“I call on Euodia and I call on Syntyche to be of one mind in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true friend, help them who have labored in the Gospel with me and Clement and the my other fellow workers whose names are in the Book of Life.”
We find inserted into Paul’s exhortation a kind of private admonishment. He says that he urges, he calls upon, or he pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to be of one mind in the Lord. We really know very little about these women nor do we know much about their dispute, which has led people to a great deal of speculation. We might infer, perhaps, that these women might have been amongst the women who were praying with Lydia when Paul first went to Philippi (Acts 16:13, but again, that is speculation as we cannot say for sure.
Some commentators have gone on to suggest that these women each represented a faction within the church (perhaps a Jewish one and a Greek one), but again, there is no evidence in the text of such a matter and the names attributed to each are singular. Further, given Paul’s emphasis on the principle that women were not to be teachers of the church (1 Corinthians 14:33-34; 1 Timothy 2:12), it seems hard to believe that Paul would not have addressed the matter of factions in more depth and rebuked their folly (as he does in the Corinthian letters). What is best to presume is that these two ladies ,who were known to Paul (they had been his fellow workers in Philippi), had a quarrel that had separated them from one another’s fellowship. And thus, Paul is calling on them to reconcile and upon the church to help them do so.
Like with of Euodia and Syntyche, we also know little of Clement. There is no evidence that this Clement is the same Clement as who would become a leader of the church of Rome in the late 1st century. Again, we simply do not know for sure. It is possible, but that is speculation.
What we do know about these people is that they are genuine Christians despite whatever disagreement these ladies had. Paul speaks of them as having their names written in the Book of Life. And where such is the case, reconciliation should always be the goal. How sad it is when we find professing believers in our midst that refuse to forgive and to reconcile with one another. Beloved, strive toward reconciliation with those believers from whom you have become separate, you will spend eternity together, you might as well start getting the relationship in proper order in the here and now.
“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”
Philippians is one of Paul’s later letters, written while in Prison in Rome (c.f. 4:22), and towards the end of his life. This places the letter as having been written in the early 60s, AD. The Church in Philippi had sent him a gift (4:16,18). It was not uncommon, in ancient times, that those in house prison were to pay for their own lodging essentially, forcing them to rely on the generosity of friends and family. Such is the context of this letter where Paul is responding back and saying, “thank you,” to these generous Christians.
Though this first verse is little more than an introductory greeting, it contains a great deal of depth and ought not be overlooked. To begin with, we find Timothy with Paul. This is earlier in his imprisonment as Paul is speaking of sending Timothy to the church in Philippi with his greetings and for their aide (2:9). Yet, this is taking place before Paul writes for Timothy to return (2 Timothy 4:9) which is closer to his death. Again, this helps us to discern the timeline of Paul’s letters.
More importantly is the title that Paul applies both to himself and to Timothy. He says that they are slaves or (as is sometimes translated) bondservants of Christ Jesus. The term that is used here is douvloß (doulos), which is one of the terms that Paul quite regularly uses to describe his service to Jesus Christ. This term refers not to a mere hired servant, but to a servant who is bound (as a slave would be) to his master. As Christians, we serve Christ Jesus and Christ alone. We given permission to have two masters (Luke 16:13) and we do not serve Christ for a season and then serve another (as hired servants might do). We are bound to serve Christ until the very day we die.
This is a mindset that the modern church has largely forgotten. People are quick to live lives and expend energies for the things that they want, but when they get tired, weary, or frustrated at the direction that things are going, they bail out and do something different. Such is not the calling of a Christian. No matter what the cost, not matter where he leads us, we must follow for we are not our own. We, if we will be faithful, must grasp this notion and serve Christ, not self.