6th September 2018

Philippians: Week 5 (Thursday, September 6 2018)

 

Chapter 2: 12-16

 

Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to work with God to complete their salvation 2:12-13

v12 So you too, my dear friends, must always obey God. It was important when I was with you. It is even more important now that I am absent from you. Continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. v13 Do that because God is always working in you. He makes you willing and able to obey his purpose.

 

Verse 12 Paul is no longer with them. So the Christians at Philippi must trust and obey God. Paul was away from them in prison and his future was not certain. He gave this command to obey to his ‘dear friends’. They must obey God always. So they must understand and realise their own sin and weakness. They must have a true sense of the majesty and character of God. As Jesus obeyed God right to the end, so must they. Jesus is their model.

‘work out your own salvation’. Paul does not mean that the Christians at Philippi must work to earn their salvation. He is writing to those who are Christians. So they already know Christ’s salvation. It was theirs as a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Paul’s word that we have translated ‘work out’ comes in the works of Strabo. He was a Greek who lived in the days of Jesus. Strabo describes how the Romans ‘worked out’ the great silver mines of Spain. In other words, they were getting all the silver that they could from the mines. So Christians must work hard to get all the wonderful riches that their salvation in Christ has for them. ‘with fear and trembling’. This does not mean the terror of a slave in front of a cruel master. It means the honour that we should give to our holy and powerful God.

Verse 13 God’s loving purpose is that Christians should become mature in their faith. They should ‘become more and more like Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13). The Christians at Philippi needed to work at their relations with each other. God’s purpose for the Christians there was that they should agree with each other. God gives people the desire to obey him. And he makes that desire strong. He gives people the power to do his will. ‘God began this good work in you. And I am sure that he will continue it’ (Philippians 1:6). God’s grace begins a person’s salvation, but each person needs to accept this gift. God’s grace continues to work by his Holy Spirit. But Christians need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in them. Christians are responsible to work with God.

 

How to show the Christian faith to the world 2:14-18

v14 Do everything without protests or arguments v15 so that you can be without blame and innocent. You will be children of God who are not guilty in a world of sinners and wicked people. Among them you shine like stars in the sky. v16 You shine as you hold out to them the message of life. If you do so, then I shall be proud of you on the day of Christ. I shall know that all my efforts and hard work have not been in vain. v17 People may pour out my life. But, if they do, they will be pouring it on to your own sacrifice of faith and service. If that is so, I am glad. And I rejoice with all of you. v18 So you too should be glad and share my joy.

 

Verse 14 ‘protests’ describes the way in which the Israelites spoke to each other about Moses as their leader (Exodus 15:24). When they argued with each other, the Christians at Philippi were showing a lack of unity. They were proud of their own opinions and they were not willing to think about those of other people. Perhaps they were even trying to take their troubles to the law courts (1Corinthians 6:1-11).

‘children of God who are not guilty’ are words that Paul used from the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 32:4. Unlike the complaining Israelites, the Christians at Philippi are true children of God. Therefore they must show that they are suitable to serve God. That is, like an animalsacrifice that must be perfect (Leviticus 1:10). They are in a world where people turn from the right way of God’s law. Christians must be like stars that light up the dark sky at night. They must show what is good and true to those in the darkness of sin.

Verse 16 They ‘hold out’ the good news that brings life. Their behaviour will show whether their faith is genuine. They must not spoil their witness to the world by protests and arguments. Paul wanted to be proud of them on the day of judgement. He did not want all his hard work to be in vain. He was like a runner in a race. The runner would be disappointed if his hard training (preparation) had brought no success.

Verse 17-18 When people made a sacrifice to the gods, they poured wine over it as an extra gift. The Jews poured their gifts of liquid round the table on which they put their gift to God (Numbers 28:1-7). The faith and service of the Christians at Philippi was a gift to God. Paul believed that he might die. Then, his blood would be like the wine that people poured over their own sacrifices. This did not mean that they were sad. It meant that they were rejoicing. He wanted the Christians at Philippi to share his joy. If he has to die, he will go to be with Christ. He is confident about that. Moreover, people will see that the gospel is true. And Christ will receive honour.


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