The solution to a lack of peace in the church is a simple fix. What is the solution? The solution is: not to forget that which is primary in the Kingdom of Christ. What is primary in the Kingdom of Christ is not my personal proclivities, but what Christ says in his Word. It is not traditions that have been handed to us without scriptural warrant; it is not things that are good in themselves, but are not necessary for fulfilling the mission that Christ has given to his church. We are to be pursuing Christ in all that we do.
In loving obedience, do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of this church, promising to seek the peace, purity, and prosperity of this congregation as long as you are a member of it? So asks the final vow of our membership vows in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP). Submitting and pursuing — those are the two things (both with “subheadings”: submit a) to government, b) to discipline; pursue a) peace, b) purity, c) prosperity) required in this vow. It seems a simple task and yet is often broken. The purpose of this article is to think on the pursuit of peace in the church. I was recently reminded of this vow when preaching through Philippians 4:1-3. There, we read Paul’s exhortation, “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” (NASB).
This exhortation to these two women serves as an important demonstration of brining peace to the church. Danger in the local body is not always doctrinal. That is a danger, of course, as we saw Paul deal with those who would come in and deceive the Philippians into false worship and self-righteousnessin Philippians 3:1-3. But here, we see the danger of disturbing the peace of the church often happens when people — usually unintentionally and ‘for the good of the church’ — begin to assert things which are merely preferential and not necessary as if they were essential. In other words, to make non-essential things to be of first order importance, or essential for Christian fellowship, is to disturb the peace of the church. There is an ever present danger to placing importance on matters which Christ has not placed importance.
It would seem that these two women were in need of Paul’s earlier exhortation in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Peace is disturbed in the church when when we place our preferences (a form of idolatry) above the mission of Christ and make the church our own kingdom. We can see this in Philippians 4:1-3 by taking a look at the participants, the problem and the prescription for peace in the church.
What do we know about Euodia and Synteche? We don’t know much. We really don’t know anything more than their names, but we do know that in Paul’s estimation these women are not unbelievers, not “wolves” who are false teachers, and that they’re not ordinarily those who disturb the peace of the church.
We know these women aren’t simply “fringe” people who have come to the church lately; they are known to Paul—friends of his in whom he has great confidence! Calls them those women who have shared my struggle and my fellow workers, whose names are in book of life. What’s he saying? That these are godly Christian women! These are women who have understood what “the main thing” is, and have labored alongside of Paul in order to see Christ exalted in the church at Philippi. He calls them his fellow workers! He says they shared hisstruggle in the cause of the gospel!
So Paul addresses them as Christian women who have been about the purity and prosperity of the church, who will respond to his exhortation (ie., submit to the discipline of the church) to stop seeking their own interests in order to seek the peace of the church That’s about all we know about these women, so what was the problem?