Summary: Working through the book of Philippians using consecutive expository preaching. Philippians 2:12-18
Sermon: “We are Different – Really!”
Pastor John Bright
Philippians 2 “12 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
Last week we put the Mind of Christ into the context of an earlier verse – 1:27. It begins with “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ,…” We need to do the same this week as we continue looking at the conduct of each Believer in the Church.
Paul used letters – from the Latin we call them “Epistles” – to stay connected to the networks of house churches he had help start in various cities. In this scripture we have a couple of references to his trying to connect:
v. 12 – “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence”
v. 18 – “you also be glad and rejoice with me.”
Staying connected has become vital during the last few months of Pandemic restrictions. We have heard about virtual proms where folks went ahead and got dressed up to virtually dance with their date across town. There were ZOOM graduations and family reunions. We stayed connected as the church was shuttered using recorded videos of my sermons and Youtube videos of songs to worship in our homes. It was not what we wanted to do… but we made it work! Paul could never have imagined a tweet or a text to stay connected… but he made these letters work!
As I just mentioned, Paul returns to the topic of the Philippian Believer’s conduct in this passage.
First – They should continue to OBEY
“12 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
In our reading last week, Paul used the example of Christ’s obedience. Now he is directly speaking to the need for obedience in the life of the Believer. It was common for him to seek agreement from those in the Early Church to continue in the teaching that was given to them in the beginning. Later in this book we read: 4:9 “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
He was not seeking that they obey him – rather to obey the teachings of Christ that he worked so hard to spread through the Roman World. Others were teaching a different gospel and Paul was quick to warn them not to turn away – Galatian 1 “6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, … 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
The means by which they would continue in obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ was to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is definitely a phrase we need to “unpack.” There is no way to read the New Testament and come to assumption that you can EARN salvation through any form of human effort. No matter how many good things you do or the days you spend being nice, without the blood of Jesus there is no forgiveness of sin. If sins are not forgiven, there is no salvation.
We use a particular term in the Church to describe the forgiveness of sin – “JUSTIFICATION.” Where do we get that word? From Paul’s writings. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” For the Believer, that justification came when we trusted Christ for our salvation. I have been justified and one day I will be received into the Heavenly Arms of the Father. Then my salvation will be complete. Until then we use another word for the ongoing work of grace in the life of a Believer – “SANCTIFICATION.”