Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is filled with thanksgiving, rejoicing and praise. It is a letter from the heart of a loving and caring pastor. We see in this epistle one commendation after another until we come to the first nine verses of chapter 4. Here, as Guy King states it, we find the “fly in the ointment.” The text before us reveals a conflict in the church and a loving pastor’s admonition to those involved.
The Apostle Paul reveals his love for fellow Christians. Notice the natural progression from pastoral love, to pastoral concern, to pastoral instruction, and then to pastoral exhortation.
I. Love overcomes conflict (
The word “therefore” plays a critical role to our understanding of the text as it points the reader back to the verses immediately preceding verse 1. It has been said that anytime you see the word “therefore” you ask what it is “there for.” The use of the word in verse 1 connects us to
A. Paul’s Present Love (
These words express Paul’s heartfelt love for the Philippian Christians at the present moment.
B. Paul’s Future Love (
These words express Paul’s future love for the Philippian Christians. It is his way of saying that he would love them forever. The expression “joy and … crown” refer to the heavenly realm.
It is important to note that verse 1 begins and ends with the word “beloved.” There is no doubt about Paul’s love for the Philippian Christians.
II. Caring concern overcomes conflict (
A. The Problem in the Church (
There was a breach in the relationship of two Christian women who were leaders and servants in the church. We are not told what the problem was, but it was significant enough to warrant an admonition from Paul. Often church conflict arises out of individual opinion rather than biblical doctrine. All church leaders should take great care regarding foolish things that cause conflict.
B. The People Involved in the Problem (
Can you imagine how these two ladies must have felt when they heard their names mentioned in Paul’s letter to their church? Paul lovingly and courageously put his finger on the problem.
III. Faithful instruction overcomes conflict (vv. 3-7).
These verses contain no less than four suggestions on how to respond to the conflict that threatened the unity and fellowship of the church.
C.T. Studd, a great missionary from another era, grew up in England and became known as a great cricket player (a British game). Studd once told someone that when he played cricket, he did not play fair. When questioned about his claim, he explained, “Because when I play, I pray.” Yes, in all things we should pray and give thanksgiving.
IV. Encouragement overcomes conflict (
A. Think on the right things (
Notice the list of things Paul gives that should occupy the mind of a Christian.
B. Do the right things (
Knowing what to do is not enough. We must do what we know.
In verse 7, Paul mentioned the peace of God. In verse 9, he mentioned the God of peace. When we are at peace with God we will know the peace of God.