Lessons from a Dinner Party: The Sacrificial Life

TEXT: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8

Introduction

In our first message, we joined Mary and Martha at a dinner party in Bethany. In that lesson, we learned the priority of worship and communion with Christ. Now we attend another dinner party in Bethany, this time at Simon the Leper’s home. The narrative includes the following characters: Jesus, Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Simon the Leper, and the disciples.

Join me as I preach the second in our two-part series today entitled: Lessons from a Dinner Party #2: The Sacrificial Life.

Context

Most commentators believe that there exists about a 2-month gap between the end of John 11 and the start of John 12. I mention this because in John 11 Lazarus is raised from the dead, and in John 12, he is still alive and reclining at dinner with the Lord Jesus.

The apostle John tells us that this passage is only six days before Christ’s arrest and subsequent death (John 12:1).

It is the sabbath and Jesus is invited to celebrate it with His friends in Bethany before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the next day.

It is precious to observe that Martha is here serving. She had not got bitter and twisted by the Lord’s former comments which we read earlier. I know many Christians who would have simply thrown in the towel, but Martha is back doing what she loves, and it appears that she had learned the lesson Christ had taught her. Furthermore, we see that she is serving in a different household now. Not only had she responded well to the Lord’s loving rebuke, her ministry had increased to serving, cooking, and helping in other people’s homes!

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Extravagant

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair (John 12:3).

“A woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table” (Matthew 26:7).

“A woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Matthew 14:3).

“Spikenard” or “pure nard” was a perfume derived from the very small and tender root of the Nard Plant found in India. The fact that it was pure meant it was genuine and unadulterated, which is what made it so costly.

Most commentators believe that this ointment was Mary’s dowry or inheritance. It was worth somewhere in the vicinity of a man’s annual wage.

It is important for us to note that the pure nard was housed in an alabaster flask (not mentioned in this account). This too, was of significant value. This long-necked bottle was made from a special variety of marble, a material which proved to be the best container for preserving expensive perfumes and oils. Once broken, it could not be re-sealed.

Mary had no intention of a partial sacrifice – it was everything!

Not only did Mary anoint the Lord Jesus with this precious substance, but she also broke the seal to this expensive container.

The Bible tells us that Mary poured the perfume over the head of Jesus (Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:7). Jesus explains that this anointing pointed to His death and the embalmment of His body. 

In just a few days, the Lord Himself would be broken like the alabaster flask and be poured out for the sins of His people. 

The Apostle John records for us a unique aspect to this account. We are told that Mary also “anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3).

Another important principle is seen in this act. Paul tells us that the “glory of a woman is her long hair” (1 Corinthians 11:15), and Mary laid her glory at the feet of Jesus.

Application:

True worship comes at a great cost. Too many Christians today are unwilling to present themselves as a living sacrifice.

Consider the sacrifice Christ made for us. Consider what it cost.

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Fragrant

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).

Mary’s gift filled the house with a beautiful aroma. Its fragrance permeated everything. Beginning with Jesus, transferred to Mary, and then to those who observed this scene of worship.

Does this not present a glorious analogy? When Christ is worshiped, the worshipers themselves carry away something of the fragrance of that moment. No house is so filled with pleasant aroma as the house where Jesus is given His rightful place.

The fragrance of Christ is conferred to all who worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Application:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

God was well-pleased with the sacrifice of His Son, it was a fragrant offering. God was well-pleased with Noah’s sacrifice, it was a “soothing aroma” (Genesis 8:20).

Is God well-pleased with your life of sacrifice? Does it spread the knowledge of Him everywhere?

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was an Irritant

In all three accounts (Matthew, Mark & John), we find that Mary’s sacrificial gift was an irritant. It upset people.

Matthew tells us that the disciples were indignant (Matthew 26:8); Mark tells us that some believed the ointment had been wasted and scolded Mary (Mark 14:4,5); John points out that Judas Iscariot was upset because an opportunity had been lost to sell the perfume for personal gain (John 12:4-6).

The lesson here is that sacrificial worship irritates and infuriates those who are disinterested in living the worshipful life. They will see sacrifice as a waste and justify their foolishness by appealing to other ways the gift could be used.

Illustration:

I remember years ago I was in discussion with a worldly Christian who asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I explained that God had called me to the ministry and that I was eager to serve Him. The older man was disappointed. He had just attended an event where I had sung. He said to me, “there is so much more to life, don’t waste your gift on the church, you could be famous.”

Worldly Christians despise sacrifice. They loathe the thought of laying our all at His feet. They see no value to surrender and have never experienced the deeper life in Christ.

At this juncture, it is important to remember that though our sacrifice be an irritant to many, Christ commends it!

“Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matthew 26:10).

The world may despise you; some believers may mock and ridicule you; Christ commends you because true worship and sacrifice is a beautiful thing.

This is never more clearly seen than in the sacrifice of Christ. It was an irritant to all who hated Him, but for us who believe, it is the most beautiful thing in all the world!

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Permanent

Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).

“And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

Mary’s act was immortalised. This was not Mary’s intention, nor had she set out to make a name for herself. However, this sacrificial act, which was conducted in humility, love, and worship, had everlasting consequences.

Is there not a clear application here? Do not our genuine acts of worship and sacrifice transcend time and space? Are they not the gold, silver, and precious stones that endure?

Application:

This morning we dealt with the importance of worship, and now we have considered the importance of sacrifice. On this 21st anniversary of Mt. Cathedral Community Baptist Church, it has been my intention to remind us of what matters most – worship and sacrifice. From these comes our service, but never apart from them.

May God help us to be ever found worshipping and offering ourselves as living sacrifices in His service. I close this special day with a poem by Charles Thomas Studd, the British cricketer and missionary to China.

Only One Life – By C.T. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfil,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Oh let my love with fervour burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 



Denominations, Distinctives, & “Babel Theology”

PREACHING TEXT: 1 Timothy 3:15 | READING TEXT: 1 Timothy 3:14-4:16

Let me introduce our subject today by presenting three real-life illustrations that took place this past week.

ILLUSTRATION #1

On Friday, I had occasion to meet with a lawyer in Melbourne for the purpose of updating our church constitution, something I have been promising to do for a couple of years. During this initial meeting, we discussed the “type” of church that we are, some of our distinctives, and even what the differences are between the major denominations. Throughout the conversation it became apparent that this man, like many Christians today, believed It would be so great if everyone could just get on. He expressed a desire to see (what I call) a “Babel Theology” established where all people could “build together”, and all differences set aside for the common good.

ILLUSTRATION #2

Yesterday, I read an article published on the Baptist Union of Victoria Website which was written by the Pastor of Koondrook-Barham Baptist Church.[1] My intention in reading this article is not to assassinate anybody’s character, not is it pass unnecessary or unscriptural judgement, but rather to give you an illustration for what we are going to consider today.

The Pastor writes:

On Christmas Eve 2019 the Koondrook-Barham Baptist Church joined with the local Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches to present Carols by Candlelight at Riverside Park, Barham.

Bernard Blumel, pastor of the Baptist Church welcomed everyone. Scripture readings and prayers were presented by the Anglican and Uniting Churches and a message of hope was delivered by Father Stan from the Catholic Church. At the end of the night the Lions Club conveyed their thanks to the Churches for the great community event and invited us to join them Christmas Eve 2020.

ILLUSTRATION #3

Since my Glorious Gospel Website[2] went live, I have been the subject of enormous hostility. Now I expect that from the world, but when so-called Christians stand in active defiance to the clear teaching of Scripture, my soul is sorely vexed. A man whose name I will not mention publicly, who is a retired pastor and chaplain, started messaging me privately during the week. He was initially cordial towards me, but after a few interactions, changed into a blaspheming, swearing, antagonistic detractor. He accused me of all manner of things in some of the most colourful language I have ever heard, all in the name of Christ. His “beef” with me was my biblical standpoint on cultural issues, and my unwillingness to embrace the “modern world” with it concepts and practices.

INTRODUCTION

Over the past 8 years of pastoring MCCBC, I have been given all manner of labels from other church groups in our community. I keep these in a folder in my filing cabinet. I have been called: The “fuddy duddy”, hyper-calvinist, extremist, fanatical, radical, Biblicist, misguided, heretical, exclusive, cult leader, and my favourite: old-fashioned-Bible-thumping-wingnut.

Over the years, I have been asked: Why won’t we “join” up with other churches? Why can’t we have a “united front”? Why can’t we be part of a combined church Carols event? Why don’t I get behind “Christian organisations”? Do I think that MCCBC is the only true church?

Some have told me that denominations and distinctives are the enemy because Christ called us to unity; doctrine divides, love unites. Pastors have said, only preach that which is encouraging so that people in the community would feel welcome, don’t preach about issues that divide, be culturally sensitive.

The way I see it, the pastor has three main jobs: (1) Define the Faith by means of evangelism and preaching; (2) Develop the Faith in God’s people by means of clear exegetical teaching and preaching and; (3) Defend the faith by warns of warning and exhorting the flock based upon sound biblical truths and principles.

As a pastor, I do not answer to you, but to the Lord. I am not primarily concerned with whether you like what I say or whether it makes you “feel” good. I am not worried about whether the community consider me to be a nutcase, or whether other churches would speak ill of me. If I were concerned about polls of popularity, I would not be a pastor. I am primarily concerned with the truth, and teaching you how to discern right from wrong, so that you might honour Christ with your life.

The greatest problem in the church today is a lack of discernment. This exists because the church (on the whole) has moved away from the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Scriptures. As you will see from our text, the church is not living up to its biblical identity as the pillar and buttress of the truth. In general terms, it is more like a cubby house made of cardboard which is blown about by every wind of doctrine. It moves with every cultural stir, the breeze of every new idea, and the movements it incurs, are not Holy Spirit sent, but are the devil’s breath.

Today there is a tendency to think of Christianity in the reduced terms of Christ’s death and resurrection. Whilst that is part of the gospel, it is decidedly much more than that. The true Christian life is a confession of truth and faith (1 Timothy 3:16), a proclamation of God’s Word, a seeking after the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

I love the church; I’ve given my life, gifts, energy, finance to the church. God has called me to pastor a local church, and it is the great joy of my life. It is because I love the church and the Word of God that I must speak out against all that seeks to stand opposed to either.

This morning I want to teach on a subject I’ve entitled: “Church Denominations & Distinctions and Babel Theology”.

CHURCH BEHAVIOUR MATTERS

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15

BehaveVerb. “to act or conduct oneself in accord with a defined standard.”

The purpose of Paul’s writing to Timothy was to give clear direction as to the type of behaviour that God demanded from His church.

The context speaks specifically of the meeting together as a local church but can also be applied in the broader sense of individual church member’s behaviour.

Clearly, Paul sees the church behaviour as an essential truth because he writes an entire letter about it.

What we do, how we do it, and why we do it, is so important to understand.

Practicalities:

  • How we worship?
  • Who leads and how?
  • What is included in our church activities and order of service?
  • How we dress is spoken of in the Scripture
  • Who is permitted to preach/teach and pray in the general service?

There is much room for creativity, personality, methodology, but there are also clear parameters in the Scripture when it comes to what we do, and how we do it.

Am I saying singing anything other than hymns is wrong? NO! But I am saying that obscuring the words with noise, entertainment, club-style “worship” is wrong. Singing songs which magnify the flesh, elevate the “worship leader”, or are full of theological errors is wrong.

Am I saying that wearing suits and long dresses to church is the only biblical model? NO! But I am saying that immodesty is always wrong, and appropriateness and giving honour to the Lord in what we wear is important.

Am I saying that short sermons are wrong? NO! But I am saying that little sermonettes from unchanged people who promote self esteem, self worth, driven by emotion, and without biblical truth are wrong.

Am I saying that women have no place in the church? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I am saying that Scripture tells us that a woman is NOT to preach or teach in the general assembly of the church.

We do not seek to be yoked to unnecessary legalistic bondage, but we do seek the approval of Christ in what we do and how we do it.

CHURCH IDENTITY MATTERS

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15

Householdnot a building, chapel or cathedral, but a people, a family – the place where God dwells.

God does not dwell in a building; He dwells in His people, and when those people congregate together, there is a manner in which worship should take place.

Church – A “called out people”, set apart, holy, sanctified.

A quick survey of “church” today demonstrates a complete identity crisis. Almost every book you read on the church today deals with the importance of being relevant, culturally applicable, and interesting (and entertaining) to society.

The Bible takes a backseat (if it is even there) because it is an old book which no longer has relevance to our changing spiritual climate; Old fashioned preaching is replaced with “feel-good sermonettes”; The prayer meeting is substituted for “little talks with Jesus”; Evangelism is nothing short of inviting people to a time of entertainment, jokes, and some catchy tunes, and; the pastor is a man (or women) who is more like a Rockstar in a tank top, ripped jeans, with blonde tips, who delivers a weak, watered-down message that is unable to save souls, and then drives off in his/her corvette. This is not church. This is nothing short of blasphemy!

CHURCH DOCTRINE MATTERS

 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15

The last part of verse 15 is an architectural illustration. Paul likens the church to a pillar and buttress which both signify reinforcement and strength within a structure.

Pillar: A post or column most commonly associated with a large structure. E.G. The marble pillars in the temple of Diana.

Buttress: Prop, foundation, support.

In this context, Paul explains that the church is the support mechanism that God has ordained to uphold His truth. It is not that the church is intrinsically the truth, or that whatever the church does is the truth, but that it has been established as a pillar and foundation to maintain God’s truth in the world.

Take out the pillar and the building collapses, and that is precisely what we are seeing!

Interestingly, the pillar in New Testament times was also a “noticeboard” which bore inscriptions and messages for the populace. Similarly, the church is supposed to bear the inscriptions of God and make known His message to the nations.

In other words, the church has two primary functions: uphold the truth and proclaim the truth.

The church is the pillar and support of the truth because it preaches it to the world, preserves it, and transmits it from generation to generation.”

Liberal “Christians” tell us that doctrine is divisive, and we need to focus on love and good works. They are right about the divisive nature of doctrine. However, they are wrong when they suggest that love and good works can truly exist without doctrine and truth.

Jesus made it clear that true love will submit to the commandments of God: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The Apostle of Love (John) wrote:
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).

READ 2 John – Take note of how many times the worth “truth” is used.

READ: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

We believe in the total governance, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Scripture, and this affects what we do, and how we do it.

The Word of God promises to profit the believer in four important ways:

  1. Furnishing us with the doctrine or teaching about God, His will, His Son, His work, etc.
  2. Reproving us from wrong behaviour, error, false teaching, heresy, and the subtle tricks of the evil one.
  3. Correcting us by bringing restoration to our path when we falter, stumble or go astray.
  4. Instructing us to live in a way that honours the Lord.

 

CLOSING APPLICATION:

As the world continues in its moral decline and the “church” chases closely behind, we must be concerned with ensuring that what we do is carefully weighed against the Scriptures. Our church behaviours, identity, and doctrines need to find their source in the Word of God.

It is also important to remember that as the chasm widens between Biblical Christianity and contemporary church, we will subject to increasing hostility. This should not come as a surprise because “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Lastly, MCCBC is not the “only good church left” by any means, but it is one of the few that actively seeks to submit itself to the TOTAL governance and sufficiency of the Scriptures.

Perhaps you are visiting with us, or reading these notes online, and are looking for a good church in your area. The most important aspect of any local church is its relationship to the Scriptures. If the Word of God is not central, then that church has shifted from its primary purpose as the pillar and buttress of the truth. It may have a great youth program, skilful musicians, and lots of money in the coffers, but it is not what God intended the church to be.

May God help us to be a faithful pillar and buttress of the truth in the midst of a world that is crumbling in moral decline all about us!



The Truth about Fellowship: Unity in Diversity

Reading: Philippians 4:1-9 | Preaching Text: Philippians 4:1-3

Introduction

We enter the final chapter of Philippians today, and it is filled with spiritual treasures.

True fellowship is exclusively available to those who are believers. It is made possible only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

When real fellowship is experienced it is a foretaste of heaven. Believers living in harmony, mutual edification, deep worship, loving exhortation, humble reconciliation, and spurring one another on to greater sanctification is more precious than anything this world affords.

A church that is unified in love and doctrine can set the world on fire. Similarly, a church that is marked by conflict and division will impact the world negatively and severely hinder attempts to reach people with the gospel.

Acts 2-5 traces the origin of the early church. In these chapters we find believers meeting together daily, devoting themselves to Scripture, fellowship, the Lord’s Table, and even selling houses and lands for the benefit of the entire Body of Christ. However, Acts 6 begins with a complaint from the Greek speaking Jews who felt they were being unfairly treated.

In this example we observe how quickly issues can arise, and how important it is that the church as a whole exercise their commitment to true fellowship, dealing with differences, offences and conflict.

It is an utter inconsistency for those who are “in the Lord” to be at variance with one another. Christ does not permit it; the apostles would not allow it; and we must not legitimise it either.

In this sermon we are introduced to the kind of fellowship that Paul expressed, an important instruction he gave to the Philippian church, and his plea for unity in the midst of a broken relationship.

Join me as I preach a message entitled: The Truth about Fellowship: Unity in Diversity.

Fellowship Expressed

“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Philippians 4:1

Consider the change that grace wrought in Paul’s life. In Acts 9:1 Saul was breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord! Now consider his attitude toward Christians!

When the grace of God enters the soul of man, that individual will never again be the same. The sinner becomes a saint. The haughty become humble. The persecutor becomes the peace-maker. The murderer becomes a minister. The hater becomes a healer. The fiendish becomes the friendly. This alone is a work of God in the soul of man. Such is unmistakably seen in the life of Paul the Apostle.

Take note of the endearing terms used in this first verse: “brothers, love, long for, joy, crown, beloved.”

I’ve organised this verse into five small compartments which should help us to appreciate how fellowship is expressed.

  1. Spiritual Connection
    1. “Brothers” (not males, but brethren).
    2. The church is not a club. It is the household of faith. A living organism.
    3. Our “connection” is not based upon personalities, hobbies, ethnicity. Our fellowship rests entirely upon Christ and the salvation He has brought to us.
  2. Tender Affection
    1. “Whom I love” – A derivative of “Agape” which speaks of divine love. Not based upon appearance, commonality, loveliness, but dependent on the Spirit of God who pours out heavenly love into our hearts.
    2. “And long for” – Literally “yearned for”. This is the only time this word (in this form) is used in the Bible. Paul earnestly desires to be reunited with these believers.
    3. “My beloved” – Same as “whom I love” but repeated to emphasise his deep affection.
    4. Paul uses this word for “beloved” 27 times throughout his writings to describe the church! How he loved, cherished, and tenderly cared for the church.
  3. Present Joy
    1. “My joy” – Paul’s fellow-believers were a great source of joy. Knowing the reality of their faith and commitment to the gospel provided present comfort and peace.
    2. In writing to Thessalonica:For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? (1 Thess.2:19)
    3. Again Paul writes:For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God” (1 Thess.3:9)
  4. Future Reward
    1. “Crown” – There are a number of different Greek words for crown. This particular word (“stephanos”) is the victor’s crown for winning the race. It stands in contrast to the “diadema” which is the king’s crown.
    2. The Philippians were Paul’s trophy. His future reward, and the fruit of his ministry.
  5. Exhortation
    1. “Stand firm thus in the Lord” – This is not a suggestion, it is an imperative – a command.
    2. Paul does not operate as some dictator who barks out orders, he lovingly issues a command with the authority of heaven.


True fellowship involves each of these components: a real connection through Christ; tender affection made possible through the Spirit; present joy through unified faith and service; evangelism and discipleship which produces eternal fruit; and loving exhortation and instruction which finds its source in divine truth.

Steadfastness Instructed

“Stand firm thus in the Lord.” Philippians 4:1

To “stand firm” is to “keep one’s footing, persevere, to be unmoved.”

It is precisely the same word used in Philippians 1:27 – “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

The Christian is NEVER to stand still in relation to growth and service, but ever to stand fast as to faith, hope, love and the gospel!

What should the believer stand firm in?

They were to moor their spiritual lives to the unchanging truths of the gospel. Though there were many “enemies of the cross” (3:18) who would seek their destruction, they were to remember their “citizenship in heaven”, their glorious future, and the reality of the resurrection (3:20-21).

Paul’s command was simple: DO NOT DEFECT; do not turn to the left or the right; stay the course; Run the race; Persevere in the fight of faith.

The Bible is replete with commands to remain steadfast, and there are many promises made to those who endure.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

2 Timothy 2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;

Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

Since a glorious future awaits the believer (3:20-21), let us press on and remain steadfast until He returns.

Unity in Diversity

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:2-3

Let me begin this third point with a shocking statement. Are you ready for this….?

The church is not inoculated from disagreements, disunity and dissent! All Christians are humans and like families, have tussles. Believers are still living in the flesh, and where people are involved, there will be problems.

James wrote:What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1).

One thing that we can all be assured of is that pride will always be at the centre of disunity.

King Solomon wrote:By insolence [pride] comes nothing but strife…” (Proverbs 13:10).

Even the blessed church of Philippi had problems with disunity.

Paul introduces us to two individuals in that local church: “Euodia (not Euodias) and Syntyche”.

All that we know of these individuals is found in these two verses.

Let’s get the facts straight first:

  1. Pronunciation: “You-o-dear” and “Sin-ti-chee” – It is a little humorous that at the centre of this conflict is “sin” and “o dear”!
  2. These were two women at variance with each other in the church at Philippi – Some believed that they were husband and wife, but the Scripture plainly says: “help these women”.
  3. The issue(s) that existed between these women was public enough for Paul to be made aware of it in a Roman prison, and the impact was serious enough for him to include it in this epistle.
  4. The word “entreat” is used twice indicating Paul’s STRONG desire for reconciliation to take place.
  5. Paul does not join sides in this issue, but simply pleads for their unity.
  6. Paul enlists the help of an unnamed individual to assist as a mediator between these women in the Philippian church (“true companion” v.3).
  7. Both of these women have worked alongside the apostle in gospel ministry in the past.
  8. Paul calls upon these women to “agree in the Lord” not necessarily agree in every sense!
  9. Both of these women are believers and named among others who are written in the Book of Life.


That gives us the facts. Now let me throw in some possibilities and implications:

  1. Euodia and Syntyche had some significance in the Philippian church and were likely deaconesses.
  2. The issues that exist were probably not doctrinal because Paul gives no specific instruction as he does on many other occasions. It is also hard to believe Paul would beg for unity when serious doctrinal issues exist. Although I cannot be sure, it is my contention that this was a “personality issue” which resulted in serious, ongoing conflict in the church.
  3. The issue between these women is probably not as big as the impact that their broken relationship has had on the church.


It is an
utter inconsistency for those who are “in the Lord” to be at variance. Although this occurs, it must not be sustained.

The desire for unity in the church is not only a Pauline notion.

Jesus prayed for unity in His church:

“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11)

Peter encouraged unity in the church:

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8)

Paul appealed for unity in the church:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor.1:10)

David knew the Value of Unity:

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Biblical Illustrations of Reconciliation or an Attitude of Forgiveness:

1. Jacob and Esau – Jacob had deceived his father into giving him the blessing which was rightfully Esaus. He also operated as an opportunist and convinced his brother to sell his birthright.

Esau had every reason to hate his brother and even exact vengeance on him in the form of death. However, instead of operating with this attitude, Genesis 33:4 says, “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”

2. Joseph and his brethrenThey sold him into slavery. He was left in a prison for years. When God allowed their paths to cross, Joseph did not exact revenge on them. Genesis 45:15 says, “And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them”.

3. Jesus at the crucifixion – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

4. Stephen at his death – “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

BEFORE WE CLOSE, I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO DEAL WITH SOME SPECIFICS THAT SHOULD HELP US HERE AT MCCBC.

Disagreements, conflicts, hurts and offences are part of life and as a church we have and will continue to experience them. To help us work through these matters, I have produced a few questions and comments for us to consider.

Question 1

Is there a brother or sister in the Lord from whom you are estranged? I’m not asking whose at fault! I am asking whether an issue exists.

Remember, it is NEVER ok for disunity to exists between brethren.

Question 2

Am I willing to initiate reconciliation despite where the fault lies and regardless of how I think the other party will respond?

In other words, will I humble myself and be obedient to the command of Christ to be unified with the brethren?

Question 3

Can I absorb this issue in love and relegate it to the category of trivial without it having any impact on the relationship?

This requires honesty and a searching of the heart. Lots of people say “I’ll just cover this issue in love, but never do!

Question 4

If I say nothing, will this issue have ongoing repercussions to our fellowship? Grudges, bitterness, critical spirit, etc.

Question 5

Is this a biblical issue or a personality conflict? E.G. a man with long hair vs. clothes that don’t match. E.G. foul language vs. jokes that aren’t funny.

Question 6

Is this issue an offence which needs confrontation according to Matthew 18? Is this sin in the life of a brother or sister as defined by the Scripture?

Question 7

Is this “feelings-based” or fact-based? E.G. “I feel like you don’t like me” etc.

Question 8

Is this issue petty? Does it really matter?

Question 9

Have I prayed and searched my own heart for pride and bitterness? What is my motivation for confronting this person? To help them see how wrong they are?

Question 10

Am I willing to forgive the faults, flaws and offences motivated by Christ’s forgiveness of me (Ephesians 4:32)?

Question 11

Am I willing to suffer injustice and false accusation for the greater cause of unity and the furtherance of the gospel?

Question 12

Post-Reconciliation: Can I worship the Lord alongside the brother or sister with whom I have been reconciled? In other words, have all offences, sins, differences of opinion etc. been absorbed in the love of God?

Dealing with Issues in Practical Terms:

I don’t want to be too prescriptive. Here is a general “cheat-sheet” for restoration and reconciliation and they are all based upon Scripture principles and precepts.

  • Recognise the fragmentation – something is wrong.
    • Maybe a snide comment, an angry glare, or something else.
  • Seek the wisdom of God in prayer and in the Scripture.
    • Do not spring into action, fall on your knees!
  • Consider your ways and determine the state of your soul (inner man).
    • Take inventory of your own spiritual life (check for logs and specks).
  • Begin to identify any relationship breakdowns – find the roots (not the tree).
    • Don’t let your “feelings” govern this aspect!
  • Humbly and lovingly approach the individual.
  • Be swift to hear and slow to anger.
  • Speak the truth in love.
  • Enlist the help of a godly, unbiased mediator.
  • Sincerely seek forgiveness and restoration.
  • Worship together.

Let us be always ready to reconcile. Always ready to work through issues in love and humility. Always concerned with the testimony of Christ in His church. Keeping short accounts with Christ and one another.



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