Let us turn to Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi (Phil 2:12) [P]. “Therefore, my beloved, ….” One of Derek Prince’s catchy sayings was: “If there is a “therefore” find out what it is there for!” And we begin with a “therefore”! There is a connection with what he has said before – we can’t just launch into this. Paul is following a logical inference from what he has just said. What has he just been talking about? [P] Being like minded, having the mind of Christ, following His pattern of meekness, humility, obedience, which resulted in His exaltation – back in [Philippians 1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel;] he wrote about expecting them to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. As Christ was perfectly obedient, therefore they should be subject just as He was, and carry out their own salvation. Paul lets the Philippians know that he expects them to obey what he has commanded and expounds the kind of activity that he has described as like-mindedness and walking in a worthy manner: the way Jesus did: who emptied Himself, humbled Himself; because He is now exalted supreme over all: [Philippians 2:12-18 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.] Paul sets up what he is about to say by placing it in a specific context: that of their track record of obedience. They are already doing well. He encourages them, they are already obeying, now keep on doing so. In fact their obedience was of best kind. You can obey because you have to, reluctantly; and you can obey because someone is keeping an eye on you – we have a dose of this at work, people trawl the internet, or sit and chat – but when the ones from upstairs come into the lab, ….. suddenly they are all busy! Alternatively, you can obey from the heart – then there will be no difference in your work whether your boss is there or not, your speed will be no different if a cop is there or not. Obeying while Paul was present might be expected [P], but the Philippians have gone above and beyond this. Paul was in prison but even in his absence they obey! Paul had received reports about how the Philippians, so he knew how they were behaving and is affirming their consistent obedience as the setting for his next big idea. They were saved through the Gospel, the Good News of the gift of righteousness and life through Jesus’ sacrifice. Now this salvation is real – it is not just theory. If it is real, it must have an effect, there must be a difference in the way we live: “in a manner worthy of the Gospel”. Here is Paul’s first big idea: this working out of their salvation was to be: with fear and trembling. It is not talking about matters of eternal security which is by faith alone; but instead, the focus is on the practical matters of how we ought to live out the Gospel in our daily lives, following the Lord and allowing Him to work through us. This is stressed in the very next verse, which answers why we should do this with fear and trembling: because God is the one working in us, not we ourselves [Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship,(what did He make us for?) created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.] Paul tells us to work out our salvation – but who does the work? [P] My sister has recently been very taken with some teaching on grace, of all that God freely gives and does. But she has met some believers in her fellowship who she regards as legalistic, telling her all these things that she should be doing. Well does God do it all? Or do we do it? Who is right? Neither, because both are right! Paul says work out your salvation, a command for us – but goes on to say God is at work in us! [P] Hallelujah! We work out what God works within. Isn’t that an amazing and truly awesome thing?! That God Himself, the Creator of the universe, who spoke it all into being, is at work in me?! That is why we are to work out with fear and trembling – because it is an awesome and Divine work. God at work! [P] Working energetically, effectually and productively, in Divine power! So do we sit back and just let God do the work? I have recently been reading in my quiet times the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. The disciples told Jesus to send the crowd of people away because it was getting late. [Mark 6:37-38 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” (Have you ever considered what a startling command that is?! How ridiculous?! How impossible?! But Jesus always calls us to do the impossible! To have the mind of Christ, to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel, to be as meek as Jesus! Impossible! But Jesus tells them to do it! And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?”) (The disciples point out to Jesus how ridiculously impossible this is) And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” (What does Jesus tell them to do? Look at what they do have! We say that it is impossible, I can’t be like Jesus, I’ll wait for a thunderbolt from heaven, a Divine miracle, the one talent person did nothing with what he had been given – but Jesus says, “Go look at what you have.”) And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” (Is that enough? It is just as impossible, it still needs a miracle – but God uses what we have, what we present to Him. John tells us that the loaves and fish belonged to a young boy [John 6:9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”] This young lad offered up what he had, gave up his own lunch, and with it God fed well in excess of 5,000 people, with heaps left over! But what if the boy had held on to his lunch? We look at the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and we focus, rightly, on the wonderful miracle of God, but no lunch, no miracle. Still, the disciples had to arrange the people on the grass into about 100 groups, each disciple was serving food out to 500-1000 people. Then they had to pick all the pieces afterwards. They were busy, they were involved; they had to do something. Do we give them any credit or glory for it? – No, the glory goes to God – He did the wondrous work! And that is how it is with us. We cannot do it – we need a miracle from God, it has to be a Divine act – and it is, but we must first give to Him what we have, utterly inadequate though it is. We work, we are involved, but the real work, the miracle is of God and He alone gets the glory! Praise His Name! Do you think the boy went home and said to his Mum what a fantastic lunch you made, it fed 5,000 people? No, he went home and told of the great thing that Jesus did. How can we boast of what we do? It is the LORD who is at work! That is why we work out with fear and trembling – it is an awesome thing to be part of a Divine work. Imagine that you are that young lad – your lunch has fed around 10,000 people! It is a fearful thing, an awesome thing! On the rare occasion I have been aware of being used by God there is that same reaction. I recall once earmarking a gift in the collection to a certain couple in the fellowship who I knew was struggling financially – they had no idea who it was from. I later overheard them talking to the pastor – they took this as confirmation from the LORD to go into full time service. I thought – what have I done?! Here he was packing in his job because I put a few dollars in the offering! It is an awesome thing to be part of a big thing that God is doing – far bigger things were afoot than my little gift! God used it to speak to His servants. We do the small part – the work is really done by God. Before I came back to the LORD there were things in my life that I had battled with since childhood, but had no power to conquer, I had tried again and again and failed. When I was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit there was an instant and miraculous change. I could not do it! It has to be God’s work. We cannot do it ourselves! [John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.] Apart from God working in us, we cannot accomplish anything of lasting value. We bear fruit, but it comes from God working within. So what we do should not be done out of arrogant confidence in our abilities, but in reverent humility. Humility is needed because it isn’t we who are at work. Instead, it is God working through us to accomplish His purposes. It is an awesome thing to be part of that. The exhortation to fear and trembling is another safeguard for us, the more self-confident we are in our conduct, the less dependent we will be on God, and the less likely we are to allow Him to work through us. Let us move on and follow Paul’s progression of thought [P] The command in (Phil 2:13) to work out our salvation emphasizes the manner in which it should be done: with fear and trembling. With fear and trembling indicates a nervous and trembling anxiety to do right. We are to work on to the finish, progress toward the goal. The next sentence explains why we should do it in this with fear and trembling. Because we are not really the ones working it out, it is God working in us. He is the one at work, not us. It is a Divine work! Look if I do something, I have something to be proud of – but if God does it, all I can do is to be filled with awe. A bit like Jacob at Bethel when he suddenly realised that he had met with GOD!: [Genesis 28:16-17 “Surely יהוה is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!] God is at work in us – but why is He working in me of all people? Paul tells us that God works in us not because of our righteousness or anything we have done. Instead, God works in us for His own pleasure. Thus there is no room for pride or arrogance; fear and trembling is the proper response. We have the awesome privilege of being objects in which God has chosen to do His work in order to bring glory to His Name! Why is He working in us? Because He wants to! God is sovereign! He does as He wills. You know? Sometimes we have the idea that God exists and acts for our good pleasure – to make life go well for us! Stand back and listen to our prayers sometime – if not telling God what to do to make things go well for ourselves, we are very altruistic: it is to make things go well for someone else! God does not exist to do us good! He does not exist for the benefit of man! What about His good pleasure?! Why is He doing this work in us? It’s not for our sake, even though we benefit immensely from His work. Taking such a view distorts both our view of God and of ourselves. Instead, He does this work for His good pleasure, not ours. Maintaining a proper view of God ensures that we keep a proper view of ourselves as well. When one gets distorted, the other is bound to be affected. Paul’s first big idea is: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”; his next big idea is in (Phil 2:14), another command: “to do all things without grumbling or complaining” [P]. This command is closely connected to the themes of: [Philippians 1:29-30 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.] Paul reveals to them that he is not the only one who is destined to suffer for Christ; the Philippians will suffer as well—in the same manner that he had. God never promised it would be easy, but He has promised to work through us to accomplish His purposes. Seeing suffering as ordained by God prevents us from wrongly assigning it to something else. Paul takes what could have been a bland statement and makes it comprehensive. Commanding us not to grumble or complain would have been sufficient. If it involved grumbling or complaining, we should not be doing it, right? Paul emphasizes everything, which is already implied by the command not to grumble. The command to do everything without grumbling or complaining raises the standard—the comprehensive nature of the command is explicit. If we have the same humble attitude as Christ, then we will not be railing against God for disrespecting our own rights. As we maintain a Christ-like attitude—considering others better than ourselves—we’re in a far better position to obey. Some things are easier to do without complaint than others. Paul is not selective here in his command. He does not allow us to pick and choose what we’ll do with a happy heart. When the suffering that Paul tells us to expect comes along, we shouldn’t play the victim decrying the lack of fairness. If God sets something before us, we’re expected to do it without talking back or drawing attention to the downsides. Why give such a command? There is no greater joy-robber than grumbling and complaining. “Grumbling” – murmuring, muttering in dissatisfaction – it is the same word used in the Greek version of the Old Testament for the murmuring of Israel in the wilderness against God. We know the story: יהוה delivered them from Egypt with the most amazing miracles, brought the most powerful and stubborn ruler in the world into submission, divided the Red Sea, fed close on 2,000,000 people every day, miraculously; supplied them with water, defeated their enemies, their clothes and shoes didn’t wear out – wonderful, supernatural provision! And what did they do, consistently? Grumble and complain! How much more Jesus has done for me, in giving life and righteousness, adoption to one who had no claim on Him at all! Yet my bike gets a puncture, and what do I do? Complain. I am an expert at it! The Israelites grumbling in the wilderness coincided with their stubborn rejection of God’s provision for them. The word: “complaining” – literally “dialoguing” – inward questioning, disputing, sceptical questioning or criticism – intellectual rebellion against God. Now we would never grumble would we?! Cynical, sceptical, rational questioning – it is a characteristic of our scientific age. Cynicism is so pervasive at work; I can find myself so easily caught up in it without even realizing. Now rejoicing is a strong theme in this letter – and you will find it very difficult to be rejoicing and complaining at the same time! If you are thankful, you cannot be grumbling. Rejoicing and working without grumble or complaint are inextricably related, both stem from the attitude of the heart. The more we choose to rejoice in the Lord and be thankful for His provision, the less we’ll struggle with a bad attitude. Look at the example of Paul himself in [Philippians 2:17-18 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. ] [P] – there is Paul facing suffering, even death – is he complaining, grumbling? No he is rejoicing and sharing his joy with them. They too, in their service will face suffering for Christ and he exhorts them to do exactly the same – to rejoice. Just as avoidance of grumbling and complaining is a natural consequence of thankfulness and rejoicing, we can shine for Christ by being blameless and innocent. Look, God is at work in us! [P] It has to be! There is no other way! To have the mind of Christ requires a miracle, for me not to grumble and complain – it has to be the work of God! And it doesn’t get any easier – it gets even more exacting!: [Philippians 2:15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,]. Look, we live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation – crooked twisted and distorted, there is nothing upright in it – I don’t need to give you examples to illustrate the point – go home and read the paper, listen to the news or turn on the TV. It is getting ever more so and at an accelerating rate. The trouble is that we live in the midst of it – we are in the world and, like it or not, it affects and influences us. We are in the world but we are not of it – we are to stand out as different. It has always been so – God’s people are a peculiar people, a treasure, different in quality to the rest. God has always been concerned to keep his people separate from those that are not His. There is the world corrupt, stained, defiled and guilty. The children of God are to be blameless, innocent, above reproach. Look, if you live in a swamp, you are going to get muddy – you live in the world, how do you remain pure?! It is impossible! It has to be supernatural, the work of God; the life of Christ in us, in the person of the Holy Spirit. How can we be holy, separated, set apart to God? – it is impossible, but the Spirit within us is holy. Peter says: [1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”] We are to be: blameless [P] – Unblemished, without defect like a lamb fit for sacrifice. Paul talks in (phil 2:17) about being poured out as a sacrifice – to be acceptable to God there can be no defect. This is God’s purpose in choosing us – a purpose that will not be thwarted. His intention that He will accomplish [Ephesians 1:4 He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.] and in [ Ephesians 5:27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.] Innocent [P] – unmixed, unadulterated, pure, sincere. The word was used of pure wine or unalloyed metal. Nothing foreign mixed in. God hates mixture. He would not allow different kinds of animals to interbreed, for different seeds to be sown in the same field – I hate to think what He would think of genetic engineering; clothes could not be a mixture of wool and linen. We are not to mix with the world around us, be corrupted by it. We are in the world but we are not to be mixed with it, become like it [Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.] Above reproach [P] – without spot, without blemish, without fault, morally blameless – no one can find a thing against you. Faultless! Wow! What a standard! This is patently impossible! I am covered in blemishes! [Romans 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!] It has to be God’s doing: [ Mark 10:27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” ] Hallelujah! It may seem that Paul has become very focused on them, introspective, and forgotten all about original theme, in chapter one, of spreading the Gospel; but that is not the case. Why should we rejoice in all things instead of grumbling and complaining? Why should we be blameless, innocent, beyond reproach? What should be our motivation for obeying? What is at stake? The answer might surprise you. In Paul’s mind, these calls to specific behaviour are about shining God’s light in a dark and dying world [P]. The world is crooked and perverted – but we are lights in the world [Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. ] The world is dark and getting darker – the darker the night the brighter the light appears. We are to be a light – a light that holds out a hope of salvation. There is a different way, there is a way out. You can picture it as a dark and stormy sea, people are shipwrecked, in the water – and then they see the light, the way out of the certain and imminent death. We hold out a life-line. First they have to see the light – be drawn by our witness. Once they have seen it we can cast out the line. We hold fast to it ourselves lest we be dragged into the morass ourselves. And with that line they are drawn to life, are saved! That life-line is the Word of life! The Gospel! Paul has not forgotten the Gospel. It is still at the forefront; that is the purpose of the blameless living. Not only will obedience draw us closer to God and help us experience His blessing, it also accomplishes God’s larger purpose. Our goal isn’t to put down the crooked and perverse generation with our self-righteousness. Instead, Paul says the goal is to advance the Gospel – equipping and challenging others to be more obedient to Christ is one way Paul effectively advances the Gospel while in prison. By multiplying himself in others, the Gospel is able to advance exponentially. (Phil 2:16) closes by raising (and essentially dismissing) the possibility that Paul’s ministry efforts have been in vain – he has not been deflected from the goal he has been running toward. His work will be effective, by being carried out even when he is no longer here. In (Phil 2:17) he likens his labour to being poured out as a drink offering—which is a positive thing, not a tragedy – his whole life on earth has been a sacrifice to God. When Paul says: “even” it connects with (Phil 2:16): his current situation, facing trial, might call into question whether his effort was really worth it. Just like his response in (Phil 1:18), he responds to this question with rejoicing. God is in control, God is at work! And he calls the Philippians to respond like him – with rejoicing. If God is working out His perfect will, how can we do other than rejoice? In doing this, Paul once again redefines what success looks like: [Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.] Success does not require his comfort or even his continued existence. Success does not require the Philippians’ comfort or freedom from pain or hardship. In Paul’s view, success comes by allowing God to accomplish His purposes through our lives. Paul sees that in the midst of hardship, this will come about—that’s why he rejoices. We are working out a salvation that is a Divine work, a good and perfect work that will carried to completion on “the day of Christ” – resulting in glory. [Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.] No the work is not in vain, so there is no place for grumbling but rather rejoice because God Himself is at work in us and will not fail to accomplish His purpose. Praise His Name!