Therefore, 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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so 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 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But 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. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
For Paul’s long discourses, sometimes it’s easy to start at the end (conclusion) and work backwards.
v.18 “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me”
v.17b “I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”
What did Paul want to rejoice in? What did he expect the Philippian church to rejoice in?
v.17a “sacrifice and service coming from your faith”
This was what Paul wanted as the result. This is what he hoped would happen for pouring out his life on the Philippian church.
v.16b “… I did not run or labor in vain… I am being poured out like a drink offering”
Paul did not look for personal fame or stature. He only wanted the believers to grow in their faith, see them sacrifice and serve. This should be our attitude when interfacing with other believers. How can we help that person to grow in their faith? How can we lead them to sacrifice for the Lord? How can we encourage them to serve in a similar way? Notice that all of these results benefit the person we are ministering to, and it does not necessarily benefit us. What a great challenge to live up to!
What was so special about the “Sacrifice and service” and the faith that Paul expected?
v.15b-16a “you will shine… like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of faith.”
Paul wanted the Philippian church to be faithful to the word of God, despite the “competition” around them. There was the pressure of Jewish teachings, Greek mythology, and the developing study of philosophy. In order to defend against this competition, they would have had to study the word of God and know it well. We have the same challenge today, especially in Japan. Not only is there Buddhism and Shintoism to battle, but there is the current philosophy of materialism and post modernism (that all beliefs are relative to that particular person). Are we prepared to provide answers from the Bible for these challenges?
The Philippian church was to also “[shine] like stars in the sky.” Paul wanted them to stand out and be obious that there was something different about them. Perhaps this happened, and this was why many people of the day came to Christ and the church grew. Do we look different to the world today? Are we “shining like stars inthe sky?”
What instructions did Paul give so that the Philippian church could become like this?
v.14 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”
Grumbling is the evidence of little faith in the gracious providence of God in all the affairs of our lives. And little faith is a dishonor to him. It belittles his sovereignty and wisdom and goodness.
Having faith in God means trusting in his faithfulness. Again, knowing the Bible helps us remember God’s faithfulness:
“[God] witholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly” Psalm 84:11
“[God] works all things together for the good of those who love him” Romans 8:28
“[God] supplies all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19
The result of not grumbling or arguing is:
v.14a “you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.'”
Are we grumbling or complaining? Are we trusting in God’s faithfulness? Memorizing these verses and recalling them in times of stress and trouble will help us resist the temptation to grumble.
The point to remember in all of this is that God is the one who allows change in our lives.
vv.12-13 “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
We need to do our part by “working out.” Just like we would work out to keep our bodies in shape, we need to “hold firmly to the word of life” and “sacrifce and [serve]” our Lord. By doing this, we are displaying on the outside what we believe on the inside.
We need to do this “working out” with “fear and trembling.”
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” Ecclesiastes 12:13
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and instruction” Poriverbs 1:17
After all, why do we study the Bible? For whom do we sacrifice? What motivates us to serve? It is because we fear the Lord. It is because we acknowledge God as the supreme ruler of the Universe and as the Lord of our lives. We realize that there is nothing else in the world worth offering our lives to and filling our lives with. Everything else in the world is a product of something that is created. Why not, then, put aside these temporal interests and seek the Creator?
When we give up, God will do his work in us.
“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6