Summary: Philippians - Manual of Joy The Promise and the Power of Spiritual Transformation
Philippians - Manual of Joy
The Promise and the Power of Spiritual Transformation
Main idea: Spiritual transformation is the work of God changing our desires or appetites and empowering our wills to change. The result is that we reflect the light of Christ to a lost world.
We have seen in this letter that the foundation for joy and spiritual transformation is the work of God on our behalf. We see this theme explicitly today. Using Christ as our examples Paul has said, just as he was obedient for the good of others, we also should be obedient for the good of others. Here, Paul tells us that spiritual transformation is God changing our desires and empowering us to change. Spiritual transformation has the goal of witness to a lost and dying world.
1. The Promise of Spiritual Transformation (vs. 12-13)
Paul started this letter with the promise of spiritual transformation, when he wrote, ‘he who began a good work in you will bring it about to completion unto the day of Christ.’ Now he fills in the details how God brings it about.
Paul calls them beloved, the same word the Father uses of Jesus, when he says this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased (Mat 3:17). Second, Paul has great confidence in their obedience. ‘As you have always obeyed (2:8), not only in my presence but much more in my absence.’ He has confidence that they can do what God commands them to do because it is ‘God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.’ This is a lesson for all of us. When correcting someone or telling them they need to obey God (we should do this) it should be done with tenderness and with the confidence of God’s power to change them (1:6; 2:13). And that transformation is a community project (Heb 10:24-25).
Spiritual transformation requires personal effort
Paul commands us to obey, putting emphasis on our personal responsibility. The command is to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Spiritual transformation or change does not happen passively or by chance. We must exert our wills for spiritual transformation to occur. But the effort is not exerting our own will power to change but trusting that God is working in us to change (1 Cor. 15:10). The main exertion of our will is faith, believing God and his promise to work on our behalf.
How does fear and trembling fit in here? Well Paul has previously told them not to fear their opponents (1:28) or fear suffering (1:29) or even fear death (1:19-20). All of these are symptoms of unbelief. That is why he desires to come to them again, for their progress in the faith and wants them to stand firm against their opponents (1:25, 27). We should unbelief. It is associated with hardness of heart (Mark 16:14) and Israel being cut off (Rom 11:20). That is why Paul calls the Christian life a fight of faith (Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7-8).
Spiritual transformation is the work of God
I say this because of the word that connects the two verses, ‘for.’ This word shows us the reason we can work out our salvation and can be translated ‘because.’ ‘Work out your salvation because it is God who works in you to will and to work according to his good purpose.’ We work because of the prior and continuing work of God in us. God works in us two ways: to will and to work. First God works in us to will or desire transformation. God works to change our desires and appetites so that we desire the right thing. True freedom is to have God so work in our hearts, so sway our hearts that we only want, desire to obey God. Recognizing your need and desiring to change is evidence of God working in you.
Second God works in us to work or to be effective, to act. He not only changes our appetites but also frees our wills to do the right thing. Salvation is not just freedom from the penalty of sin but it is also freedom from the power of sin. But transformation is a process of becoming who we are in Christ. It is a journey with Christ not a journey to Christ. But don’t let that be an excuse for sin either. It is the process of becoming who we are, children of light. Our spiritual journey is Gods work and God takes pleasure in transforming us. It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure. It is the active dependence upon Gods resources to bring about transformation. Paul is talking here about a process of inner spiritual transformation by God bringing about a change in the way one thinks, feels, and acts.