Summary: An expository sermon based on a series preached at Immanuel Baptist Church, Elgin, IL in 2001.
Message Title: “Living Out Life with God Living In Us” Philippians 2.12-18
Delivered on July 1, 2001 at Immanuel Baptist Church by Pastor John Stensrud.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (NIV)
Opening Illustration: I played golf with a Phillipino man named Adore. He must weigh 130 lbs. soaking wet but he can out drive and out play most anyone on the golf course. His attitude toward the game and his example of consistency are inspiring. But, try as I might, I cannot not play up to his level. Mark Twain once said that few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. Perhaps the most annoying thing is our inability to mimic people who invite our respect in different areas in our lives. For example, admiration for an excellent golfer, an accomplished musician, or a great moral person can inspire us. But unless that person can somehow enter into our own lives and share his or her skills, we can’t arrive at the same heights of achievement as they have. It will take more than their example for the ability to match their own accomplishments on the outside. It takes power on the inside. It’s like trying to live the Christian life by an external, outward imitation of Jesus Christ. Instead, the Christian life is to be lived by “Incarnation.”
What do I mean by living the Christian life by incarnation? It means that the person of Christ lives within us to give us power to live the life that God expects of us. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Paul begins his unit of thought in vs. 12 by saying “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” He concludes his thought with vs. 13 “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Colossians 1:27 To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Our hope of glory, that is our hope to attain heaven, is characterized by Jesus Christ literally living in our hearts.
The main idea of our passage is in order for a believer to work “out” his salvation, Christ must live within to give us the power to live the Christian life. The concept is not difficult, but the application often is.
Paul commands us to “work out” our own salvation. This doesn’t mean “working for” our salvation. That would be “salvation by means of our own efforts.” Eph 2:8,9 declares: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.” “Working out” our salvation complements our faith based upon grace. Some people use this passage as a proof text that we must work for our salvation. But who is Paul addressing when he writes this letter? People who are already Christians. In Philippians 1:1 he calls the Philippians “saints.” This clearly signifies that they have already received Christ as Lord and Savior. They have already been “set apart” which is the verb form of the word saint: Saints are set apart for something. Saints are not “super Christians” who are persons officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth. Saints, in the biblical sense are people like you and me. We are “set apart” to be like Jesus Christ. And in our passage, we are “set apart” to be people marked by humility and obedience that leads to our ultimate exaltation and to unity as a body of Christians.