says, “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” Unity means humbling yourself. It means bearing with one another. There will be sins. There will be offenses. Forgive.

We it says in Philippians 3, forget what is behind and press on toward what is ahead. Do not take into account a wrong suffered. Don’t keep a list of how others have wronged you.

A wise person once said, “seek to understand, not debate.”

Secondly, we see that we have to be “eager to maintain unity.” Some translations say, “diligent.” It is hard work! It takes effort.

At our home in the US, we had a yard. It was about 1-2 acres. There were a lot of weeds. The grass grew quickly. Without maintenance, within weeks it would look overgrown. It would become an eyesore. Relationships can be the same. If you don’t diligently tend to small problems that come up (the little weeds), they will soon grow into big weeds and multiply. Satan wants to promote disunity. You must be vigilant and work hard to maintain unity.

Note also that according to this verse, believers already have unity! That is the starting point when you come to Christ. It is only when sin comes into the picture that that unity is broken.

The ESV here says that Paul urged them to “agree in the Lord.” The NASB says, “live in harmony in the Lord.”

That idea of living in harmony is a beautiful picture. But how is it possible. Take GICF for example. We have over 50 different nationalities. We come from different backgrounds. We were raised in different denominations. We have different cultures and languages. How can we ever live in harmony together?

The verse contains the answer. It says, “in the Lord.”

People have no hope to live in unity without the Lord. We have too many sins, too many differences, and too many different opinions. Yet with the Lord all things are possible and we can truly be one.

Take for example the worship video. Do you guys know how they do that? Firstly, its not live. Doing live singing on Zoom would not work. There would be lag. The voices would be out of sync. There would be no harmony. That is like us trying to have unity by our own strength. No matter how hard you might try it is impossible.

What they did is first one would record the music. The next person then listened to that and matched their voice and instrument to the music and recorded it again. And then the next person. The second and third and fourth people do not need to match each other at all. All they need to do is match the first person and then they will be in perfect harmony.

This is how we live in harmony with one another. Christ is our standard. Each believer needs to be tune to Christ. When we are in tune to Christ, we are in tune to one another. When we agree with Christ, we agree with each other.

We already saw this earlier in Philippians 2:5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” He was talking about humility, putting others first.

Application: Is there another believer you have had a quarrel with? One of you was offended or upset? Has it been solved? Has it been confessed? Has it been forgiven? God’s grace is enough to overcome. Ask Him for the love and compassion to forgive or the courage and humility to confess. Go to that person and deal with it.

That is the specific application. But the general application is to keep on growing closer to Christ. The closer you are to Him, the closer you will be to other believers who are also following Him.

Unity means living with one another in harmony.

III. Unity Means Looking Out For One Another with the truth. Verse 3

Companion – Euodia-Syntyche

Paul here introduces another person and another relationship to the unity equation. Paul calls on his “true companion” to help these women. There is some debate about the identity of this person. Some believe that the Greek word is actually a proper name “Syzogos.” Whether or not this is the case, this person was someone Paul called on to help these women get back to unity. Likely it was someone who knew both of them and perhaps also a leader in the church.

So far we have seen how to maintain unity between a leader and his followers and how to have unity together with other believers. But what should you do if you see two other believers who quarreling? What should you do when you see division?

Of course one possible response would be to close your eyes, cover your ears, turn the other way and say, “It’s not my business.” But this may not be what God is calling you to do. God maybe calling you to be part of the solution.

Like this true companion, perhaps you can help other believers to face their issues and resolve them.

Edmund Burke – It has been profoundly said, and how true it is, that the only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good people to remain silent.

We could adjust this quote a bit.

“Evil division will spread when faithful believers see it and remain silent.”

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

God wants us to be peacemakers. God calls us to help other believers get back to this unity when they go astray. You need to pay attention to your attitude. Paul is not suggesting that the church should have a spiritual police officer force. It doesn’t mean you should go around with your spiritual whistle and blow it in people’s faces all the time. That probably wouldn’t promote unity, would it?

No, we are to restore those who are quarreling with a spirit of gentleness. Don’t be cavalier. Don’t be in a hurry to correct others. Do not rashly jump in and take sides. That could make the problem worse. When you see division, first pray. Pray for the offending parties. Pray for yourself. Ask God for wisdom. Consider if He is calling you to approach one or both of the parties.

Here are a few ways you could potentially help to restore brothers and sisters to unity. You will need to pray and ask the Spirit to lead you as to which course may be appropriate.

The below could correspond to the Hong Kong typhoon wind alert advisory. The stronger the advisory the higher the risk and the more serious measures need to be taken.

  • Level 1 (Standby) – Pray. It is always appropriate pray for both sides.
  • Level 3 (Strong wind) – Approach one party (probably your closest friend or contact. Gently talk to them about what you have observed. Use Scripture to encourage them to resolve the issue.
  • Level 8 (Gale or storm) – Consider calling both parties together and mediating. Keep focused on the issues. As flare ups happen during the meeting settle things down with prayer and a refocus on Scripture.
  • Level 9 (Increasing gale or storm) – It could be that things are spiraling out of control. You feel ill equipped to mediate and the level of tension, hostility, and division is increasing. Call in the elders of the church. This follows the Matthew 18 principle. If approaching the individuals directly does not work, then you must go to the next step. The elders could then deal with it and take it to the whole church if necessary.
  • Level 10 (Hurricane force winds) – Titus 3:10-11 – As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. If you have prayed for a person, approached them, talked to them, taken it to the elders, and still a person will not listen but stirs up division again and again, what should you do? Have nothing more to do with them. You have done your job. Continuing to pursue it is not only a waste of time, but a potential danger to your own walk with Christ.

Unity Means Looking Out For One Another with the truth.

IV. Unity Means Laboring With One Another For the Gospel

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.

In the second part of this verse another relationship is introduced and another aspect of unity.

Clement/Euodia/Syntyche – Paul

These women and Clement, and other fellow workers are all laboring together side by side with Paul for the gospel.

Working toward a common goal can bring people together. Take for example NBA basketball players. Each of them has their own team. Some are bitter rivals. But every four years the best players join their national teams to play in the Olympics. Former rivals work together, cooperating to achieve a common goal. In the process they have to put aside any rivalries or conflicts and focus on the task at hand.

Or take soldiers for example. When they are in a battle against a common enemy, petty differences are put aside and they fight together side by side for their very lives.

Here we see Paul reminding the Philippians of this principle. Euodia and Syntyche are on the same team. They have the same goal. Being reminded of this can perhaps help them to stop fighting.

If were in church now, I would say look around. As it is, you can look at different parts of the screen. Take a moment and scroll through the video feeds of the different people joining us today. See all those smiling faces? You have the same goal. All of us should be laboring together to build God’s kingdom by spreading the gospel.

Having the same goal gives us unity. But we can also look at it from the other direction. When you work together, this too reinforces unity. Have you ever felt that way about work? When you join a work project and get your hands dirty side by side others it creates a comaraderie. It builds up a cooperative spirit.

The same is true when you labor side by side with others to build God’s kingdom. For example, last November we had the Bring a Friend Sunday. Hundreds of volunteers in GICF helped. Some trained and then shared the good news. Others prepared drama. The greeters handed out materials. The prayer team prayed. The life group leaders met newcomers after the service. And much more. If you were, how did you feel that day? Did you feel unified? I did! I probably saw and felt more unity and team spirit that day than any other in my life. Why? Because we were working together as a body for the same goal.

And you know when happens when we work together? We don’t have time to fight. You may have heard the saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” When you are not hard at work striving for a goal it is easy to get distracted. It is easy to focus on the wrong things. It is easy to become critical and judgmental. Division and quarreling is much more likely to plague a church that is not laboring for the gospel. And people who are on the sidelines not doing the work are much more likely to spend their time finding fault and causing disunity than those whose hands are busy working for the Lord.

Application: Get to work! Become a laborer in God’s kingdom. Even better, join a team and partner with others to help fulfill the Great Commission.

IV. Unity Means Laboring With One Another For the Gospel

Conclusion

Whose names are in the book of life. That is the last phrase of our passage today. Whose names are in the book of life. This phrase ties together all the points about unity we have discussed today. Euodia and Syntyche, Paul, Clement, and the Companion, all of them were saved. They were on the same team. They have the same Savior. They were washed clean by the same blood. And they were going to spend eternity together in heaven.

That is what unites us. The world today is full of conflict, division, hate, anger. But your name being in that book is far more important than all the differences. None of those things matter. Every believer has equal value in God’s sight. Jesus died for us all. Poor or rich, black or white, young or old, if you are saved, your name is written there. And that is what gives unity. Don’t let the world divide you.

Jesus knew the struggles we would face. He knew the divisions that would come that would try to tear us apart. And he prayed this great prayer.

Matthew 17:20-21 – “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Two thousand years ago, Jesus prayed that we could have unity.

Then He died on the cross for our sins so that we could be reconciled to Him. And in the process of reconciling us to Himself, He reconciled us to each other as well.

Ephesians 2:14 – For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

He died to bring us peace. Let us work hard to keep that peace.

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