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Two Bad Examples

Paul lays out clear steps for peacemaking: rejoice in the Lord, be gentle, pray with thanksgiving, and think about virtues.

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The story behind the sermon (from Mark Buchanan)

This sermon came near the end of a 10-week series on the letter to the Philippians, called I Can Do Everything: Paul, Jesus, and the Philippians. I took the approach that joy is not Philippians' ground theme but a sub-theme arising from the letter's larger concern: life in and through Christ. In other words, Philippians 2:1-11—the imitation of Christ rooted in the experience of Christ's love—is the letter's heart.

Philippians lends itself well to a thematic approach. I broke the letter into broad themes: affection, courage, imitation, et cetera. But that approach runs into two problems: the section at the end of Philippians 2, where Paul extols the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus; and the section at the start of Philippians 4, where Paul addresses the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche. I decided to deal with those two portions as interludes. The sermon on Timothy and Epaphroditus I called Two Good Examples, and looked at those two men as exemplars of "that which Paul commends" (actually, one of the other pastors preached this sermon). The section on Euodia and Syntyche I treated in the opposite way—two women behaving as counter-examples of "that which Paul commends."

The power of the sermon, I think, is the decision to treat Philippians 4:1-9 as a pericope, or exegetical unit. By tying the section about church conflict to Paul's exhortations to rejoice, be gentle, pray with thanksgiving, think about virtues, and the like, the exhortations connect to the life of the church in real time. When we hear all 9 verses as a unit, the exhortations, rather than free-floating as pious sentiments, become the actual and practical ...

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Mark Buchanan is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Paul sets the conflict between these two women in the contexts of heaven, the church, and the Lord.

II. Paul absolutizes the terms of peacemaking.

III. Paul lays out practical steps to resolve conflict.