Summary: Philippians 2:12-18 teaches us the effect of the gospel on the conduct of our lives.
We are in a sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians that I am calling, “The Christian’s Contentment.”
After the opening greeting, Paul’s thanksgiving, and prayer, he wanted the Philippians to know that despite his imprisonment, the gospel was still advancing. Then, he urged them to live for Christ. However, like every church in every age the Philippian Church faced the danger and discord of disunity. So, Paul encouraged the believers to strive for spiritual unity, which was based on Christ’s example of humility. And, with Christ as the example, Paul now urged believers to live their lives as lights in the world.
Let’s read about lights in the world in Philippians 2:12-18:
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18)
Some of you know that my favorite Bible commentator is the late Rev. Dr. John R. W. Stott. Apparently, on one of his visits to the United States, he said the following in a sermon:
You know what your own country is like. I’m a visitor, and I wouldn’t presume to speak about America. But I know what Great Britain is like. I know something about the growing dishonesty, corruption, immorality, violence, pornography, the diminishing respect for human life, and the increase in abortion.
Whose fault is it? Let me put it like this: if the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house. That’s what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, “Where is the light?”
If meat goes bad, there is no sense in blaming the meat. That is what happens when the bacteria are allowed to breed unchecked. The question to ask is, “Where is the salt?”
If society becomes corrupt like a dark night or stinking fish, there’s no sense in blaming society. That’s what happens when fallen human society is left to itself and human evil is unrestrained and unchecked. The question to ask is, “Where is the church?”
Indeed! The Philippian Church existed in a fallen human society where human evil was unrestrained and unchecked.
And, truth be told, things have not changed much in the millennia since then, and will not change much until the return of Jesus Christ. So, the Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church also exists in a fallen human society where human evil is unrestrained and unchecked.
It is important to grasp the Apostle Paul’s argument in this pericope. Verse 12 begins with the word “therefore.” That references everything that precedes it in chapter 2. Paul says in effect to believers, “You have heard me urge you to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility to count others more significant than yourselves and also to look to the interests of others (cf. 2:3-4). Moreover, the supreme example of this humility is Christ Jesus, who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. But God approved of Christ’s humiliation by highly exalting him and bestowing upon him the name that is above every name (cf. 2:5-11). In light of Christ’s example, therefore, let the gospel have a profound effect on your conduct.”
So, Philippians 2:12-18 teaches us the effect of the gospel on the conduct of our lives.
Let’s use the following outline:?
1. General Exhortation (2:12-13)
2. Concrete Content (2:14-18)
I. General Exhortation (2:12-13)
First, let’s look at the general exhortation.
Paul’s general exhortation for how the gospel affects our conduct is in verses 12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but 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 work for his good pleasure.”
There are two parts to this general exhortation.
A. Our Work (2:12)
First, there is our work.
I have previously mentioned that the Philippian Church was Paul’s favorite church, as it was the first church he planted in Europe. He had proclaimed the gospel to them, and they responded wonderfully to the good news of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone. The Philippian Church was a generally healthy church when Paul wrote to them from his imprisonment in Rome. But, there were traces of conflict (notably that of Euodia and Syntyche, 4:2) and the ever-present danger and discord of disunity. So, Paul wrote in verse 12a, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed….” From the first day that they had embraced the gospel, Paul’s beloved Philippians had always walked in obedience to that gospel (cf. 1:5). Their obedience was not to Paul but to Christ and his Word.