Imagine having your name memorialized forever in the precious Word of God! What an honor, right? But what if your only claim to fame was that you were a troublemaker? Suddenly you might wish that the Lord had overlooked you. For the next several weeks, we are going to take a look at some of the bad women in the Bible. Knowing that all Scripture is given for our edification, we understand that these women were mentioned for our learning as well. While some of them are down right wicked, the ones we will look at today would fit in quite well at pretty much any one of our churches.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he felt it necessary to call two women out by name and rebuke them for the strife that had soured their effectiveness for Christ.
Philippians 4:2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
Nothing more is known about these women other than what is written in this verse, but it is supposed that Euodias and Syntyche were deaconesses in the church, and as such had a responsibility to teach other women. It is unlikely that their discord would have gained Paul’s attention if they did not have great influence in the church.
E Pluribus Unum
So what’s the big deal? We bicker in our churches all the time. Is it really so important that we deal with it? Let’s consider what God has to say in His Word.
The body of Christ is compared to the physical body: many different parts, each with a unique form and function, yet all working together to one purpose—to point the lost to Christ. Just as the body cannot function properly when one organ or part is broken or malfunctioning, even so the whole body of Christ hurts when one person hurts or fails to do his part.
So What Was Their Quarrel?
What was the nature of the strife? Was it a personality conflict between the two women? Or had the two of them strayed in their teaching from the doctrines upheld by the church leadership? That much is unclear, but Paul’s exhortation would have been appropriate in either case. Paul was very much concerned with the preservation of the purity of the gospel and Christ’s teachings as new churches were established and Christians began to grow and learn. But just as important as doctrine was unity. I would like to put Euodias and Syntyche in a typical present-day church situation to show you just how relevant this exhortation is to our lives today.
1. Personality Conflicts
“Syntyche is so unreasonable. The pastor asked us to decorate for the preacher’s fellowship, and she wants a blue theme, but I think purple would be so much more regal.”
“I can’t believe the choir director gave the solo to Euodias. It fits my range much better than hers. If he passes me over one more time, I just might quit the choir.”
It’s amazing how petty we can be when we put our own interests ahead of the interests of others. God created each one of us with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, with different tastes, different abilities, and different looks. He deliberately made us different from one another so that we could work together in His service—I dare say so that we would have to work together in His service. After all, God’s plan to spread the gospel is to work through the church corporately, not through a bunch of independent agents. But to work together effectively, we have to get along. We are not to pick quarrels with one another, but rather embrace each other’s differences, knowing that God made that person just the way he is for a reason, and God loves him as is. And if God loves him as is, then I ought to do the same, for God also loves me as I am.
Galatians 5:14-15 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.
Yuck! That’s a pretty gruesome picture, isn’t it. This is why Jesus said all the law hangs on two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:37-40). If you take those two concepts to heart—love God and love your neighbor—and you really, truly make them your practice, then you will not need any other set of rules by which to live.
Why is love so important in the context of the church? Because others are watching, and this is how they will know that we are followers of Christ. God’s love is what separates His children from the children of the devil. Just look at what Jesus said:
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.
But what if the division was not between Euodias and Syntyche? What if, instead, their faith had soured? What if the two of them had gone off together on a tangent that departed from the truth as presented in Scripture?
2. Departing from the Truth
“Euodias, I just heard the greatest preacher on the radio. He didn’t talk like our preacher, with this ‘salvation by grace through faith’ business. He said that the more good we do, the better chance we have of getting into heaven. I ordered the CD because I want you to listen to it. I really think our ladies’ Sunday school class should hear this man. His preaching was absolutely liberating!”
“Syntyche, that sounds wonderful! I want to know more. It’s so hard to rely on faith all the time. You can’t see faith. Can’t measure it. But you can measure the things you do. Makes me glad I’m already so involved in the church. I should stand a really good chance of hearing that, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ when I get to heaven. You too. You practically run the church!”
“Oh, Euodie, how you do go on.”
“You’re always the humble one. Well, let me know when the CD comes, and I’ll be right over.”
Let me say right here and now that not all radio preachers are false teachers, but many are. How can you tell the difference? By knowing your Bible.
Jesus Himself told us to study the Scriptures.
John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.
The Bereans were praised because they studied the Scriptures and did not merely accept the teaching of the apostles at face value.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
When you open the Word of God, first ask God to open your heart to receive the truth that is in it.
Psalm 119:18 Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.
Shortly before the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus comforted His disciples with news of the coming of the Holy Spirit. At that time the Holy Spirit had only visited people on special occasions, but did not indwell them permanently. But starting at the day of Pentecost, as promised by Jesus, the Holy Spirit came to permanently dwell within each and every believer. And from that moment on, everyone who accepted Christ as their Savior received the Holy Spirit immediately upon coming into the family of God. The Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, as He is sometimes called, is just as much God as are the Father and Son, and His purpose is to guide us and teach us the truth.
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 16:13 Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.
If you have studied the Word of God and you still do not quite understand, ask God to give you wisdom.
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him.
Again, why is this so important? Because if we allow false doctrine to come into the church, then many will be deceived and will believe a lie. In my story above, Syntyche said of the false teacher, “His preaching was absolutely liberating!” She thought she was being shown a better way because she was being shown a way that put her in control of her destiny. But what she did not consider was that puts her in the place of God. And that, my friends, is a dangerous place!
2 Peter 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits, and doctrines of demons; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.
So what should Syntyche have done when she heard this radio preacher? Naturally, she should have searched the Scriptures to find out if what he was teaching was the truth. And if she still felt confused about it, she should have consulted with her pastor or her husband, if she was married to a believer. But she most certainly should not have spread the false teaching, and thereby subverting the authority of the pastor of the church. Granted, no one who had already accepted Christ as Savior can ever lose their salvation, they can only lose their effectiveness for Christ. But they can be a stumbling block to keep others from coming to know the Lord. If Euodias and Syntyche were responsible for people placing their faith in their works to save them, anyone who died having such works-based faith would perish, and their blood would be on the hands of these two women. All church leaders have a tremendous responsibility before God to present the truth of the gospel. Indeed, all believers have that responsibility. The Great Commission, the command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, was given to everyone who believes, not just to those who minister full-time in the church.
So let’s come away from our study of these two women with two great desires: to seek the truth and proclaim it, and to seek unity among our fellow believers. We have everything we need in God and His Holy Word.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.
1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
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Next week: Sapphira
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