2003-09-20 - The Submissive Mind

Philippians, Part 20

  1. The Submissive Mind Chapter 2 (Cont'd.)
    (Key Verse—2:3)
    1. The example of Paul - Chapter 2:12-18
    2. The example of Timothy - Chapter 2:19-24
    3. The example of Epaphroditus - Chapter 2:25-30
    12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 4:6-7 NRSV)

    Verses 12-13: Paul is concerned that the Philippians work at maintaining the proper perspective in their walk. It is as we give our attention to the things of the Lord, that the pressures, the joy stealers of life, loose their authority over our emotions. The Philippians were encouraged to continue in their obedience to the Lord, even though Paul wasn’t around. It seems he realized that, just as is the case with children, it is always easier to be obedient when someone is checking up on you, than when you’re on your own. We know from the text of Chapter 2, that there were problems in the body. Paul was concerned there would be real effort to bring about a corporate healing and a commitment to unity of spirit and purpose within the body.

    One of the most practical problems I faced when I left the medical field for the ministry was the freedom over my own time and circumstances. It is easy to waste time and not remain disciplined. After all nobody is watching me, except the Lord, but He doesn’t count, right?

    So the Philippians were to continue in obedience, working out their salvation with fear and trembling. Now what does this mean? Clearly it doesn’t mean salvation must be earned! What Paul is talking about is sanctification and the specific problems they were struggling with, selfish ambition, vain conceit -- that is, the absence of humility. (see vs. 3.)

    Paul is probably talking of corporate sanctification, but to deal with this would also mean a need for personal sanctification. "They were not told to work for their salvation, but to work out the salvation God had already given them." 1 The lives of these believers, and the life of their body, should have reflected the reality of their salvation. Their focus was to be on the Lord, His call to the propagation of the gospel, and for them to love one another. And living this way gives victory over the joy stealers.

    Verses 14-18: (NRSV) 14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

    All of this was to be done in response to the awe they held for the Lord. As they developed an accurate self-image, they obeyed God out of the fear a creature holds for his creator, knowing God loves them and intends all for their good. Again, joy is founded on this truth. We can have complete confidence in our loving Father, but we must obey Him also with fear and trembling, for He is God, and nothing we do is adequate for earning His love. It is these things that are to be the motivation for an attitude of a servant expressed through a joyful spirit. Working in this spirit means working without complaining or arguing with one another. Paul is calling for unity of purpose, attitude and direction, a major component in keeping joy. Living this way means that the actions of others will not take our joy from us, because they are not responsible for us having it.

    This is in great contrast with the surrounding environment, the world. Paul points out that the world is depraved. It is full of corruption; it is filled with guilt and impurity. It is crooked, meaning unscrupulous and corrupt. And while Paul may have been speaking specifically of Israel, as Lightner believes, more likely he was talking about all "mankind as morally the product of one sinful stock rather than merely a group of contemporaries." 2

    "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

    And so in the midst of a dark world, the Philippians, we, are to be as shining stars, showing the light of God’s truth, the need for salvation and forgiveness for sin. It is the carrying out of this responsibility that makes us less than popular.

    It was the confidence of God’s working in the lives of these believers, that was a factor in Paul’s joy. He looked toward that day when he would stand before God, having these believers as the proof his life hadn’t been wasted, that his time in prison was for the benefit of the kingdom. How can he not rejoice in his circumstances, when he knew that they were for the blessing of the body? He may have been poured out as a sacrifice, but he was a sacrifice to the glory of God.

  1. Robert P. Lightner, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, "Philippians", Victor Books, 1983, pg. 655.
  2. Kent, Homer H., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, "Philippians," Zondervan Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1990, Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc.

Questions or Comments?

[email geoff] gkragen@aol.com