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Philippians 2:12–18

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Light, Good Deeds
Philippians 2:12–18 KJV 1900
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
Live the kind of life that will make others want to follow Jesus.
1. Paul’s instructions in v. 12–13 to “work out your salvation” should not be confused with working for salvation in order to earn it or keep it. On the contrary, Paul is encouraging his recipients to keep growing by “making salvation operational. Justification must be followed by the experiential aspects of sanctification, by which the new life in Christ is consciously appropriated and demonstrated” (Homer A. Kent Jr., “Philippians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981], 128).
The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Command to Work out Their Salvation (2:12)

The Command to Work Out Their Salvation

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Command to Work out Their Salvation (2:12)

Paul described salvation as a past event (Eph 2:8–9) and as a future consummation (Rom 13:11).

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Command to Work out Their Salvation (2:12)

Personal salvation brings with it responsibilities which Paul related to Christians’ obedience. The responsibility was to live in accord with their salvation, letting the implications of their relationship with Christ transform their social relationships. Paul really meant, in the first place, that they were to act like Christians.

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Command to Work out Their Salvation (2:12)

To live like Christians, the Philippians were to have an attitude of obedience.

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Command to Work out Their Salvation (2:12)

In addition to obedience, the Philippians were to be sober. The precise words are “fear and trembling.” These words reminded them of their relationship to God and that they were to conduct their lives with a seriousness and reverence due him.

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Reason for Working out Their Salvation (2:13)

In order to promote harmony and unity, he told the group to work out their salvation. That position has some difficulties, however, as well as some strengths.

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Reason for Working out Their Salvation (2:13)

Further, the group would have had difficulty changing without the individuals devoting themselves to the task of personal change as well.

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Reason for Working out Their Salvation (2:13)

Paul must have meant the individuals of the group were to live consistently with their salvation. If they did so, the group problems would be solved.

The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon The Reason for Working out Their Salvation (2:13)

The reason the Philippians were to work out their salvation was the soberness of realizing that God worked in them. The text emphasizes God. Using a play on words, Paul said they were to “work out” because God “works in.” God’s work in them provided both the motivation and the ability to do his good pleasure.

Paul warned of the dangers of murmurings and arguing. Paul knew that selfishness and vainglory led to complaints.

murmur

a half-suppressed or muttered complaint : grumbling
Deuteronomy 32:5 KJV 1900
They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: They are a perverse and crooked generation.
Deut. 35:5

The combination of the two seemingly different ideas of “work out your salvation” and “do everything without complaining” could have come from his realization of Moses’ disappointment with Israel, who failed at both these points.

The fact is, the Philippians had the possibility of being blameless among a crooked generation.

it was a concern which affected the moral life of the church and its witness to the world. Paul implied that if dissension stopped the church would be on its way to purity of life and action

Paul looked for the completion of the Philippians’ character. They were to become pure and blameless. The terms speak to the moral nature of their lives. They were to have complete Christian character, and they were to have no offense in relation to others.

Paul’s statement, “children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.” This statement explains the first so that “without fault” incorporates “blameless and pure.” They were children of God already; Paul hoped they would become blameless.

This consistent character is particularly striking when viewed against the backdrop of the world. Two metaphors describe the contrast between Christians and non-Christians. First, using the words of Deut 32:5, Paul described the world as distorted and depraved.

Thus Paul meant that the world was morally crooked, distorted by its failure to understand the word of God. The ministry of the church, then, was to provide a straight model for distorted lives.

The second metaphor comes from astronomy. The Philippians, with their unblemished moral character, shone like stars in the universe. Even with their imperfections, they were the light of the world to those in darkness. This mission was accomplished by their holding out the word of life.

By their lives, the Philippians were actually holding fast to the gospel. By so doing, their lives also became the measuring rod and illumination of the world around them.

He urged them to progress in their lives so that his efforts would be profitable. Looking to the day of Christ, the day of judgment, he wanted to have fruit from his labor. Using athletic imagery, he stated he wanted not “to have run … for nothing.”

The sacrificial terminology of these verses supplies another metaphor to explain. Three words recall the sacrificial system: “poured out” (spendomai), “sacrifice” (thysia), and “service” (leitourgia). “Poured out” refers to a drink offering that accompanied the sacrifices. “Sacrifice” was the actual offering, and “service” accompanied the offering. These last two appear to combine to speak of a sacrifice; the first, “poured out,” definitely referred to a procedure of pouring a drink offering either before or after the offering itself.

Rather than being discouraged about his circumstances, Paul had great joy.

In this section, the mind of Christ occurs in the thoughts of Paul. He urged the Philippians toward the goal of blamelessness. As for him, he was happy with his service to them and with them. If Christ’s act were one of sacrifice, Paul’s life was too. It was “poured out like a drink offering” along with those whom he loved so much.

Paul’s commands provide the tone and organization of the text. He urged the Philippians to stand true, to have the mind of Christ, and to work out their salvation in obedience. Above all, they were called to be like Christ.

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