“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
The Philippian church was one of the best churches in the New Testament, but it was not without its problems. It had an ongoing personality conflict. Two women were holding an ongoing feud. People began to support one or the other; the church began to polarize into two groups. As a result, the whole church was taking sides. The church found itself in a very vexatious situation.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed,”
The “therefore” connects these verses with verses 8-11. This word acts like a hinge that connects the Philippians to Christ. Christ gave Himself in humility, even the humility of a criminal’s death. The whole point of the illustration of Christ was to show the Philippians’ true humility. The “therefore” draws an inference from the example of Christ. They were to keep in view their motivation for their relationships with Christ. “My beloved” indicates that Paul was using sensitive language. This expression also reminded them of their love for the apostle. Paul was not angry; he was grieved. It broke his heart to think that a church he founded was about ready to split. They were not sharing Christ; they were not sending out missionaries. They were more concerned with who was right. Their only concern was to determine who was right, Euodia or Syntyche: “Which side are you on?” The church was reduced to taking potshots at one another.
“As you have always obeyed” means that in the past, they were obedient to Paul’s authority when he challenged them to change.
“not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,”
Paul could not go to Philippi; he was in jail. No doubt, Paul wished he could sit down with Euodia and Syntyche and work out their differences. He hoped that they would respond to his authority now that he was absent—that is, that they would obey God’s Word, the book of Philippians.
In tense relationships, God’s Word needs to be applied to one’s life independently of people.
Are you contributing to a schism in a local church? Is having your own way more important than the progress of the gospel? Are you willing to let the Word of God so grip you as not to allow your relationships to deteriorate?