Killing Quarrels in the Church
Text: Philippians 4:2-3
Whenever we were doing our series in the family, I said on a number of occasions that you should remember that marriage is the coming together of two sinners. Every time that is the case, and as a result, problems are not just possible, they are inevitable.
But it’s not just in marriage where we are faced with issues. Wherever there are people there will be problems. Spouses, siblings, colleagues, roommates, etc. Put people together and there will be issues.
Last week we were exhorted to ‘stand fast in the Lord’ which is such an important message. And there are few matters that cause people to throw in the towel like disputes between God’s people. It is no accident that prior to addressing the individuals who are causing disruption to the work of God, that Paul exhorts all to stand fast in the Lord. The Christian life calls us to suffer difficulty and unpleasantness at times, and there is no commendation for those who run away.
So as we address this text today, while I’m not aware of any direct issues like this here, I trust this message will throw water over any area that has the potential to go up in flames. That it will prepare those inclined to cause dispute, as well as prepare anyone who might observe dispute as well.
I. IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM v2
Whatever the issue was, it was problematic enough for Paul to address directly in his letter.
So what do we know about them? They are members in the church. They have been key labourers in the church. And while we cannot be dogmatic about it, I think we can say with reasonable confidence that Paul was addressing the problem caused by these women in chapter 2, and thus the issue here is one born out of pride.
We’re not told what the issue was, but we can safely assume that this was a matter that was born out of a conflict of opinion that was not in any way theological or doctrinal. Had it been a doctrinal issue, Paul would have address the issues by presenting the truth.
Very often the issues of disharmony that arise in good churches have nothing to do with theological teaching. It is a difference of opinion that causes strains in relationships. And while this issue was focussed on just two women, let us realize that the dynamics of this dispute can get very complex if these two women are mothers of large families in the church. So all the children may be taking sides, and their spouses are forced to take sides, and on it goes until you have large numbers of the local congregation not speaking to each other.
One of the greatest threats to standing fast in the Lord is having issues with other believers. We are so quick to defend ourselves, we end up standing not in the Lord, but in self. That’s where we naturally resort. The first thing we must do then is identify the problem. Paul refuses to be vague. He knows that disharmony is destabilizing and he won’t allow this threat on the church to go unaddressed. He loves the church too much. Those who ignore problems in the church do not love the church.
II. ISSUING THE PLEA – “I beseech…”
Each receives this exhortation directly. He is urging them to be of the same mind in the Lord. He has called for this already in Phil 2:2 and 2:5, and 3:15. You must begin to think as the Lord would have you both think.
“in the Lord” i.e. put the Lord first in this. You’re not going to be of the same mind if one of you demands your opinion be shared by the other. You must come together in humility to have the mind of the Lord.
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matt 5:23-24. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Rom 12:18; “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” Rom 14:19. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.” Eph 4:26-27. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Col 3:13
III. INSTRUCTING THE PEACEMAKER
Paul knows that this issue will not be resolved without third party help.
“yokefellow” – there is some dispute about this word. Some think it should be translated as a proper noun, showing that the greek word for yokefellow was the actual name of a person in the church. That may be the case, but it’s hard to be dogmatic one way or the other. It may just simply be how the apostle calls on the minister of the church to address the issue.
Whoever this person was, Paul wants them to help the women.
“help” – has the idea of seizing or taking. It’s a strong word, and Paul is calling this peacemaker to take hold of the women and the issue. Clearly in Paul’s mind you do not ignore disputes in the church. This is how some deal with them. They think it’s easier to pretend it isn’t there. But disputes are like an uncomfortable rubbing in your shoe. With every step it gets worse, and if you don’t address it, it’s going to get blistered and painful.
“which laboured with me in the gospel” – Paul gives reason why this matter cannot be ignored. These are important people in the kingdom of God.
“Clement” – we have no idea who this man was, but he also was involved in the work with these women, but he wasn’t the only one.
“my fellowlabourers” – there’s a whole family of labourers in the work of God.
“whose names are in the book of life” – Paul adds this to remove any argument that this should be addressed as if you’re dealing with unconverted people.
Close – without unity we rob ourselves of blessing. That’s the teaching of the psalm we sang together.