Nick Napier

Peace, Purity, and Prosperity with Euodia and Synteche

​The solution to a lack of peace in the church is a simple fix. What is the solution? The solution is: not to forget that which is primary in the Kingdom of Christ. What is primary in the Kingdom of Christ is not my personal proclivities, but what Christ says in his Word. It is not traditions that have been handed to us without scriptural warrant; it is not things that are good in themselves, but are not necessary for fulfilling the mission that Christ has given to his church. We are to be pursuing Christ in all that we do.

​In loving obedience, do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of this church, promising to seek the peace, purity, and prosperity of this congregation as long as you are a member of it? So asks the final vow of our membership vows in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP).  Submitting and pursuing — those are the two things (both with “subheadings”: submit a) to government, b) to discipline; pursue a) peace, b) purity, c) prosperity) required in this vow. It seems a simple task and yet is often broken. The purpose of this article is to think on the pursuit of peace in the church. I was recently reminded of this vow when preaching through Philippians 4:1-3. There, we read Paul’s exhortation, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (NASB). 
​This exhortation to these two women serves as an important demonstration of brining peace to the church. Danger in the local body is not always doctrinal. That is a danger, of course, as we saw Paul deal with those who would come in and deceive the Philippians into false worship and self-righteousnessin Philippians 3:1-3. But here, we see the danger of disturbing the peace of the church often happens when people — usually unintentionally and ‘for the good of the church’ — begin to assert things which are merely preferential and not necessary as if they were essential. In other words, to make non-essential things to be of first order importance, or essential for Christian fellowship, is to disturb the peace of the church. There is an ever present danger to placing importance on matters which Christ has not placed importance.
​It would seem that these two women were in need of Paul’s earlier exhortation in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Peace is disturbed in the church when when we place our preferences (a form of idolatry) above the mission of Christ and make the church our own kingdom. We can see this in Philippians 4:1-3 by taking a look at the participants, the problem and the prescription for peace in the church.
The Participants
​What do we know about Euodia and Synteche? We don’t know much. We really don’t know anything more than their names, but we do know that in Paul’s estimation these women are not unbelievers, not “wolves” who are false teachers, and that they’re not ordinarily those who disturb the peace of the church.
​We know these women aren’t simply “fringe” people who have come to the church lately; they are known to Paul—friends of his in whom he has great confidence! Calls them those women who have shared my struggle and my fellow workers, whose names are in book of life. What’s he saying? That these are godly Christian women! These are women who have understood what “the main thing” is, and have labored alongside of Paul in order to see Christ exalted in the church at Philippi. He calls them his fellow workers! He says they shared hisstruggle in the cause of the gospel! 
​So Paul addresses them as Christian women who have been about the purity and prosperity of the church, who will respond to his exhortation (ie., submit to the discipline of the church) to stop seeking their own interests in order to seek the peace of the church That’s about all we know about these women, so what was the problem?
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Finding Fellowship

Christian fellowship is not merely jokes and friendly banter. Unity in Christ, lives centered on Him, and living as those who have a participation in the gospel and are partakers of grace are what are meant by being brought into fellowship. It is that which the outside world will not have. It is that which Christians have as we see the mission to which Christ has called us, and we set our affection on him and pursue his calling.

When we hear the word fellowship or Christian fellowship today, the image that comes to mind most frequently is a potluck supper after church when everyone is laughing and enjoying each other’s company. We envision spending time in small groups and hosting Christian church friends in our homes. Anything goes as long as Christians are having a good time talking to one another. But does the Bible mean that when it talks of Christian fellowship? Christian community goes beyond what one can experience in a neighborhood bar, Starbucks, or barbershop. It is more comparable to individuals who are conscripted from varied backgrounds, given a task, and then figure that out in their engagements as soldiers.
In the first few verses of his letter to the Philippians, Paul provides what is meant by Christian fellowship. To state the obvious, but for Paul, Christ is the centering and grounding element of Christian community. He lays it out for us in Philippians 1:5 and 1:7. He tells the Philippians in 1:4 that he prays joyfully for them, and he explains in 1:5 why: “for your fellowship (the word can alternatively be rendered as partnership or participation) in the gospel.” He informs them that “you all are partakers with me of grace” in 1:7. As we reflect on what Paul is saying, it becomes clear that fellowship is much more than just having coffee with a Christian friend to pray. While it might involve going out for coffee, the essence of it revolves around taking part in what God is doing in the world. We are included in it and have our unity around Christ and his mission.
I hesitate to use an illustration drawn from Lord of the Rings, but I believe it will help us better understand the concept of fellowship. 
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Do You Believe in God?

Prayer is the way that we demonstrate that we are not simply materialists who think that all our blessings come to us through material means, but know that every good and perfect gift comes to us from our Father. Prayer demonstrates that we believe God is the source of our lives and the sustainer of our lives—that we do not, “live by bread alone.” 

Do you believe in God? This post isn’t about evidence for the existence of God—not an apologetic seeking to convince unbelievers of God’s existence—they know. This blog is for you: average Sunday-going, Bible-believing Christian. Do you believe in God? This post isn’t about evidence for but demonstration of belief. 
“Of course I believe in God! I’m in church every time the doors are open, and serve wherever I’m asked”, might be your reply, Thank you for that. I hope the Lord blesses you in that service, but that’s not what I’m asking.
“I’ve read through the Bible multiple times,” and maybe you’re able to quote obscure tidbits from it, and you know it well. That will absolutely serve you and is good to know.
“I know our standards and have read through them and multiple systematic theologies.” Or, “I’m a moderator on a very popular Facebook group where our entire purpose is to discuss God and the things of God.” 
Great! But none of those answer my question. 
I’m not asking if you know lots of things about God. There are lots of blogs on the internet that talk about God. There are lots of apologetic ministries that will give you tools to argue the minutia of the transcendental argument, the teleological argument, or any number of arguments. There are lots of Facebook groups and pages that discuss any number of points of Biblical interpretation or theological points or argue politely or not so politely. Beyond that you can study theology and even memorize large chunks of the Bible. But again, none of those things answer my question. 
Now, out of all those things, which one shows you truly believe?How much do you need to know in order to show that you believe? Do you need to be able to cite and recite topics concerning God? Again, being able to do all of those things is great and can lead us into deeper knowledge of the Lord—and we definitely want that! But at the end of the day, what one thing puts rubber to the road and demonstrates that you believe in God? 
What is it that shows you recognize who he is and who you are and you are in desperate need of him, and that you believe that he alone is able to supply you with life and with spiritual growth and with mercy you need to get through each moment? What is it that demonstrates your belief in the Lord?
There is nothing else that demonstrates that we understand our dependence upon God for every part of life like prayer. Prayer is an admission of utter dependence and reliance upon God. If it any point we attempt to undertake our lives without recognition of our dependence upon God we are functional agnostics or even functionally atheists.
We are not first and foremost materialists who think that the answer for every problem is to search after it in a way that is visible. We don’t think that God wound up the world and now it’s up to me to discover and find ll that I need. No. He is actively and intimately involved in his creation. He has every holy resource available to me for the asking. It is not my striving that will meet all my needs, it is his blessing that will. 
How do I know him more? Attend to my Bible reading or theology study with prayer asking his blessing. How will I overcome in my battle against sin? Prayer. How will I see my needs supplied and met in a way that I am content and not greedy for more or dissatisfied with my lot? Prayer. How will my lot improve? Prayer. 
Prayer is the way that we demonstrate that we are not simply materialists who think that all our blessings come to us through material means, but know that every good and perfect gift comes to us from our Father. Prayer demonstrates that we believe God is the source of our lives and the sustainer of our lives—that we do not, “live by bread alone.” 
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