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Standing for Truth or Causing Strife?

Updated: May 30

During my first year at the King’s University, I had to write a paper on Philippians. I was stunned to see how much I didn’t know about the book. There is so much applicable truth—in fact, it is Paul’s most powerful letter on the nature of Jesus—the king who became a servant for us. And apparently, there was a big division in the leadership at Phillipi. Let's see what Paul has to teach us through Phillippians.

So, what does the Bible say about unity?

Let me share with you a passage that doesn't get much fanfare. I think you're going to find its deeper meaning quite powerful.

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil. 4:2-3)

The entire book of Philippians was written because of what we can find in this verse. What do we learn from this passage? There were two women who were leaders in the Philippian congregation. Their names were Euodia and Syntyche. There was some disagreement between them that was causing division in the Philippian congregation.

In fact, if you read this verse and understand that Paul was addressing a specific schism, and then go back and read all of Philippians, you will have a better understanding of the entire reason the book was written.

1. He makes a very passionate plea for unity in 2:1-2

2. He defines humility in 2:3 as "value others above yourselves."

3. He tells them in 2:4 to not only look to their own interests but help others achieve their goals.

4. In 2:5-11, the heart of the book, he tells them to be like Jesus. In other words, "WWJD" means being willing to go to the cross and die for the sake of other people when you deserve the exact opposite.

5. He then uses both Timothy and Epaphroditus as examples of faithful servants—in other words, people they should emulate.

6. In chapter 3, he makes it clear that status and pedigree mean nothing. Only knowing Messiah has any value. In other words, "what is all of your bickering achieving?"

7. He shares how anything that gets in the way of fulfilling the call of God is a waste of time in 3:12-14.

All of these statements are leading up to his public rebuke of Euodia and Syntyche. Paul has great affection for these two. When addressing one's enemies in the Ancient Near East, it would be customary to leave them nameless.

That he names them at all is evidence of friendship since one of the marks of enmity in polemical letters is that enemies are left unnamed, thus denigrated by anonymity.[1]

But friendship should not be misconstrued as approval. Paul is clearly not happy with their behavior and is concerned that it could cause a deep division in the Philippian community. While there can be no doubt that Paul is a warrior for truth and sound doctrine, we must also acknowledge that he equally fights for unity in the body. In 1 Corinthians 1 and 3, he rebukes them for creating loyalty cliques (1 Cor. 1:11-12, 3:4).

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Cor. 1:10)

In 1 Corinthians 3, he gives a very stern warning to anyone who would cause division in the body.

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

Whether this is eternal destruction for the divider or a temporal punishment, scholars argue. But there can be no mistake. It is a very serious offense to cause division amongst brothers. Proverbs says that one of the six things God hates is "a person who stirs up conflict in the community."

This is why Paul is so concerned for the church (in Corinth): God is living in this community through his Spirit. It can be corrupted or harmed by strife, division, and boasting over human leaders.[2]

Yeshua Prayed for Unity

Yeshua, who was the essence of truth, who is called the word of God, prayed for unity. If you look at John 17, he seems quite concerned that his future followers walk in unity. This is the one chapter that we have in the entire new covenant, where Jesus is giving a full, deep prayer to the Father.

Three times he prays that we would be one even as he and the Father are one. It should be no surprise that he also speaks of the importance of truth. (John 17:17)

The idea that we would pit truth against unity is a dangerous one. Even a new believer could easily understand the importance of truth in the New Testament body. But as you grow and mature in your understanding of the New Testament, you cannot avoid the constant theme throughout the New Testament: a call to unity.

To treat unity as the ugly stepchild of the always-attractive truth is to miss the mark. When I studied how to interpret the Bible, we were taught the meaning of sin. In Greek, it means to miss the mark. My professor applied this term, sin, to Bible interpretation. We tend to think of sin in terms of morality. As a lover of the word of God, she saw sin as not rightly handling the word of God, thus missing the mark through sloppy exegesis.

Oh, that we would one day fulfill Yeshua's prayer of walking in unity and being one with the Father and with the Son.

[1] Fee, G. D. (1999). Philippians (Vol. 11, p. 167). Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2004). 1 Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 75). Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.

(Originally published as The Scandalous Story of Euodia and Syntyche)

1,153 views5 comments


I have heard a few needed sermons on Odious and Soon-Touchy. Unity is what the Lord's last prayer was about. But unity is not uniformity. Cults require uniformity. To expect doctrinal uniformity among all true believers is to live in a fool's paradise.


Hannah W
Hannah W
Mar 15, 2023

For the record: This is a 2-year-old KNI article (June 2021), reproduced verbatim - except for the intro and closing, which gave it a specific context.

That context was a confrontation "about 5 years ago... [w]hen the entire eldership of the Messianic body came together" to resolve a crisis of confidence between Tikkun (the org that Ron helps to lead) and other Israeli leaders.

That 2-year-old KNI article was itself a reprint from Ron's personal page in May 2021. The same points were also repeated by Ron in a YouTube video. And this theme was brought up elsewhere by Tikkun spokesmen.

In every case, details were vague. No names, no outline of the issues, other than "doctrinal concerns" that morphed…


To clarify I am very concerned about the ecumenical unity because people's beliefs are not the same. They are not all keeping the commands of God and to me that is not the same in mind or deed. It seems to be a forced manmade unity, not in the Spirit. Shema all who belong to the Lord. Shalom


Dear Ron,

The appeal to unity is, unfortunately, a tool in every cult and sect's toolbox. It was a word often heard on Jim Jones's lips right up till that fateful day they drank the Kool-Aid and over 900 people died in the jungles of Guyana in 1979. And it's unity in false doctrine that killed them.

Putting people on guilt trips and threatening them with destruction, as you do by misquoting scripture - the Paul/Apollos division had nothing to do with doctrine and everything to do with personality cults, as I'm sure you know; and nobody knows exactly what opposed Euodia to Syntyche) is also a common tactic used by cult leaders to keep their followers in submission.



I am wondering who you are speaking about and why you did not mention their names? Do you consider them enemies, as per your comments above? Isn't the Holy Spirit the best teacher of Scripture interpretation?

Unity - all true believers who have received the free gift of Messiah, are observing His commands spiritually, (since there is no temple or sacrifices) and are walking in obedience with the Lord will be in unity. One in deed and mind. There are not two sets of laws one for Messianic believers and one for non-Jewish believers. That would be division. Just to note the commandments were never about salvation, but for the way to love God and love your neighbor. All follower…

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Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this is my blog. I serve as the President of Shelanu TV.

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