THE EXALTED EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
We have seen Christ in His humiliation “death on the cross”.
We have seen Christ in His exaltation as He has been given a name above all names “Lord”.
It’s this truth that drives and motivates the Church in unity.
It humbles the Church, edifies the church, and brings hope to the church for we are Citizens of Heaven.
It’s this truth that gives boldness to the church to speak the gospel into the hearts of those who will listen.
It’s this truth that motivates the child of God to strive for Christlikeness.
It’s this truth we strive, hunger, thirst for righteousness and holiness as God continues to do His perfect work in and through our lives.
It’s this truth that we as God’s children are to work out our salvation by the power of God’s enabling grace and to shine, rejoice, like stars in a dark world.
Paul is addresses three very important ingredients for a healthy body!
Work out, 2. Shine, 3. Rejoice
“Work Out” (v12-v13)
Paul addresses the doctrine of “sanctification” a lifelong obedience of the child of God that leads in growing in Christlikeness. Now we must not misunderstand what this verse of scripture is saying! It doesn’t mean a self help or a salvation by works! Why? God already worked salvation for us….”by grace alone”. Paul said “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph 2:8-9. And Christ has done the work on the Cross to “justify and set us apart” See! God has a highest of standards, and He knows will never attain it in our sanctification!
This verse says “Work out your salvation”
Not work for your salvation
Not work towards your salvation
Not work at your salvation
Sanctification is about living in light of the gracious gift that has been given to me and you. It’s living in light of our new position and new identities in Christ, which is set apart unto godliness and holiness. We must always remember! NO ONE! Can work his or her salvation out, unless God has already worked it in! Again going back to (v6 of chapter one) There is something else we need to understand about this statement that Paul makes. This “working out” does not refer primarily to the salvation of the individual believer. But as a body of Christ! Why? By what we have seen previously in (Phil 2:1-5). This working out is something we do corporately! How must the church conduct itself? Working out the churches salvation...” The church is to strive for growth in humility, personal holiness and selfless service towards one another. This is hard work and there are no short cuts to Christlikeness.
One theologian put it this way “The plural form of the verb “work out” and the pronoun “your” can be seen as support that Paul’s command should not be understood in merely individual sense as a requirement for each individual work…but in a corporate sense as a call for the whole community to rebuild social harmony. Paul’s emphasis on the unity of the church in this context compels us to see that Paul’s call to “work out your salvation” has an ecclesiological reference. It is a call to restore harmony in the church by serving one another...restoring unity in the church by serving one another is the responsibility of each individual Christian.”
We know this is true! Because Paul’s command in (v14) confronts each member with the challenge to cease from attitudes and words that tear apart the social fabric of the church. “Work out your own salvation” means gives us the encouraging words to go on, walking by the same rule minding the same things, till your salvation is completed. When is our salvation completed? When we get to Heaven . So until that day comes we must progressively be growing, maturing in these areas of life that God is changing in us. Bearing fruit unto holiness as you strive to grow more and more into the image of the Son. As Jesus said "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:24. Paul says you must work out our salvation with fear and trembling!
Fear and trembling is the solemn reverential awe of who God is over my life. This fear and trembling is more than just acknowledging my sinfulness and spiritual weakness. It’s reflecting on the transcendent glory of God and His goodness and grace in my life. This is the shrinking awe that God demands as the church works out our own salvation. A prime example “The Transfiguration” “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.” Matt 17:5-6
Fear and trembling is the attitude which every Christians is to pursue in their sanctification. This involves a healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him, and hatred towards our personal sin and shortcomings. What’s amazing about this is what we read in (v13) “Work” in the Greek is where we get the English word “energy. God energizes His children to obey and serve Him. His power enables their/our sanctification. Paul said “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” Col 1:29. God doesn’t just merely strengthen us, God, Himself is working in us both to will and to act. D A Carson said “God works in us, not merely with us.” The Lord takes great pleasure in your salvation! God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t, and couldn’t, love Him back. Do you realize you’re closer to your salvation today, than you were yesterday? He hasn’t finished rescuing you yet! That’s glorification. J Your still be sanctified. He has secured you in His sovereign election, but He hasn’t completely delivered us yet into glory! Remember that blessed promise that Paul said in the early part of his letter! (chapter 1v6) “He who began a good work in you….He will complete it”
Shine for the sake of unity in Christ; strive by avoiding grumbling and arguing. How do I work out my salvation with fear and trembling? Shine as children of God and not like your fallen state.
“Do all things without complaining” muttering sounds that people make when they are disgruntled. It has a negative response to something unpleasant, inconvenient or disappointing, arises from self centered person. Again this comes from the fact we are naturally selfish people who complain when they don’t get their way.” Who else grumbled because they didn’t like the situation they were in? The nation of Israel! “Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, But complained in their tents, And did not heed the voice of the LORD. Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, To overthrow them in the wilderness, To overthrow their descendants among the nations, And to scatter them in the lands.” Ps 106:24-27. See by nature we are all natural born complainer. And this behaviour hasn’t diminished throughout history; this pattern still lives on amoung God’s image bearers.
But! There is something else Paul said to avoid. (v14)
Disputing or arguing (means) doubting, questioning something, or disputing the truth of a matter. It’s the idea of questioning or criticizing something or someone.
Why does Paul emphasize these two negative characteristics?
It’s destructive and hostile towards the body of Christ!
This behaviour of life can close church doors.
This form of behaviour produces unforgiving hearts.
It leads a life of deception to the reality of your present sin.
Root cause or decline in spiritual growth and fellowship with a holy God.
Every circumstance of life is to be accepted willingly and joyfully without emotional grumbling and intellectual disputing. It is very sinful for the child of God to complain about anything the Lord calls them to do or about any circumstance which He sovereignly allows. See! If someone comes to you and asks “How is your day going?”
our response should be “I’m doing far better than I deserve.”
We should be able to find God’s grace and thankfulness in our lives at all time, despite the occasion or circumstance. Responding this way can have a major impact on someone’s life; and we never know when that day will happen this side of Heaven. This is why Paul said “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Col 4:5-6. Paul said “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Eph 5:15-16
We are shine as lights in the world? There is a good reason for stopping this behaviour! (Look at v15) “That you may become” this is a process that we are striving for, growing towards something that we don’t possess yet. Believers should have the attitude of thankfulness in pursuing godliness that exemplifies the saving grace of God through Christ! As Blameless describes a life that “cannot be criticized” because of sin or evil; no charge can be sustained against you. As Harmless can be translated “innocent”, describes a life that is pure, unmixed, and unadulterated with sin...to be sincere in all your actions of life because it’s Christ who lives in me! 1 Thess 5:23-24 says “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” Without fault (means) above reproach, spotless without blemish. Peter wrote “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” 2 Peter 3:14
Why all this? This world we live in as Christians is a crooked and perverse nation, a perverse world of rampant sin and rebellion seeking its own interests. “Crooked” (means) what is bent, curved, or twisted. “Perverse” (means) to distort, that is, (figuratively) misinterpret, or (morally) corrupt, turning away. We must be examples of Christ on this earth that is full of wickedness and filth!! Our character and our actions should line up according to what God’s word says, not according to the flesh (not according to selfish me)!! What believers are to be is BLAMELESS and INNOCENT children of God, who are above REPROACH. This means we live out our lives in such a way that our community has no room to speak ill of your present behaviour. Why? Because we are children of the living God who is sanctifying us daily by His good pleasure! (v13) We are to be a light, an influence to a godless generation, living a life that is pursuing obedience and godliness.
What does that look like?
When you look up to the Heavens at night, what do you see on a clear night?
Billions of bright stars that light up the night time sky. The same answer applies for us here! When God looks down from Heaven, He should be able to see those same bright lights (you and me) in a dark and broken world. The world needs to see Christ, not you! How? By what Paul says next (v16) “Holding fast the word of life” holding out, holding forth, offering something for others to take. The light of God’s Word not only reveals truth but exposes evil. According to that definition what are we to offer? The gospel of truth, which when believed, produces spiritual and eternal life for those who listen. Paul said to the church at Corinth “Now then, we are ambassadors (representative) for Christ, as though God were pleading through us...” 2 Cor 5:20. The Gospel is called the Word Of Life, because of the effects in which it produces. The Bible declares we were dead, as Paul said “who were dead in trespasses and sins;” Eph 2:1. We have been made alive by His grace and the power of His word. We were once dead in all our sins, but we have been made alive in Christ Jesus our LORD through the gospel. We are to have compassion and shine in a world that is dying in darkness, a people who desperately need the Light of His precious Words. Jesus said “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Matt 9:36-38
The lost world is the Harvest We have the Word of Life We are the Labourers in a perverse & crooked community, country and world system. So let your little light shine for His glory. This is what completes Paul’s joy and this is why he is able to rejoice in his sufferings, and we should be able, and doing, the same, as a unified body of believer’s.
Paul says “.... So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ... that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” That Paul’s efforts were not wasted and that he could look back and rejoice in the faithfulness of his brethren. The people whom he served would be a source of his eternal JOY. That when Paul is face to face with our Lord he will find out that he did not labor in vain. Paul served unreserved and sacrificially because of this love. Paul desire the reward of his efforts be full, that the people under His care loved and obeyed the Lord without a grumbling or complaining heart. That the gospel was having such an effect on this church that they demonstrated that the gospel is true.
We are to be blameless and pure both before others and before God, our testimony must stand the test of time. Paul loved the church; we know this to be true by what he calls the believer’s in Philippi “my beloved” This term of endearment was an unmistakable statement of love that would encourage and comfort the fellowship. Paul knew his own weakness and the weakness of others in Christ, Paul wanted them to know how much they meant to him. See! Paul was glad to be poured out for the glory of God. (v17) “A Drink offering” was familiar to the ancient people found in Lev 23:18; 2 Kings 16:10-16; Jer 7:18. See! After placing the sacrificial animal on the alter, the priests would take wine or sometimes water or honey and pour it either on the burning sacrifice or on the ground in front of the alter. That act symbolized the rising of the sacrifice into the nostrils of the deity to whom it was being offered. Paul’s drink offering was made on behalf of his beloved brethren in Philippi, an offering made upon the sacrifice and service. What Paul demonstrates for the church is sincere humility that marks the spiritually mature child of God and that exemplifies what our Lord did for us in Christ’s humiliation (2:1-8) . As Paul said “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (v8) What a great example for us to follow or live by! Paul was a glad offering not a bitter one. Paul didn’t have a “Why me God” attitude, he counted it a privilege to suffer for Christ glorious sake. He counted it a privilege to pour out his life for the advancement of the gospel.
How was Paul able to rejoice?
He worshipped the King of kings and Lord of lords. (v9) Faithfulness leads a fruit filled life in Christ that results in rejoicing and praising our Great God who is in Heaven. Paul valued the church to follow his example as shining lights in a broken and rebellious world system. Christ is to be supreme and worthy of all my attention and adoration! Understand! “True joy is found in a continuing life that is maturing into the image of the Son as a light to a crooked and perverse generation!!” As Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16. Let your light shine on a hill that invites sinners to come in and find rest for their weary souls. Let your light shine like a lighthouse that points sinners to safety, rest and eternal life. Let your light shine for the glory of His name and the gospel that saves sinners from eternal damnation. As a child of the Living God, as the local church, we are to rejoice not in spite of our sufferings for Christ, but because of it. As John MacArthur said “Believers greatest joy comes at the point of great sacrifice.” How can we shine like lights of truth? By living in the shadows of the Cross! Because it’s Christ who shines in and through you for His glory.