Philippians 2:12-18 A Reason to Rejoice

Philippians 2:12-18      A Reason to Rejoice                         WC McCarter


READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

The Work of Salvation (12-13)
The point that is driving last week’s passage and our passage today is the one stated in Phil 1:27, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Verse eight, which we saw last week, is a key verse for this passage (Silva, 117).  The idea of humility points back to the preceding section, and the idea of obedience leads to the following passage.  The word, “Therefore,” then, compels us to take the Christ hymn as our example.  We are to take Christ’s humility and obedience as our example for how to live.  Also, the commands of this passage are to be obeyed on the basis of Christ’s lordship which was just referenced and described at the end of the hymn.

The text does not say:
          1) Work to acquire your salvation
          2) You may have your salvation, but now keeping it depends on you
3) You have no responsibility in your salvation because it is only God who works

There are various interpretations:
          1) Paul is concerned with the well-being of the community (J.H. Michael)
          2) Because God works we work (John Murray)
          3) Connection between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility (Carson)
4) Present out-working of their eschatological salvation within the community (Fee)

I’ll take a stab at it:
I have always viewed this phrase to mean that we need to work out what our salvation means.  It is something that we need to do in our minds and then practice it in our everyday lives.  I think that I am still “working it out.”  No matter how mature we get, we must still continue to work it out in our minds and in our lives (SEE Jn 6:27-29; Matt 11:29; Phil 3:13-14).  It’s of the mind—it is our attitude that reflects in our obedience (remember, “let this mind”).

We have an incentive to push on – God is working in us. So, press on with fear and trembling.  If we are going to work out our salvation—grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, continually search Him out as our utmost treasure—it should be done with fear and trembling, which points us back to vv9-11.  This is not a casual thing; it’s an awesome thing.  God has given us salvation, we can only have a sense of holy awe and wonder (SEE Rom 13:11-14).

Blamelessness (14-16)
Faith in Christ is ultimately demonstrated in obedience to Christ—not in the sense of following a list of rules but willingly coming totally under His lordship because you trust Him—being completely devoted to Him.  So, the question is, how are they going to corporately respond to the salvation God has given them?  In other words, what are some practical ways of working this out?  He gives us four (two in 14-16 and two in 17-18):

[1] Do “all things” without complaining/murmuring or disputing/arguing (self-denying contentment).  Paul must have grumbling Israel in mind as they came out of Egypt: (1) Backed against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in pursuit the people said [Exod 14:11-12], “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?  Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?  Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’?  For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”  (2) When the people were thirsty and there was only a bitter spring they said [Exod 15:24], “And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’”  (3) When the people grew hungry, instead of trusting the Lord to provide, we are told [Exod 16:2-3], “Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!  For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  (4) And the list goes on: they complained about water another time and Moses struck the rock to bring forth water; they complained about the bread from heaven so God sent quail; they complained about Moses as mediator so God spoke to them directly; they complained about God speaking to them and thought that they would die; they complained on numerous occasions that they should return to Egypt; and on and on.

To avoid this kind of distrust of the Lord and awful infighting is to become blameless and harmless; it is to become like Christ.  We live as children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.  And this generation is no different than any other.  This age is marked by crookedness and perverseness.  Yet, we are children of God.  We do not live in this way.  We are to be found without fault, and when we are, we will shine as lights in the world.  The world is crooked, but we are to be straight.  The world is perverse, but we are to pursue holiness.  Was Israel a witness to the pagan nations around them?  Were they light in that darkness?  They were not.  Do not follow them in their rebellion.  The people of God are those who make peace.

[2] The second practical way of working out their salvation was to give Paul, their Christian leader, a reason to rejoice (strive to please workers).  Paul was their father in the faith.  He was their apostle.  He had gone to them to share the Good News and now asked in return that they would fulfill his joy and give him a reason to rejoice.  On the Last Day, the Day of Christ, Paul wants the Philippians to be blameless.  He wants them to hold fast to the word of life.  This will give Paul a reason to rejoice, knowing that he had not worked in vain.

Sacrifice (17-18)
[3] Continue to sacrifice, as you have before, and Paul’s sacrifice will be complementary.  This echoes the OT sacrificial system (SEE Num 28:7).

[4] Rejoice and be glad with me.  The joy comes from our relationship with Christ and with one another in Christ, as well as from the certainty of our end.  The suffering will be a direct result of trying to bring others in on the joy.

Conclusion and Christian Application
You see, this is what it means to follow a crucified Savior, a suffering Servant.  He has taken up His cross in obedience to the Father and out of love for us, and we, too, are to take up our crosses and follow Him in obedience.  We do not work for our salvation as if we can earn it.  We work out our salvation, growing in our understanding of the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Once we begin to understand things in our minds, we put them into practice in our lives and Christian community.

(1) We move forward with fear and trembling, in awe of God’s grace in Christ.

(2) We do everything without complaining and arguing.  We pursue holiness.

(3) We hold fast the word of life knowing that it is by grace that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and that is not in any way our doing.

(4) We suffer but rejoice in it knowing that Christ has suffered before us and has been exalted to the highest of places.  We rejoice knowing, also, that our futures are secure in Him.