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Philippians Sermon Week 5.1 - The Mystery of Godliness

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theology has everyday implications and ramifications for how we live our life


Are you ok with mystery?
As human beings, we have almost an insatiable desire to know things, to understand things.
That’s why many of us have a problem with the idea of ‘faith’
but all this really means is that at some point, at some level, we have to put our trust in someone or something.
For the Christian, that trust is put in God
For the atheist, that trust is in the sciences of the world
When you pick up a glass of water in your hand
is it your hand that does it?
Is it your mind?
Of course it’s both.
They are inseparable.

Phil 2:12-13

Philippians 2:12–13 CSB
12 Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.
Last week we looked at how for any true change to happen, it has to come through the heart.
In the section just before this we have this beautiful Hymn of Christ which we unpacked last week.
In it was saw that Jesus is God, that he took on human flesh, and he lived a life of obedience to the father’s will and died on the cross in our place for our sins.
Jesus was then raised to life by the Father and seated in the highest place of authority and given the name above all other names as the Lord Jesus Christ.
One day every tongue will confess and every knee will bow to him, whether willingly or unwillingly.
Our text begins with “therefore”
In light of this glorious truth
Therefore live in this way.
This is always the case with Paul.
He first declares what is true about us in Christ
And then in light of that he calls us to live in light of that truth.
He said in Phil 1:27 “Life your life worthy of the gospel of Christ”
The whole letter to the Romans, a theological masterpiece, pivots on one phrase in Romans 12:1
Romans 12:1 CSB
1 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.
“because this is true”
“In light of this”
“based on this”
What is the exhortation?
He says “just as you have always obey, so now… “obey”
only he says it a new way.
He says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”
What does this mean?
In what sense does he mean salvation?
Why fear and trembling?
Let’s take this one word at a time.


What does Paul mean by ‘salvation’ here?
I thought we were saved through Faith — Ephesians 2:8-9
We need to understand something about the nature of salvation.
It is all at once something that has happened, is happening, and will happen.
The bible talks about it in all three ways.
Sometimes we get the concept of “justification” confused with “salvation”
Justification is being declared righteous in God’s sight — it is a one time event that happens the moment we believe.
Romans 5:1 ESV
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
we have been justified by the life of Christ.
Romans 5:9 CSB
9 How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Let’s look at Ephesians 2:8-9, another great text
Ephesians 2:8–9 CSB
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
We are ‘saved’ (same word) by grace through faith
We are ‘saved’ through faith, through our faith and by grace
both, this verse, says is a gift from God
explicitly not by works.
so we can be rest assured that Phil 2:12 does not mean our salvation in the sense that is is something we achieve through our own efforts, not even by the faith that we exercise, for even that is a gift, but it is all by grace.
Yet, salvation is a process, for look at the very next verse in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:10 CSB
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
Why are we saved by grace through faith?
because (for) we are God’s workmanship, his handiwork, his ‘doing’

“by which are you being saved”

1 Corinthians 15:1–2 CSB
1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Salvation begins when we believe in Jesus, is ‘worked out’ in our lives after we believe and is brought to completion at the day of Christ Jesus
This why Pauls says

“in the day of Christ”

Phil 2:16Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.”
All of it is revealed at the last day, when every tongue will confess and every knee will bow to the power and glory of Jesus Christ.
On that day, our salvation will reach completion.
It is in this ‘being saved’ that we are working out our salvation.
another way to say it is that we are to be living out what is already true within us.
If we have been ‘justified’ we will be saved — this is an unbreakable chain.
How do we know then if we have been justified?
we are working out our salvation.

Fear and Trembling

This is why it is to be done with ‘fear and trembling’
This means that we are to take our walk with God serisouly
It means that it matters how we live
It means that we are to live self-examining lives always asking is our life being more conformed to the image of Christ or not?
This is a serious matter, b/c if our lives are not changing over time, then we need to take heed.
We need to examine our hearts.
Chances are if you are doing this then it is a good sign.
Only christians worry about how they are doing.
It those who are not filled with the spirit of God that are not struggling in some sense.
b/c sin still lives with in us. This is the working out we are doing.
This is why we need other in our live to remind us, or to draw us back.
This is what the last verse in the letter of James says.
James 5:19–20 CSB
19 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
will ‘save’ theirs our word again.
Save his soul from death — that means the second death, when jesus returns.
The bible is amazingly consistent.

What does this actually mean “to work out your salvation”?

on the one hand it means living a life of obedience.
On the other hand it is living a life of faith or trust in what God has said to be true.
This is why it says in Phil 2:15 that we hold firm to the word of life, that is the scriptures in general and the gospel in particular.
It means that the scriptures teach us how to live
It means that in the gospel, Jesus more than covers all the places where we fail to live in obedience.
It means that the gospel declares that God sees us as though we lived the life Jesus did and Jesus lived the life we did, even the worst of us.
This is extremely practical
It shapes how we view the Bible, how it calls us to live and what we need to do when we fail.
It means a life of repentance.
It means that we live from a place of desiring to obey God’s call on our lives
both how we live and what he calls us to do.
So this is something WE DO!
But now we get to the amazing part and the mystery begins to emerge.

Phil 2:13

Philippians 2:13 CSB
13 For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.
Why the call to obedience? Why the call to work out your salvation?
How is this possible?
“For God” — the greek says
“for” = because, this is the reason, this is the basis of the previous statement
For God, he is the one at work (operating) in you.

What does this mean?

Personal Story: before I became a believer I wondered if it meant i would be a puppet
Well at some level this is a mystery
Are you ok with mystery?
The point is not to obsess over what this actually looks like but rather to live a life of faith, keeping in step with the spirit of God, walking by faith and not by sight.
The key, i think goes back to last week.
We argued that true change only happens through the heart, and it is from the heart that the affections come. And we said that
“what the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies”
We know that through regeneration we are actually given ‘new hearts’ that have new desires, that is new affections.
we need to be working out what God has already worked in us.
So then, our hearts are now enabled to love what they were made to love, namely God, and to desire what he desires.
this texts says that it is God is is working to what…?
To will — that is to desire, to long for, the affections, to wish for, to want, to cause you to want
To work — not only has he changed your heart, that has changed your will, your desires, your purpose, but it also changes what you do.
you ‘work’ in light of this, this is working out your salvation
Both are in the present tense thus suggesting again that this is an ongoing or lengthy process or to say it again
it is the working out of your salvation.

according to his good purpose (or pleasure)

Why? Why is he doing on this?
look at this, it’s amazing, according to, on behalf of
His good pleasure
in other words the purpose of his will
his gracious designs, his redemptive purpose
that many would be saved!
Your working out of your salvation will directly lead to others salvation b/c this is God’s will for you!


What does this mean?
Where do you need to let God take over in your life?
We can fall on either side of the ditch here:
We can only read v12 and think it is all up to us and we are working on our own power thinking we are doing God’s will when we are not.
In this case we need to be reminded that it is God that is working and it is his will that we are following — what follws then is a repentance to rest and let God work through you.
Or we can just read v 13 and just wait on God to work in us and sit around doing nothing.
That’s not the way it works either.
Remember God works through us, so that means we need to move, to do something, God initiates we respond.
This leads to a repentance of action or perhaps reaction to God’s working.
How do we do this?
we cling to the word of life and thus shine like stars in this crooked and perverted generation
The Word of Life — God’s Word
The Spirit of Life — God’s Spirit — this is his active agent, are we keeping in step with him or are we quenching the spirit?
The People of Life — God’s People — we need each other to do this
We need christ centered relationships
we need to be counseled, corrected, admonsihed, encouraged in our working out our salvation — it is by God’s design!
So i’ll ask again what I have asked time and time again.
Where is God’s word in your life? Is it the Word of Life for you?
If not, ask, God’s Spirit inspired the words of scripture and he will illuminate them in your heart and cause change.
Where then is God’s Spirit in your life?
Can you hear his voice? it is not the voice of condemnation, but invitation and conviction.
He invites you to the father, to the gospel, to repentance and to the mission of God
Where are God’s people in your life?
You can still be connected in this time.
We are first and foremost a spiritual community.
Join a Group, Join our Zoom, Join us wednesday nights.
There is no excuse if you are not connected (except for maybe families and kids)
This is God’s will for your, for his good pleasure.


Philippians 2:14–16 CSB
14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, 16 by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.
What does this look like?
grumbling and arguing no!
perverted and crooked genration — it’s twisted
clinging to the words of life!
together — Spirit!

Let’s Pray

God has regenerated your heart through the holy spirit

Romans 5:2 “access to grace”

But in Christ we have been given even more.
Look at the next verse Romans 5:2
Romans 5:2 CSB
2 We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
We now have access into this grace in which we stand.
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