The apostle Paul is provocative. I’m working on Philippians 4:2-4 (Euodia and Syntyche not getting along) for this week’s sermon and have been struck by a couple of things.

First, Paul’s idea of “agreeing” (auto phronein “to have the same mind”). More clearly in other contexts – notably Romans 15:5 – this does not actually mean “coming to the same conclusion or conviction” in a given matter. Rather, he means regarding non-essential differences as such, and worshiping together and having fellowship despite them. In fact, it means giving way for the sake of the other!

Second, the link between “rejoicing in the Lord” and “agreeing in the Lord.” Phil. 4:2-3 is actually sandwiched between two commands to “rejoice in the Lord” in 3:1 (which is immediately followed by a long parenthesis, 3:2-4:1) and 4:4. This also takes place in 2 Cor. 13:11 (“Finally, brothers, rejoice … agree with one another”) and Philippians 2:2 (“complete my joy by being of the same mind”). 

Why? I think what’s going on is this: a conscious joy in the salvation that God has given through Christ (“names are in the book of life”, cf. Luke 10:20!) gives the perspective needed to tell essential from non-essential differences of doctrine and practice. Christ-centered joy dissolves controversies: “But I’m right!” is melted by “Yeah, so what? Is this so important that you can’t give your brothers their way?”

Perhaps this would help us find a way through disputes over church government, worship, alcohol consumption, etc. Maybe Scripture is “useful” (1 Timothy 3:16).

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