Thursday, April 29, 2010

Y is for Yokefellow

Y is for Yokefellow

Philippians 4:3 reads, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true yokefellow, and help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

It seems that a couple of prominent women of the Philippian church had been of great help to Paul in the spread of the gospel. Yet it seems that a squabble of some sort of has risen between these two women. The squabble is so great the church at Philippi can’t seem to handle it or the two women and they mentioned this to the apostle Paul. Paul writes to the church at Philippi in order to encourage them to live out their lives as citizens of a heavenly city evidenced by their commitment to one another and their service to God.

Paul includes in this letter of encouragement a plea for these two women to get along. Paul also asks a very special friend of his in this church, whom he called a yokefellow to help these two women settle their difference and to get along.

The Greek word for yokefellow is συζυγος. In extra biblical Greek, that is the Greek usage outside of the bible, yokefellow means companion in any enterprise; a marriage partner, a comrade in arms, and even a business associate.

Philippians 4:3 is the only time this word is used in all of the New Testament. Paul uses it of a person living and serving in the Philippian church. He wants this yokefellow to solve this conflict between Euodia and Syntyche.

I make mention of this because we do not know who this very special comrade, associate, or fellow laborer of Paul was. Several possibilities have been suggested as to who this special person might be. Some of the more prominent and eminent names suggested are:

Epaphroditus – he is the pastor of the Philippian church who brought a love offering to Paul from the church to the prison Paul was being held in.

Luke, the physician – this very special man left his practice to travel with Paul and to help Paul in the various churches that were begun on Paul’s missionary journey. Paul left Luke in Philippi for at least 8 months to help this church get established.

Lydia – the very first convert in Asia Minor and in whose home the Philippian church met in.

Clement of Alexandria said that the very strong use of this endearing term could only mean that Paul was referring to his own wife. We know that since Paul was a member of the Pharisees he had to have been married and even possibly was required to have a son. Since there is no mention of Paul’s wife or children it is speculated that they had died or been killed prior to his Damascus road conversion. So, Clement of Alexandria, this seems a little beyond the pale for me. Not to mention that the adjective “true” which modifies yokefellow is a masculine adjective. This more than likely refers to a man. (Sorry Lydia!)

One last suggestion is that this was actually the man’s name, “Synzygus.” First, this name is nowhere found as a Greek name. Zygus has been found as a Greek name. If Paul is addressing a man named Zygus, he might be reminding this man of his name and its meaning and asking him to live up to his name and step up and help Paul as a fellow yokeman and help these women to “just all get along.”

The dispute does not appear to be doctrinal, if it were Paul would have addressed that very quickly and soundly himself. We don’t know who those the women were and what they were “fussing” about. It was serious however, so serious that Paul pleaded with both of them to resolve the issue (s) and to enlist this special person for assistance.

This special yokeman, this fellow-laborer of Paul must have done the trick. We don’t read anything else about this difficulty or these women again. I just find it interesting to speculate over who Paul’s true yokeman was. It will keep me up until eternity now.


Lloyd said...

I always find your posts so interesting Gregg. I had to sort of laugh a little because it reminded me of an incident that occurred in the church I attend. We had two women arguing over what color of toilet paper would go best in the restrooms. One lady actually walked out of the meeting because she thought that the toilet paper needed to be white in color and 4-ply. Anyways, it took about a month for these two lovely saints to reconcile their differences.

I would guess that Paul would have had similar problems dealing with the early churches. God bless, Lloyd


Sad to say, squabbles and disputes are still going strong in the church today. Some have even developed full time ministries as referees during and after church splits. Pride seems to always be at the root of these types of problems.


Your posts Gregg I have learned alot from this past month, this challenge if nothing else has made me see alot of thingsin a different perspective.


Linda said...

Fascinating. First, I didn't know Paul was married. Second, it is an uncomfortable reminder how a little squabble can affect, in this case, an entire congregation. Change those last words to "a family, a neighborhood, a workplace" - and I find myself guilty. In do not want to be the instigator - rather the encourager. Thanks for the reminder.

Lisa said...

I'm always impressed with how deeply you dig into the scriptures. Have you always done this or is it something that's happened in the past few years? I do appreciate it, because I've learned a lot from you!

As for Paul's marital status; what about this?

"Now I say to those who aren't married and to widows -- it's better to stay unmarried, just as I am."
1 Corinthians 7:8

Am I missing something?

Gregg said...

Lisa - first, I thank you that you have learned some things. My spiritual gift is teaching and when I yield that gift to the giver of that gift, He blesses the study, prayer, digging, and research that I do.

I have pastored for over 10 years full time and have taught for about 35 years.

Certainly the level and skill and use of tools is much greater today than it was say 10 or 20 years ago.

When I preach I put between 25-40 hours into the preparation of my sermon. I put some 10-20 hours in to my Sunday School lessons.

It is heavily speculated that one of the requirements to be a Pharisee was to be married. Some scholars take it a little further and think they have proof that you also had to have a son.

We are not certain on this and the research is on going. Since Paul does not mention a wife, it is possible that they would have been dead by his Damascus road conversion.

Now, Paul said it would be better if the Corinthians would stay in the "state" that they were currently in, widowed and single. Paul could be saying, be like me, I am single - yes if his wife was dead he was single, he could be saying be like me

We don't know for sure, but first, it is again speculation, and second it is not a hill I am going to die on. It matters not to me whether Paul had at one time been married or not. There is no issue in the text if he was or wasn't.

The words that Paul used can be used of single, widows, widowers it was not an all or nothing word.

The translation that one uses, the Greek text that was used to produce a translation and the manuscript families all go together to make a meaning. Greek is precise English is not so.

But again, this is speculation not doctrine. The text allows either way.

Lisa said...

That's a lot of time you put into your ministry. But you can always tell when someone has studied hard or not. I can tell my pastor puts LOTS of time into his teachings, too! Thanks for the explanation on Paul. I read somewhere recently where you or someone else was explaining that Greek is precise and English is not. So it makes better sense to me now. :)

Have a great evening!

Grammy said...

Hello, Gregg. I enjoyed reading your essay on the argument between the two women in the church. I know that churches have sometimes split over simple decisions that could not be reconciled and most usually it is between two women and their camp of followers. How sad it is to have such things occur.
P.s. My first visit to your blogsite. I am attempting to visit all those listed on Arlee's blog.

Shannon said...

It always amazes me what people will fight over in me that is religion not a relationship with Christ! Great post Gregg, as usual I learned something new!