17 Sept 2022

“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel…” (Philippians 4:2 NIV)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8-9)

Euodia and Syntyche were prominent co-workers with Paul in the cause and contention for the gospel of Christ. They were outstanding Christian women – this indicates that women were also serving God and the gospel in a significant way with Paul and the rest of his co-workers (question the idea that Paul was a male chauvinist?).

However, in the above passage, there seems to be some disagreement between the two, a disagreement that must be rather severe for Paul to plead with them to agree in the Lord, that is, to be of the same mind in the Lord. Paul also had to entreat the believers to help them to be united in the Lord.

What we need to note is that unity and agreement in the Lord have a lot to do with the mind – specifically the mind in the Lord. Their understanding of the Lord and His teachings and ways should be the ground for their agreement and unity in outworking of their Christian life and ministry. In other words, their knowing is for living; otherwise knowing and understanding are of no significant value in the Lord.

Paul also, in the subsequent passage above, exhorted the brethren to think about such things (referring to all that is true, right, pure, lovely, etc, implying all that is excellent or praiseworthy in the eyes of God, and in the life of the Apostle Paul himself) but he did not stop at that – he went on to entreat them to put such things into practice in their lives. Once again, we note that thinking of, knowing all that is revealed as excellent in Christian living are for living – that is, living out these things in our lives.

One of the facts of spiritual reality is that practical Christian living is based on understanding and knowledge. The conviction that Christian doctrine (theology) matters for Christian living is one of the most important growth points of the Christian life. Both Scripture and the history of the church testify to this – the men and women who have made the most significant and practical influences on the church have been individuals who were students of Christian truth – students of the doctrines of the Bible.

If we were to study the teachings of the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, we see instructions on how to behave, on the motivations which lie behind our actions, on prayer, anxiety and many other practical issues.

The message is that the knowledge of God and the understanding of His character, attributes, and ways provide the basis for all practical Christian living. The Lord Jesus taught them to enable them to live in a truly Christian manner whatever the circumstances of their lives (implying that circumstances do not change who God is and what His values are). In fact, the Lord Jesus was communicating on what we now regard as the highest and grandest Christian doctrines.

If we consider John 14 – 16 in the Lord’s farewell discourse with His disciples before proceeding to the cross, we see Him concentrating on the subject of the TRINITY and on the thoughts of the glory of God.

What is noteworthy is that the great truths which we tend to isolate as a category of ‘doctrines’, are the very foundation of Jesus’ encouragement of His disciples prior to His ‘hour’ before the cross.

For many of us, our personal response to doctrine, thinking, understanding of theology is ‘keep it at a distance’. But we cannot obediently hear our Lord Jesus, for He teaches doctrine, and we cannot comprehend the revelation of God in the Scripture (for the Holy Spirit is our teacher and author) if we refrain from thinking, studying and understanding doctrines handed down by God and our Christian forefathers.

Apostle Paul himself was sustained under much pressure by the vital knowledge of God and the intricacies of the gospel – his life was characterised by the power which the truth released in his life and experience.

And Paul, in Romans 12:1-2, wrote this plea for Christians to use their minds – to let God mould and renew their minds from within so that they may live a life of devotion to Christ, in line with the will of the triune God! The doctrines of the gospel are meant to mould us and renew us so that our lives begin to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, our Lord. Hence we cannot afford not to study and know the doctrines given by God through the Scripture and though His servants in history of the church. More importantly, we cannot afford to live our lives apart from these doctrines and teachings. Think about them, understand them, and apply them in practical Christian living individually and in the community of God’s church.