Work out your salvation

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Philippians 1:12-18

Working out

What do you do to work out? What are you doing to try and keep fit and healthy as you age? A good work out for me is the sort of work out that moves me in the right direction a little. It helps me maintain the level of fitness that is appropriate to my age and circumstances. We want to remain as fit and health as we can so that we live whatever life the Lord choses to give us as well as we can.

As you probably can notice I don’t work out as much as I should. What is most difficult about working out has always been keeping it going over time. I’ve always found it hard keep at it. I’ve often buddied up with someone to help me (and hopefully also help them) to keep at it. But even with the help of others ultimately it does seem too come down to my own attitude towards what I’m meant to be doing. It is only when I understand and believe how vital it is to remain as fit and healthy that I can be at my age that I keep on putting in the effort in day after day, week after week.

Working out your salvation

In this passage today Paul calls upon everyone to keep on working out. Of course, he isn’t talking about exercise or working out physically, but he calls upon the Philippians in chapter 2 and verse 12 to continue to work out their salvation.

Phil 2:12

12Therefore, 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[2],

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Working out our salvation is the main idea in the verses that we are looking at today. The word “therefore” connects these verses with the previous section of the letter that began at verse 27 of chapter 1. In this section Paul has exhorted the Philippians to live a life worthy of the gospel. He has then gone on and explained what was involved in living a life worthy of the gospel providing them with the example of Christ as one that they were to follow. Paul now concludes these words by calling them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Paul will explain that we are all to be doing this and why we should in verses 12 to 18 that we are looking at today.

  • We are to all be working out

The first thing that I want to bring to your attending this morning is that we are all to be working out our salvation. The verb that has been translated “continue to work out” is in the plural. It is a command to all the believers in Philippi and the idea was that everyone of them there at Philippi were to obey this command. They were to obey it whether Paul came to see them and was there present to spur them on but especially in the case when he couldn’t be there they were to keep at it. This is something that we are all to be doing.

  • We are to keep at it

We are also to be keeping at it. Paul here is putting the stress on the continual effort and work that the Philippians themselves were to put into making their own salvation fruitful and productive according to God’s good purpose in Christ Jesus. The NIV has used the word “continue” to because the Greek word has that sense of bringing something all the way until completion.

Think of it this way, Paul might be compared to a trainer who is there to help the Philippians progress in their faith. He always working to strengthen them and build up in Christ. However, trainers can only do so much for those that are endeavouring to help. You might have a great trainer, but if you’re not committed to putting in the time and effort in yourself, you are not going to progress and remain fit and healthy. Your trainer can’t do the work that you need to do yourself. You must keep at it yourself.

As believers we are called to all be continually putting the effort into working out our salvation – living it out in our day to day lives. The believers in Philippi had been working out their salvation for 10 years, but it wasn’t to stop there. They were to keep at until the day of Christ, when Christ returned and they were standing before him. I don’t know how long it has been since you were saved, since you put your trust in Christ and became a child of God through the indwelling of the Spirit. Maybe you haven’t been been a believer for ten years yet or maybe it is much more than ten years. Maybe it has been 20, 30, 40 or even more years. Whatever it has been, you are to keep at it. The call is still the same, to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

  • God is working in us

Paul goes on in verse 13 to explain that God is also working in us according to his good purpose. This is the reason why it was with fear and trembling that they were to work out their salvation. The response of “fear and trembling” was often the response of people in the OT who had come into the presence of the Lord. In the case of the Philippians Paul says that they were to work out their salvation with this sort of respect and awe for it is our great God who is at work in us.

Philippians 2:13

13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

God powerfully works in us so that we might have the determination or will so that we might act to fulfil his good purpose. This good purpose is not specified here but I think we see it in verse 15. In this verse Paul explains the goal of everything was so that they might become blameless and pure children of God and shine like stars in the sky as they firmly hold onto the word of life. Paul explains that his own work with them won’t be in vain (without meaning or purpose) on the day of Christ should this be the case.

  • Living out our salvation

But what are we doing when we are working out our salvation? Of course, Paul isn’t talking about working to gain our salvation, but rather as those who have received salvation through believing the gospel of Christ, we are to keep progressing in it to fulfil God’s good purpose. We are to live it out and how we do that is by conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. These words here in verse 12 and 13 really are the conclusion of what Paul has been explaining in the previous 15 verses about how the Philippians were to conduct themselves. When Paul says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” in verse 14, the “everything” probably refers to “the everything” that he has just written about that was involved in living a life worthy of the gospel. There were two important things that we need to keep in mind that I want to just briefly remind you of that we need to keep working at.

(1) Standing firm and striving together as one for the faith of the gospel

Firstly, we are to stand firm together in the unity of the Spirit striving together as one for the faith of the gospel (1:27). We are to be people who put the gospel at the centre of lives holding on to it and working together to see it advance in our world. We are to be holding on to it and holding out to others without being frightened of those who oppose us. We are to be people who put aside our own selfish ambitions and desires to pursue the cause of the gospel together.

This is what we are to continue to do as believers. We are to spend our lives seeing this happen. As the years go by, we are to not lose sight of this common goal or cause, but it is to continue to shape who we are and how we live. We aren’t to be distracted by other goals or ambitions, but we are to be learning to let this one cause order everything about us as God’s holy people living here and now in this world.

(2) Unite together with the same love

Secondly, we are to all to be united together as one in unity with the same love for one another. We are to follow the example of Christ that we see in the gospel and have that same attitude or mindset that we see in the Lord Jesus. He didn’t look to his own interests but looked to the interest of others. We are to put aside selfish ambition and vain conceit and learn to love one another as Christ has loved us.

We are to spend our lives working out what these things should look like in our lives. It takes effort and it demands our constant attention. We all must work at it because deep within us we are still troubled by that old inclination to act out of our own selfish ambitions and vain conceit. But Paul reminds the believer here as he did in Phil 1:6 that our confidence is in the fact that God who is working in us to fulfil his good purpose. God’s purpose for us is that we might be become blameless and pure “children of God” and we are to keep on working with him in this purpose by holding on to the word of life (the gospel) and living it out together.

This is what we are to keep on working out in our lives as people who have been saved by God and who God is continuing to work in. We are to keep working these things until the day of Christ. And what Paul adds here in these concluding words is that we are to do it without grumbling and arguing.

  • We are to do everything without grumbling and arguing

Paul second directive in these verses is to do everything without grumbling and arguing. This is not a new topic but a further qualification highlighting something that the believers in Philippi were not to do when they did everything that Paul had been speaking about.

Philippians 2:14-16a

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16as you hold firmly to the word of life.

The Philippians were not just to be careful to keep at it, but also were to be careful of how they went about it. But why does the apostle highlight grumbling and arguing here in the conclusion of his words about living a life worthy of the gospel and keep it at it right up until the end? Of course grumbling and arguing doesn’t sit well with the love and unity that Paul has described as part of the life that is lived in a manner worthy of the gospel, but there seems to be more to this than just that.

The Greek word for grumble, gongysmos, that Paul has used here, in this verse, is the only place that this noun appears in all of his writings, but the same word is used a number of times (see Ex. 16:7,8,9,12) in the Greek version of the OT (the LXX) to describe the grumbling and complaining of the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. I think Paul writes these words to the Philippians with this background in mind.

What strengthens this view, in my opinion, is that although this might be the only place where Paul has used the noun in the NT,  he has used the word as a verb gonguzo, in a passage where he was warning the believers in Corinth to not follow the example of the Israelites and grumble as some of them did, for they grumbled (he said) and they were destroyed (see 1 Corinthians 10:10). Paul was most likely thinking of that generation of Israelites when he penned these words to the Philippians.

The other clue that suggests that Paul had in mind that generation of the Israelites is that he has chosen some remarkably similar language to how that generation were described in the book of Deuteronomy.

Deut. 32:5

“They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.”

Put this verse from Deuteronomy besides verse 15 of chapter 2 of Philippians and you will see the similarities in the language and the contrast that Paul is making. This is why our NIV has actually put some of the words in verse 15 in inverted commas for the translators believe that Paul is quoting Deut. 32:5.

Paul calls upon the believers in Philippi to do everything without grumbling and arguing so that they might be faithful children.  He wanted them to learn the lesson that the generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt didn’t learn. That generation didn’t continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. They didn’t to trust God and his purposes for them and instead they grumbled and complained to Moses about the things that they were going through. But there were not just unhappy with Moses. Moses explained that they were really grumbling against God. They didn’t like what God was doing and where he was taking them and what they had go through to get there. Ultimately, they all died in the desert and never got to enter the promised land.

Paul doesn’t want the Philippians to be like the children of Israel who grumbled and complained and, in the end, proved themselves to be unfaithful children. Instead he wanted them to be blameless and pure children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. He wanted them to shine like stars in the sky as they held firmly to the word of life. He wanted the light of the gospel to shine forth from them.

We are to trust God and his purpose for us even when we might have to go through difficult times and suffering. We are to keep on working out our salvation with fear and trembling. To have a spirit that continues to grumble and argue is to resist God’s good purpose for us in Christ Jesus that is working out in our lives. It is not trust God with our lives but to want to take them back and go back to the way that things were with us at the centre of everything. If it isn’t repented of it is to ultimate reject God’s good purpose for us in Christ Jesus which is to make us his holy and blameless children who hold on to the word of life and shine out like stars in the sky among the people that we live among.

 

  • We will worship and glorify our God

We are to live this way so that our lives will not only be a witness in this world but so that they might glorify God in the way that they are meant to. Listen to how Paul ends this section.

Philippians 2:16b-18

And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17But 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. 18So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Paul writes that if they hold firmly to the word of life then he will be able to boast on the day of Christ for his labour among them won’t have been in vain. It won’t have been for nothing for they will be the people that God intended them to be – people who through faith in Jesus now worship and serve the living Lord.

Paul uses the language of the OT sacrificial system in verse 17 to make his point about what matter about the lives that he and the Philippians were to be living. He wrote that even should his life end up being poured out like an offering to God accompanying the sacrifice and service coming from their faith he was glad and rejoiced. He also encourages the Philippians to rejoice with him in this. For what matter for the apostle and what was to matter for the Philippians was that through faith in Jesus we might end up living lives that worship and glorifying our God (see Romans 12:1).

Keep at it

You and I are to keep on working on this in our own lives no matter how long we have been on journey. We have not arrived yet. But as Paul will make clear a little later we are to be people who are pressing on in the faith (see 3:15-21). There is no point at which living this way stops for the believer. Working out our salvation and living in a manner worthy of the gospel, is what you and I are called to always keep on doing so that we might be the sort of children that one day stand before Christ holy and blameless and who in this world shine like star in the sky and glorify God. It is what matters.

  • Don’t waste your life

Don’t waste your life living for things that just won’t matter in eternity. Put the gospel at the centre of who you are and live it out together with other believers learning to love and encourage them. You might have thought that it could be just one of the many things that your life is all about. Well it isn’t meant to be. It is the main thing that is meant to shape who you are and everything about you because it is through gospel of Jesus that we have been saved so that we might be children of God.

  • Put Christ at the centre of who you are.

Some people put being a mum or a dad at the centre of who they are and everything revolves around their family and is shaped by this; their life at work and how they interact with others at church or the way that spend their time with others and what they do with themselves and their money.

Some people put their career at the centre of who they are and this shapes how they are at home with the family and what they do with their time and how they interact with others at work at church and the way that the spend their money.

For some it is their own sense of happiness and self-fulfilment that they centre on. It is their enjoyment of life which matters, and this is what shapes how they live.

But for us it is Christ who is to be at the centre of everything. It is the gospel which is meant to shape life. We live with him at the centre by living a life worthy of his gospel. Paul says that whatever happens we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. We are to work out this salvation that is ours with fear and trembling realizing that it is God who is working in us to fulfil his goo purpose.

 

[2] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture references have been taken from The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.