Study Notes

Philippians 2:12-18


Paul has been encouraging the Christians in the church at Philippi to be unified in love and vision and purpose. To be others-centered instead of self-centered. To be like Jesus, Who left His place of prominence and power to become a servant of others.

2:12-13 Now Much More In My Absence

Paul was reminded that the Philippians had always been people who heard the preaching of the Word of God and immediately responded to it. When Paul demonstrated from the Scriptures what was the will of God, they took it to heart and did it. When Paul showed them what was out of God's will, they stopped that behavior.

And so he is saying, "Even though I'm not there in person, I'm hoping that you will obey the Word of God just as if I was there. As a matter of fact, I'm hoping you'll be even more faithful to do so."

Work Out Your Salvation

Paul's exhortation is to work out their salvation. Don't confuse this with working FOR their salvation. We spent three months in Galatians being reminded that you cannot work for your salvation. So what does it mean to work it out? The original word Paul used literally means to carry it through to completion. If he were dictating it in English today, he might have said, "take your salvation all the way."

The ultimate end of being saved is to be like Jesus. His temperament, His personality, His manner of doing things. When you're working out your salvation, you're becoming more and more like Him all the time.

But the discouraging thing is that there really are so many Christians today that aren't working out their salvation at all. They're not growing, they're not becoming more like Jesus.

Fear And Trembling

Maybe you're thinking, "How much do you expect from me? I'm saved, get off my back. I'm not trying to become a pastor, I don't see the need to go overboard and be all holy, righteous, and self-sacrificing. I'm going to church, and people know I'm a Christian."

I could answer that by telling you all the wonderful benefits and blessings of living a Spirit-filled life, of how much God loves you and has done for you, and how you should be responding because of that. I could tell you of how lovable you'd be and how much satisfaction you would derive from growing in Christ.

But Paul doesn't do that. What he said was, "work out your salvation WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING."

No punches pulled here, just truth delivered right between the eyes.

The simple fact is, you should be working out your salvation, carrying it through, taking it all the way, because it's very possible that not doing it is demonstrating that you don't have salvation at all.

I'm not saying that you lost it somewhere along the way. I'm saying that if it's not continually growing and working out as a reality in your life, making you more like Jesus, it is very likely that you've been deceiving yourself into believing that you're a Christian. Listen to what Paul told the Corinthian church:

1Cor. 9:23-27 And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but {only} one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then {do it} to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

Paul knew that if he didn't keep growing, if he didn't keep pressing on, if he didn't keep working out his salvation with fear and trembling, that it was possible that he would be disqualified for salvation.

That is cause for fear. How terrible it must be for those who have preached the gospel to others to end up in hell! Jesus warned that there will be people who consider themselves Christian, who do the work of the ministry, who believed that they were saved. He said,

Matt. 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"

When you hear the teaching of God's Word, it should be effecting a change in your life. When you read in the Scriptures of something that godly people do, you should be pursuing it. Otherwise, you're practicing lawlessness.

Let me ask you a question: how many times in the last month did you hear a message and say, "Ouch. That applies to my life. I know the way I've been behaving is wrong, and I will eliminate that sin from my life starting now"? If you're working out your salvation with fear and trembling, that is happening to you on a regular basis.

God's Pleasure In Your Will And Work

If you are a Christian, God is at work in you. While religion tries to change you from the outside in, Christianity changes you from the inside out. When you got saved, the Holy Spirit came to live inside of you, and He's working on you from the inside. Working to do what? Causing you to both want to do and to do God's will. If you're submitted to the Lord, you're not just doing God's will, you actually want to do God's will.

I would encourage you to ask yourselves this morning: "Do I want to do the will of God? Am I making changes in my life the more I learn what God's will is?"

These next three verses present your first opportunity to do so...

2:14-16 Without Grumbling Or Disputing

Okay, here's your chance to show yourself if you're working out your salvation with fear and trembling. Will you do all things without grumbling or disputing?

I have noticed lately how much daily conversation consists of people talking about how much they hate their job, how little money they have, how terrible the roads and traffic are, how they had to do what they didn't want to do, about how bad the weather is, about how their neighbors are inconsiderate, and how the other people in their family make life so difficult.

Grumbling, complaining, whining, disputing, and arguing. Paul says that the Christian is not to be like this. Are you willing to eliminate complaining from your conversation? Are you ready to take disputing out of your daily dialogue?

Prove that you are a child of God. Prove that you are different from the world. Shine your light as a witness of Jesus. Hear the Word and hold fast to it - today it is telling us, "Stop complaining. Stop arguing."

I May Have Cause To Glory

If the Philippians were obedient, then Paul would know that he had not wasted his time preaching the gospel in Philippi. I can tell you first-hand what a pleasure it is to watch people you've taught the Word to respond to it and follow God's will. And I cannot describe the agony in the soul of a teacher when he sees people stagnate or backslide. It makes him feel as if he has just been wasting his time, running and toiling in vain.

2:17-18 Poured Out As A Drink Offering

Teaching the Word to Christians, evangelizing the Lost, doing the work of the ministry is far more work than most people will ever realize. Paul wanted to know that he had not been doing it all for nothing. He wanted to see the Philippians grow in Christ.

He described his work as him "being poured out as a drink offering." As you may already know, a drink offering was a sacrifice to God which was poured out as a liquid instead of being burnt in fire on the altar.

A classic example of the drink offering is found in 2Samuel 23. David was hiding from his enemies in the cave of Ad-ool-LAWM. Not too far away, the Philistines had set up a garrison in Bethlehem. Sitting there in his despair, he thought of the wonderful water that he had drawn from the well in Bethlehem as a boy.

2Sam. 23:15-17 And David had a craving and said, "Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!" So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took {it} and brought {it} to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; and he said, "Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this. {Shall I drink} the blood of the men who went in {jeopardy} of their lives?" Therefore he would not drink it.

Much as David desired that water, he instead poured it out as a sacrifice to God.

Paul says that he is like that - poured out in the work of the ministry as a sacrifice to God. When the ministry dictated that he make tents all day long in order to preach, he worked and sweated. When the ministry demanded that he travel dangerous roads, at times being robbed and assaulted, he did it so that he could preach the gospel in the next town. When he found himself poor and alone because of the cause of Christ, he didn't give up - he just considered himself a drink offering, poured out to God.

I Rejoice

Although it was difficult for Paul, although at this very moment, he was sitting in a Roman prison, although he was physically scarred and emotionally spent, he said, "Regardless of all that, I will rejoice." Paul's Christian maturity meant that his joy was not found in circumstances. His joy came from knowing that he was saved, that his inheritance was in heaven.

May we today have this same attitude. May we say as David said,

Ps. 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.

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