Don't Worry
Tim Temple

Introduction

Our passage is Philippians, chapter 4, beginning with verse 1:

Philippians 4

1Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
2I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
3And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
4Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
14Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
15Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
17Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
18But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
20Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.
22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.
23The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

One of the basic factors in the world today is worry. Many people are worried about many things. Some are worried about the economy. Some are worried about nuclear power. Some are worried about the energy crisis. Some are worried about their grades in school. Some are worried about whether or not they will have a date next weekend. Some are worried about how long this sermon is going to be. Many people are worried about many things. It is a factor in all of our lives.

Evidently God knew that this would be the case, because He provides information in Scripture for the treatment and prevention of worry. The word “worry” comes from an old English word which means “to strangle.” That is a good description of worry, isn't it? When we are worried about something, whether it is really something serious or it is something that to others might seem kind of silly, when we worry about something we almost feel choked; we feel strangled and held down and held back.

The Bible often uses the term “be anxious” or “be careful” from a negative standpoint, as here in verse 6, to tell us not to worry. You will notice in verse 6:

Philippians 4

6Be careful for nothing…

Here is one of many places in the Scripture where we are told to not be anxious, to not be worried.

The phrase “be careful for nothing,” literally means “to be torn apart.” So that is another description of worry, not only to be strangled, but sometimes it includes the feeling of being torn apart– of being torn in all directions, of just not knowing which of several options to take. That is a good description of the situations some of us are facing in our own lives right now.

A careful analysis of the subject of worry will show that it almost always centers around one or more of three basic things: people, circumstances, or material things. If you think about it, you will realize that all of the things that we worry about have to do in one way or another with one of those three subjects–somebody that we are worried about, or some situation that we are worried about, or some material thing that we are about to lose or that we would like to have, or something like that. It is very significant that these are exactly the things that Paul has been dealing with in the first three chapters of this letter.

Review

In chapter 1, for example, as we look back over the letter as we come to the conclusion of it, Paul talked about victory over circumstances. Turn back there, please, and notice in verse 12 of chapter 1. This is an example of the kind of thing that he talks about. Not just this verse, but all through chapter 1, he talks about victory over circumstances; and it is typified in verse 12, when he says:

Philippians 1

12But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

You see, Paul was not concerned about his circumstances. He was in prison; he was not able to carry on his ministry. From the human standpoint, everything was falling apart around him; and he said, “I want you to understand that I have victory over circumstances, and I want you to have victory over the circumstances.”

In chapter 2, Paul talks about having victory over people. That is another of the basic problems involved in worry. If you will notice, as an example of what he has to say all through chapter 2, verses 4 and 5:

Philippians 2

4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

He then goes on and gives those famous verses about the mental attitude that Jesus Christ had in sacrificing Himself to come and die for us. Paul is saying there in chapter 2, “It is possible to come to the place that you do not need to be bothered by what other people do. You do not need to be worried about what other people do or do not do or what they say or do not say.”

Then in chapter 3 he has been talking about victory over material things. You remember, this is one of those places where Paul uses himself as an example; and he says, in verse 7 of chapter 3:

Philippians 3

7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

He had listed there a great number of achievements, a great number of material possessions, and a station in life that had meant much to him. He had come to realize that the only thing that mattered was the eternal perspective of knowing Jesus Christ. He said, “It is a loss, [in the sense of a business loss] to focus on this earthly life. The only way to really have the right perspective is to get victory over material things, to focus on eternal life, and to look at life from that eternal perspective.” So Paul, in this letter, has gotten victory over the three basic causes of worry and concern.

God's Remedy for Worry

As we come to chapter 4, we are going to find that Paul reiterates things in a summary form, here in this last chapter. In verses 1-5, we're going to find him talking about people and our relationship to people, how we should and can have victory over the problems caused by people. In verses 10-13, he is going to talk about circumstances. We're skipping over and we're touching on the specific verses that he deals with, but as we go through the chapter, we will see that the whole section deals with this. In verses 14-19, he talks about material things, what our attitude as believers should be about material things. This should be for us a very practical chapter, which has to do with the subject that touches so closely to where all of us live, the subject of worry.

If we were going to give a title to this chapter, we could think about it from the standpoint of “Christ, Our Strength.” When we first overviewed the book, we gave to each of these four chapters a title having to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. This fourth chapter we referred to as “Christ, Our Strength.”

Paul says, in verse 13:

Philippians 4

13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

“I can be abased, and I can abound. I can live happily with plenty, and I can live happily with nothing, through Christ who strengthens me.”

We could refer to this chapter as “Christ, Our Strength,” or from a little more practical standpoint the subject we have just been talking about, “God, Our Fourfold Remedy For Worry.” You will notice that we are referring to this particular lesson with the terms, “Don't Worry.”

It is perfectly legitimate for God to say to us and for us as Christians to accept and believe the statement, “Don't worry,” because that comes from God Himself.

We have divided the chapter into four parts. First, in verses 1-5, “God's Presence.” God's fourfold remedy for worry includes the fact that He is present with us. “The Lord is at hand,” Paul says in verse 5. In verses 6-9, are some of the most beautiful verses in the Scripture, some of the most well known–“God's Peace.” Because we have God's peace available to us as well as His presence, God can say, “Don't worry.” Then in verses 10-13, is “God's Power.” It is entirely possible for you and me to say with the Apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me, because of God's power.” Then in verses 14-23, there is a concluding statement there of “God's Provision.” This is a fourth reason why we as Christians do not need to worry and can legitimately say, “Don't worry about it,” because of God's provision.

We now want to look at the first two of these–God's presence and God's peace. If you will look once again at those first verses, we want to notice, God's presence. In verses 1-5, we read:

Philippians 4

1Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Evidently there were some problems there in Philippi that were underneath the surface. Paul doesn't address them specifically as he goes through the letter. In fact, these first verses in chapter 4 are as close as he comes to specifying the problem. Actually the problems are not specifically stated, but the advice about the problems is stated, and because Paul makes the statements that he does and gives the advice that he does in these verses, we can assume what the problems were. We can look at the statements that he makes and see that those statements are answers to some kinds of problems. In various places in the letter he has touched on these problems that lie just under the surface of his letter. Probably one of his purposes for writing to the Philippians was to give them some advice and some encouragement about these problems.

The Problem of Defeatism

So first, in verses 1-4, we want to notice these problems. The first problem in verse 1, we would judge from what he does say, is the problem of defeatism. He says:

Philippians 4

1…so stand fast in the Lord…

Evidently, on the basis of the wording in this verse, there must have been the temptation among the Philippians to not stand fast in the Lord, to give in a little bit here and there. Keep in mind as we look at this statement that it is not just an impersonal statement. Notice in verse 1, his terms of endearment:

Philippians 4

1Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown…

It is obvious that Paul felt very deeply about the Philippians. He loved them, and if he gave them these somewhat stern admonitions in these verses, he wasn't a harsh taskmaster who had no feelings for them. He wanted them to know that he loved them, and here are some beautiful terms. Aren't those nice things to say to somebody you love? So if Paul was not being harsh with them, he was concerned about them, and because he is concerned about them, he wants them to stand fast in the Lord. As we have pointed out before, this is a very personal letter, and this is the kind of address that Paul has made to them throughout the letter.

The real issue in verse 1 is to stand fast. Notice specifically, in verse 1, that they are to stand fast in the Lord. You see, the problem evidently was that there was some disunity about spiritual things, some disagreement about spiritual things; and maybe there was also a tendency to give in and to not stand fast in the area of spiritual things.

Notice also in verse 1, the word “so.” “So stand fast in the Lord.” If you are thinking about the construction of this verse in the English, you will realize that that refers to something that has gone before. That word “so” ties in with the last couple of verses in chapter 3. If you will look back at verses 20 and 21, he says:

Philippians 3

20For our conversation [our manner of life] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

As we were looking at those verses in an earlier lesson, we pointed out that Paul was saying, “Keep your eyes on the Lord's return, not just on tomorrow's business or next week's deadline or next month's goal, but on the Lord's return, which may be tonight or it may be next year. Let that be your guiding point.” It is with that in mind, then, that he says, in verse 1, “So therefore stand fast. Because we are looking at the Lord's return, stand fast. Because our motivation is not tomorrow's business or next week's business, but our motive is to stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and because of that, stand fast. Stand fast in the Lord.”

Some of the things that they may have been under pressure about can also be seen from chapter 3. It may be that he was telling them to stand fast so that they would not give in to pressures such as back in chapter 3, verse 18, the false teachers that he warned them about. We read in verses 18-19:

Philippians 3

18(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

Paul may have known that because there were false teachers and false philosophies around, and certainly that is true in our day as it was in theirs, there would be a tendency to give in to that. Everybody thinks that way. You're out of step if you don't think that way. They glory in that shameful thinking. So Paul says to them and to us, “Stand fast in the Lord. Don't be taken in by that kind of philosophy.”

It may be that he knew that they were ready to give in to the persecution that was so rampant in Philippi. In Acts, chapter 16, in Philippi Paul met some of his harshest persecution, and it was there that he was thrown into jail. It was there that at midnight as Paul and Silas were singing hymns and praising God that the jail came down around them in an earthquake, and the Philippian jailer was ready to commit suicide, and Paul said, “Do yourself no harm. We are all here.” The jailer was so impressed with their godliness and with their honesty and integrity that he said, “Sirs, what can I do to be saved?” Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” The story goes on and tells how that jailer went on to accept Christ and became a believer. But that is the kind of persecution that the Philippians faced, where they could actually be thrown into jail because of their testimony.

The Problem of Disunity

That may be what was in mind when Paul said, “Stand fast in the Lord.” But as you go back to chapter 4, it may be that a third reason he was telling them to stand fast was the next problem that they faced, the problem of disunity, as it is described in verses 2 and 3. As he says, “Stand fast,” in verse 1, he probably has in mind to stand fast against the disunity that was creeping up on them in that church. Notice he says:

Philippians 4

2I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

Euodias and Syntyche are women's names. I want to be clear to point that out. The Greek is very clear that these names are in the feminine gender. So evidently two of the sisters in there were upset with each other about something, and Paul had to beseech them to be of the same mind in the Lord. Notice specifically that he says in verse 2:

Philippians 4

2…that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

That points out that there was a problem, and God in His wisdom does not tell us what their problem was. I think if God had told us exactly what their problem was, we would studiously avoid that problem, and we would let fifty other problems go on around us in a local church and think nothing of them. Whatever it was, it had something to do with their spiritual relationship. He says, in verse 2:

Philippians 4

2I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

“That they approach spiritual things with the same attitude.” They were having a disagreement in the realm of spiritual things.

Because of differences of spiritual gifts, because of differences of background, because of differences of personality and emotional makeup and all those sorts of things, we can expect to have differences between Christians. We need to understand that. In fact, Paul goes into great detail to tell us, in I Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13, that there is a wide range of differences in the area of spiritual gifts and that we should be very careful not to demand that other Christians be just like we are, that other Christians do the same things that we do spiritually. God has designed His Church just like the human body. Various members have different functions, and the hand can't say to the eye, “Because I'm not the eye, I'm not of the body.” Paul uses that illustration.

So we need to keep in mind that when he says here to these women, in verse 2 of chapter 4, that they be of the same mind in the Lord, he does not mean that they have to do exactly the same things and have to have exactly the same actions about things, but it does indicate that it is possible; in fact, it is God's will for us all to have the same mental attitude and the same approach to spiritual things.

We may put into action our mental attitudes in various ways. A man who has the gift of evangelism is going to spend his time learning better ways to do evangelizing and practicing evangelism, while a man who has the gift of teaching may not do that much evangelism except as it comes out as he teaches the Word of God. He is going to devote his time to Bible study and to digging into the Word, perhaps learning better methods of publicly presenting it.

The person who has the gift of giving isn't going to do either of those things, because he is probably going to spend his time making wise investments and praying about where he should give that money. We could go on and on down the list of spiritual gifts. We are all going to be doing different things, but Paul is talking about having the same mind in the Lord, the same mental attitude. That is exactly what God wants us to do.

Helping Each Other Solve Differences

Paul evidently felt this was so important that, in verse 3, he seeks outside help. Notice he says in verse 3:

Philippians 4

3And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

That verse, taken out of its context, is not particularly thrilling. I don't think I have ever heard anybody quote Philippians, chapter 4, verse 3, as their life verse or anything like that. It is one that comes in a context of other verses. By itself it really doesn't even make much sense, but think carefully about what Paul is saying here. He is asking other believers to help these two who have a problem with each other. Isn't that a tremendous principle? Isn't that significant? God is interested in our helping each other. When we see others with a problem, we need to do whatever God may lead us to do to help them. We will have more to say in a moment about the method of going about that. But Paul says, “I beseech you, true yokefellow.”

Most Bible scholars believe that the term, “true yokefellow,” would probably be better translated as a proper name. The Greek word there is suzugos , and it means “true yokefellow,” but it possibly is a man's name. He probably is saying, “Now Suzugos, I want you to be a help to these women. I want you to work with them in solving this dispute. I entreat you also, Suzugos. Help those women who labored with me in the gospel.”

Notice also that some other important information is given here in this verse. In verse 3, he says:

Philippians 4

3…help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers…

It is very significant that Paul says, “They labored with me.” Why is that important? Well it is because it had been a number of years since Paul had been in Philippi. The last recorded visit we had, in fact, was when he founded the church, back in the book of Acts some years before. So what he is saying is, “These two women who have this disagreement in the area of the Lord's work are not novices; they are not newcomers; they have been at it a while. They were involved in the founding of this church.” Then he says also, “They labored with Clement.” Evidently Clement was somebody the Philippians would have known well as one of the early members of the church–perhaps as a spiritual, mature person. The name “Clement” would have had some significance to the Philippians in showing what godly women Euodias and Syntyche were, even though they were disagreeing.

Then he says, “other my fellowlabourers, who are in the Book of Life.” Paul includes that statement to show us that Euodias and Syntyche were definitely believers. They were included in that group whose names were in the Book of Life. Paul has a point in saying all of these things in verse 3. The point is very applicable to us in our generation. That is that it is entirely possible even for older, more experienced believers who have actively worked for the Lord with other believers in the past to get out of fellowship with the Lord and with each other. We should be on the alert for that. We should be very careful to not let that happen, and we should be very careful to not be too shocked when it does happen, because it is entirely possible. It happened to these two, and it could happen in any local church. So this was the problem of disunity, and Paul is beseeching them to get that straightened out.

The Problem of Depression

Another problem in verse 4, is evidently the problem of depression. Notice what he says in verse 4:

Philippians 4

4Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Here is one of those verses that is a little hard for us to take literally. Paul has said this kind of thing before, and evidently he is trying to touch on the problem of depression, maybe because of the disunity that we have been talking about. Paul knew that some of the Christians would be depressed; and so he says, “Even in the midst of this disunity, even in the midst of division such as this, don't be depressed. Rejoice in the Lord.”

Notice carefully what he says here. The word “rejoice” is a form of the Greek word chairo , which occurs at least eighteen times in this little four-chapter letter. This is one of the basic themes of this letter, as we have seen. Also it is important for us to notice that this word is in the present tense in the Greek, which has a little different meaning than it does in the English. When something is written in the present tense in the Greek, it could be translated, “keep on rejoicing.” And so Paul writes it in the present tense. Not only that, but he also says, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” or we could say, “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. In case you didn't understand me the first time, again I say rejoice.”

This might seem like empty advice. It might seem like one of those times when Paul is saying, “Just get happy,” if we didn't consider the source. Remember where Paul was when he wrote this? He was in prison; he was awaiting trial; the outcome of that trial could (and did) end in his execution. Yet he was saying, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Harold Berry, who has written a commentary on this book, said, “Paul may have had to drag a chain across the desk as he wrote these words. And yet he said, 'Rejoice and again I say rejoice'.” So this is a very significant thing for us to keep in mind. We are hearing this from a man who has a right to say it. Also we should point out, and we have seen this before as Paul talks about rejoicing, that he is not saying, “Keep a stiff upper lip.” He is not saying, “Do the best that you can. Just sit up; it will all be over sooner or later.” He is saying, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

You see, when circumstances and surroundings and people around us fail, we can always rejoice in the Lord. It sounds a little trite and a little old fashioned, but the words of the old song, “Count your blessings; name them one by one” is a good practice. When everything seems bleak and dismal, it is a good practice for us as Christians to just stop and think about what we have in the Lord, even if we have lost everything else, even if all around us, people are not what we thought they were. Even if circumstances are not what we thought they were, think about what we have in the Lord: our salvation, our hope for eternity, the strength and power of God within us right now and His presence throughout all eternity. We could just go on and on about all of the blessings that we have. That is what Paul says when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

The Promise of His Presence

Then in verse 5, we have the promise with which to meet various problems. He says:

Philippians 4

5Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

The promise itself is, “The Lord is at hand.” Now it is a wonderful promise to think about in terms of the problems that Paul has been talking about. This could refer to the soon coming of Christ as many Bible scholars and many commentaries say that that means, “Rejoice in the Lord because He will soon be with us.” But I believe what he has in mind is the fact that He is present with us right now. The Lord is at hand. He is here right now. We've got all these problems–disunity and all that–but the Lord is at hand, and we can rejoice in the Lord because He is right here with us in these problems.

Now whether it means the Lord is about to return or whether it means, as I think that the Lord is in our midst, either of those give reason, according to verse 5, to:

Philippians 4

5Let your moderation be known unto all men…

The word “moderation” has a lot of different shades of meaning in the Greek, but probably the closest to the original meaning of the Greek word is the English term “sweet reasonableness.” That fits the context also where he is talking with these women who are upset with each other. These women were at odds with each other, and Paul is encouraging both of them to be sweetly reasonable with each other. And the only way that is possible, if you have ever been close to two women who are having a disagreement, is because of God's presence. It would be ridiculous to tell two angry women who were disagreeing with each other to be sweetly reasonable with each other, if it weren't for the presence of God. But Paul says, “Let your sweet reasonableness be known because the Lord is present with us.” And it is possible to do it. It is possible to have peace even in the midst of the problems that we can have as Christians.

We are talking about the causes of worry. If you are thinking with me, you realize that one of the causes of worry is that people don't get along with each other. This is one of the things that we worry about. This is one of the things that brings problems. If we are not having any problems now with another person, sometimes we spend time worrying about what will happen to cause some problem to develop. “Oh, if I make this decision, then so and so is going to really be mad. If I don't make this other decision, so-and-so will be mad.” We spend a lot of time worrying about other people. Do you see we have the solution to that right here? “Let your moderation, your sweet reasonableness, be known.” The Lord is present with us. The Lord is at hand. What a wonderful promise.

Dealing With Disagreement

While we are on this subject, we need to think carefully about the fact that the Scripture tells us a specific formula for getting along with other believers. I ask you to turn to Matthew, chapter 18, for just a moment, because it fits in very importantly with this disagreement that these two believers were having with each other. We have seen the fact very clearly that these women were believers and that their disagreement evidently centered around spiritual things. In Matthew, chapter 18, the Lord Jesus was speaking and He dealt with the problem of disagreement among believers. He gives there a formula for dealing with disagreement with another believer. This formula involves three basic principles. Notice, beginning with verse 15:

Matthew 18

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

We will stop our reading there with verse 17, and let's think about the three principles that are involved here. First, notice in verse 15:

The first principle that we have here in verse 15 is the principle of personal involvement. It is my personal opinion that because of the ignorance and lack of practice of these principles that Jesus gave, we have a much worse testimony in the world today then we should have. Many of the problems that we have in churches today stem from the ignorance or the misuse of these principles.

First, “if your brother sins against you…” Do you know what that means? That verse does not say, “If a fellow-Christian sins against your next door neighbor or if you hear about how a fellow-Christian in another city has fallen into sin, if you hear through the grapevine about how Pastor So-and-So at a church down the street ran off with his secretary…” It says, “If your brother sins against you, you take some action.”

Right there you can begin to see how far short we fall of God's principles, can't you? We sometimes enjoy–may as well be honest about it–talking about sins that other people have committed that have absolutely nothing to do with us. It is not our business at all. And sometimes we even very graciously bring it up in prayer meeting: “Oh, we need to pray for Brother So-and-So.” “Oh, what happened to Brother So-and-So?” “Oh, I can't tell you what he did, but we need to pray.” “But I need more information so I can pray intelligently.” “Well then, let me tell you what he did.” And we get with it. If your brother sins against you, you can get involved.

It is true; there is a place for us as believers to get involved in the sins of somebody or the restoration of somebody who has not directly affected us, but that comes farther down in the passage. The sins that we voluntarily get involved in a discussion about are only those that personally involve us. “If your brother sins against you…”

The Principle of Particular Sin

It may be that later you will have reason to come into the picture, but the only sins that we have a right to get personally involved in voluntarily are those that directly affect us.

Then notice in verse 15 also:

Matthew 18

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault…

Here is the principle of particular sin. Now, what do we mean by that? Jesus said. “Tell him his fault.” He didn't say, “Go and tell him what a loser he is. Go and tell him what you think of him. Go and tell him what you think of his background and training.” He said, “Go and tell him his fault.” That means to name the sin. That means that if you just don't seem to like the way he puts his clothes together, you don't like his color combinations or the style of his clothes, or you don't like the kind of music he listens to, or some other thing like that, if you can't name a specific sin, then chances are you are on the wrong trail.

Incidentally, this should be a very good rule of thumb. If you can't name the specific sin, if you can't find some Scripture with which to name it, you had better be very careful about approaching that brother, because chances are what you have got is not a brother who has sinned against you, but a brother who simply has a different opinion about things than you do, a different set of likes and dislikes than you do. The principle of particular sin: Be sure it is a sin, and be sure you can approach him about it.

The Principle of Privacy

Then in Verse 15:

Matthew 18

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone…

I think this is the toughest part; it is the principle of privacy. “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” That does not mean to stop and tell four neighbors on the way to his house. That does not mean tell your husband or your wife about it at the dinner table. Now again, it may mean that you need counsel from someone. You may need to seek advice from your spouse or from your pastor or some Christian that you know to be mature, but that is not in the way of sharing the information; and when you seek such advice, you should be as general as you can in stating the need for advice, because, you see, you could tell the fault between thee and him alone. Again, this shows how far short we fall of God's standards.

Within the past month, I know of two situations that have come to me through the grapevine of people who had disagreements about something that I did or did not do, and they did not come and tell me my fault. Since I have the floor, I can go ahead and say that it was not a sin that they were upset with me about, so they couldn't have come and told me my fault in the first place, but they were unbiblical in that both of those individuals told a third party, and I heard it from about the fifth party. Now that is as unbiblical as it can be, isn't it? If you feel that I have sinned against you, you come to me about it.

Now, that is not why I chose to teach this lesson. It just happens to fit in. In fact, if I were just going to choose this to preach about, I would have brought this sermon about a month ago, when I first heard about these things. But I am just using myself as an example. The same thing has happened to you and probably to most of us. It is a real tendency to tell somebody else, and God says, “You go tell him, and you tell him privately. Don't let anybody else know about it.” Then he says:

Matthew 18

15…if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Jesus went on then to give some standards for bring other people into it. If you will notice in verse 16:

Matthew 18

16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Do you see where other people begin to come into the picture? After you have gone to the person personally, after you have specified his sin, preferably with some Scripture, to show that it is really sin, and after he has refused to do anything about it–again you see, our practice is not nearly what the principles of God are, many times–then you get other people involved.

When someone comes to you with a piece of information about a fellow-Christian, do you know what your reaction should be? Your first response should be, “Wait a minute. Have you approached that person about it? Don't tell me about it unless you have already been to them, and they have refused to hear you. Now, if you have been to them and they refused to hear you, maybe I will listen to you and maybe I will go with you to approach them again.”

You see, that is the only basis upon which we should be willing to hear information about the sin of another believer.

Conclusion

As we go back to Philippians, chapter 4, and as we conclude, I think that this is probably the reason, even though the Scripture doesn't say so, that Paul had to write to the Philippians as their Apostle, and say, “I beseech Euodias, and I beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” They hadn't followed the principles that were already on record by that time that were available to them, and a higher authority had to step in.

What a testimony we could have to the outside world, if we could have disagreements settled according to God's principles instead of according to the world's principles. That is why we don't have much of a testimony. They don't really see any difference in our lives. Again, how much less worry we would have if we would be willing to follow God's plan instead of our own.


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