Summary: I approached this text with fathers in mind, for a Father's Day message. Our society needs men who understand their spiritual obligations and are willing to invest in the lives of others.
Our Obligations in Christ
Philippians 2: 12-16
Today we celebrate Father’s Day and seek to honor those men who have made an impact in our lives, particularly our dads. I can honestly say that being a father is one of the greatest joys in life. I am thankful for the children God has blessed our family with. My father passed away at a young age, and yet I have memories of his time here. As I consider Father’s Day, I am also thankful for many men who invested in my life and helped guide me in the Lord. I am certain we all have someone we are thankful for today, whether it be our biological father or another who made an impact in our lives.
The text before us is fitting for the occasion, but it is not limited to fathers. In fact, this passage is relevant for all who seek to follow Christ and serve Him. Paul speaks of the obligations believers have as they walk with the Lord and strive to serve Him. I want to examine the aspects of Christian life Paul reveals as we consider: Our Obligations in Christ.
I. A Spiritual Work (12-13) – As we examine the aspects of Christian life, Paul addresses our obligation to be engaged in a spiritual work for the Lord. Consider:
A. The Exhortation (12a) – Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. Paul refers to their obedience in the faith. The believers in Philippi had been consistent in the faith, while Paul was active among them, and even in his absence. As he mentioned their obedience to Christ, he revealed an exhortation to continue in the faith. He was pleased with their obedience thus far and encouraged them to press on as they had in the past.
It is interesting that Paul begins this exhortation with the word “wherefore.” He is actually calling them back to his previous statements. Here Paul recorded one of the greatest passages found in all of Scripture. He referred to the incarnation of Christ, humbling Himself in obedience to the Father’s will by offering Himself the atoning sacrifice for sin. He admonished the believer to possess the mind of Christ in regard to obedience. Here in verse 12, Paul takes them back to the great example of obedience found in Christ.
Every great father, and every great Christian for that matter, must be obedient to the faith, committed to the cause of Christ. One of the greatest things we can leave our children and future generations is an example of obedient faith in Christ!
B. The Expectation (12b) – Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. As they were obedient in the faith, they were expected to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. This statement has caused much debate and confusion over the years, but such confusion is unnecessary. Paul does not imply that one must work to obtain their salvation as some teach. This would be a direct contradiction of his teaching in Ephesians 2:8-10. Neither does he imply that one must work in order to keep their salvation, although works present evidence of our salvation. When one considers the exact meaning of the phrase, it is easy to understand and accept. Paul speaks of “carrying out until completion; putting forth the necessary effort and energy to finish a task.” The phrase was used in reference to properly solving a math problem, mining ore and minerals from a mine, or reaping the complete harvest once a field had been planted.
Simply the change that has taken place on the inside through salvation will be manifested outwardly through our faithful obedience and service to Christ. Dr. Rod Mattoon described it this way, “The life of the Christian is not a series of up's and down's, but in's and out's. God works in us and we work out what He has done within us.(i)" James 2:17-18 – Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
C. The Efficiency (13) – For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Paul knew the Philippians, much like you and I, would question how such a thing were possible. Through mere human effort and ability, it is impossible. Thankfully we are not expected to serve Christ alone. As we work out our own salvation, revealing the great transformation in our lives, we do so as God works in us according to His divine will and good pleasure. We have the ability to efficiently serve the Lord because He provides the ability to do so.