Summary: God is at work in the lives of His people.


Philippians 2:12-18

by Cleavon P. Matthews Sr.

May 27, 2006


Man’s advancements have brought rapid developments. These fast past changes have necessitated the construction of new facilities, roads, and countless projects. I was recently struck with a thought upon viewing a recent sign. The sign was orange and black at it said: Men at work. The need for the sign was obvious. Men were working and we needed to be warned to take caution. The purpose of the sign was to prevent both the men and ourselves from being injured. But as I pondered this thought I realized a deeper significance. The sign was also there to prevent both the delay of the project and interference with the project. In essence those who placed the sign there were saying to us. Please don’t get in the way of this work and they were also speaking positively. They were saying please cooperate with this work or project.

But further attention and insight caused me to think of these words: men at work. This implies many things. It suggests a purpose, goal, objective, or aim. These men were working toward a predetermined goal or task. They had a specific job to do. But it also suggested these men were being productive. They were actively engaged. They were constructing something. They were making something different. They were changing things. They were enhancing the functioning capacity of something. They were making things more effective and efficient. These were men at work.

Then I begin to ponder this thought as it relates to God. Man is created in the image and likeness of God. Every good thing done by man is nothing but a shadow of what God does. Therefore if man works, then he can only be mimicking God. At first I thought this couldn’t be the case because of Genesis 2:2 which states: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done." But does this text teach after creation God became inactive? I found relief by the text itself. Rest does not mean inactivity. The rest in this passage signified a completion to His present task. Further support that God is at work is revealed in our primary text. Paul says, clearly God works in us. Therefore God is at work.

The significance of this truth is found in the context of the passage. The Apostle Paul, I believe, writes from a Roman prison. He writes to his beloved friends in Philippi. A church founded on one of his missionary journeys. He writes to inform them of his situation. He writes to exhort them. He writes to comfort them. He writes to instruct them. He writes to warn them. In the immediate context Paul is instructing them on how to relate to one another. He has just given them the highest example of humility in the person of Jesus Christ; ’who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men." Paul goes on to speak concerning the exaltation of Christ. Though He was humbled to the point of a shameful death on the Christ, yet shall God exalt Him and every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess Him as Lord.


Philippians 2:12-13 "Therefore, my beloved, as you 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 who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."

The exaltation of Christ as Lord serves as the chief motivation for cooperative work. In Greek the word translated obeyed means to conform or to heed a command or authority. Now when I thought of the sign saying men at work I had another insight. The sign was usually accompanied by other signs which had warnings or cautions such as reduce speed. But in most cases there was no one there to enforce compliance.

This is taking place in the text. Paul commends the Philippians for their obedience, but at the same time he exhorts them to continue in obedience. He understands the tendency for us to misbehave and disobey when the authority figure is absent. Students tend to become disobedient and unruly when the teacher is absent. Children tend to become disobedient when the parents are absent. Drivers tend to be disobedient when the highway patrol is absent.

However the immediate absence of the authority figure should not mean less obedience. It should mean even more obedience. Paul was not their ultimate authority figure. Their ultimate authority figure was the Lord. Disobedience really means a failure to cooperate. Disobedience is saying no to God. Disobedience is saying you don’t care about God’s plan. Disobedience is saying I’d rather do it my way. Disobedience is saying my way is better.

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Joseph Vest

commented on Nov 26, 2018

Excellent and thought provoking. Thank you.

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