Session 10

Philippians Study – Session 10

(Philippians 2:12-18)

 

Philippians 2:12-13 - In these verses Paul makes two statements, which on the surface at least, seem to be contradictory...on the one hand he says in v.12 he says to “...work out your salvation...”...on the other hand, in v.13 he says “...it is God who is at work in you...”...actually, instead of contradicting each other, those two statements compliment each other…they are like two sides of the same coin…

“...work out your salvation...” (Verse 12)

  1. Want you to focus on that phrase...it would be very easy to misinterpret what Paul is saying here and many people do...it is very important that we not misread this statement...notice the statement does not say “work for your salvation”...Paul is not at all implying here that salvation is something we earn through good works...the Bible teaches that we don’t achieve salvation, we receive it from God...salvation is a free gift from God to those who trust their lives to Jesus as Lord...the people to whom this letter is addressed already had salvation...in Philippians Paul addresses them as “saints” (1:1), “citizens of heaven” (3:20), and “beloved brethren” (4:1)...
  2. And Paul does not tell them to “work for your salvation”... instead, he says to them and us “...work out your salvation...”...The key to understanding this statement is understanding the word translated ”work out”...the Greek word Paul used carries the idea of—

--making the most of something...

--fulfilling a goal or purpose...

--carrying something to its ultimate conclusion...

...this exact word was used in ancient times to describe--

--operating a mine in such a way that as much of the precious metal as possible was recovered...

--conducting a harvest in such a way that as much of the crop as possible was taken...

3.      And in using this particular word Paul is saying, “When you came to faith in Christ, God infused you with great potential...your life in Christ is like a rich gold or silver mine...it is like a field ripe for harvest...”

4.      There’s an important lesson here about the Christian life which we must not miss...one of the primary tasks we have as followers of Christ is “working out” or using to full advantage the potential God has placed in us...and that is a task/responsibility with which we are never done...some Christians seem to have the idea that we can reach a point in our Christian walk where we can relax, live on the afterglow of yesterday’s victories, and just coast...but that is a sure formula for spiritual impotence and failure...I like how one writer put it: “...for the Christian, there is no yesterday.  We all live in an eternal today.  What counts for God is what we do today.  What is essential is how we serve God today.  What determines our spiritual maturity is how closely we walk with God today.” [Harbour, Philippians sermon notes]

 

“...for it is God who is at work in you...” (Verse 13)

1.      The word translated “work” in that statement is the word from which our word “energy” comes...literally Paul is saying, “It is God who energizes you to work for Him.”....what a wonderful thought... God never asks us to do anything He does not energize us to do! 

2.      In my reading I came across a statement which really rang my bell...it’s something I’ve known for most of my life, but never saw it stated more clearly and succinctly...listen to what Warren Wiersbe wrote in the book Be Joyful...”God must work in us before He can work through us.”...that is so simple but so profound...listen to it again [repeat]...and then Wiersbe points out that God cares more about the worker than the work...and if the worker/Christian is right with God, then the work/the things which happen through that Christian’s life will be right as well...

 

Philippians 2:14-16


Verse 14 instructs us to  “Do all things without grumbling or disputing...”...the wording of that verse is interesting...it is not enough to do all things...we must do all things with the right spirit, the right attitude...

1.      In the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, we often see Him in conflict with the Jewish sect known as the Pharisees...the Pharisees were a legalistic group bent on preserving and keeping every detail of OT law...in the conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees, seldom do we see Him criticize them for not doing the right things... seldom did He question their outward deeds...but He looked beyond their outward actions to their hearts, their motives, their attitudes and said, “Something is lacking there.”...

2.      Here Paul is reminding us that God always looks beyond our outward actions to our hearts...He is as concerned about why we do something as He is what we do...and when God looks at our hearts He should not see an attitude of--

--”grumbling and complaining”...word translated “grumbling” doesn’t refer to loud, outspoken rebellion... refers to an almost under the surface murmuring or complaining which arises from an unhappy spirit...this is the only time in Paul’s writings this word is used...but in the Greek version of the OT which was used extensively in Paul’s day, this precise word was often used to describe the attitude of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness questioning Moses and ultimately questioning God...they had done what God wanted them to do--left Egypt and began journey toward the Promised Land--but they weren’t at all happy about it...

 

And that is exactly how many of us do what God wants us to do... we’re like that little boy I read about this week was standing in a chair...his mother, concerned for his safety,  told him to sit down and the little boy refused...she lightly tapped him on the leg and told him to sit in the chair, but again he refused...then she whacked him on the leg and told him for the third time to sit down...this time he did sit down but he folded his arms across his chest glared and his mother and said, “I may be sitting on the outside but on the inside I’m still standing up!”

3.      That kind of obedience is not pleasing to a parent and it is not pleasing to God...God desires for us to do the right things with the right spirit...


 

Verse 15 in this passage reminds us that the world should see something different, something appealing, something special in the lives of those who are followers of Christ...

1.   Notice that this verse says three specific things about the example of Christians...we are to be—

--”blameless and innocent” - “blameless” refers to our reputation, to how others perceive us...”innocent” refers to our character, how we actually are...

--”above reproach” - There should be nothing in our lives that will reflect poorly on the Lord we claim to serve...

--”lights in the world” - In a world darkened by sin, we as God’s people should not be adding to the darkness...instead, we should be reflecting the One who called Himself “the light of the world”...

2.  The sum total of all that is God desires that His people be positive examples, Godly examples to our world...

 

Verse 16 speaks of Christians “...holding fast the word of life...”...there are actually two ways the verb translated “hold fast” in the NASB can be interpreted...


--the word can be translated “holding forth” in the sense of extending something, offering something to another...this is the word used in 1st century to describe the act of offering wine to a guest...taken that way, the phrase “holding forth the word of life” would mean that instead of offering or holding forth to the world grumbling and disputing and a bad example, we are to offer to the world “the word of life”...

--or the word can be translated “holding fast” as he NASB translates it...taken that way, it means to hang on to something...to cling tightly...to not let go...I think that meaning best fits the context of this paragraph...it seems to me that Paul is saying to the Philippians and to us, “Don’t allow yourselves to become distracted...don’t let anything or anyone sidetrack you...keep your focus on the “word of life.”

  1. What is “the word of life?”...it is the gospel...the good news of Jesus...and if we keep our focus on the good news of Jesus and on offering that good news to our world, we will not waste our time and resources and energy on lesser things... 
  2. It seems one of the great tragedies of our day is too often God’s people spend themselves in petty arguments over things which are in reality trivial while all around them is a world full of people who have never heard with understanding “the word of life”...while we argue over theological minutia, the vast majority of people in our world have no idea what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus...it is God’s desire that we keep our focus on that which is most important...”the word of life” and that we share that word with our world...

           

Philippians 2:17-18  - The Scripture makes it clear that God desires for His people to be characterized by an attitude of joy...nowhere can that been seen more clearly than in Paul’s letter to the Philippians...when we first begin our study of Philippians, I told you that the theme of this letter can be stated in a single world...and that word is JOY...this letter is often referred to by biblical scholars as the epistle of joy...in the four chapters of Philippians the words joy and rejoice (which means to be full of joy) are used 16 times...four of those 16 uses occur in these two verses... joy is the result of two specific things...

 

Joy is the result, the by-product of right relationship with God

1.      Most people in our world do not and will never understand this concept...our culture says that joy is found in financial security or vocational achievement or satisfaction of our physical appetites or recreational activities...and we run ourselves ragged trying to achieve those things thinking they will bring joy to our lives...and when we get there, while we may experience some temporary satisfaction, the joy is still lacking...

2.      Paul understood that real joy does not come from the outward conditions of our lives...it comes from our relationship with God...in v.17 speaks of his being “poured out as a drink offering”...phrase doesn’t mean much to us, but would have been crystal clear to the 1st century Christians who received this letter ...a “drink offering” referred to a sacrifice, sometimes of blood and sometimes wine, that was poured out on the ground in pagan temples to honor a deity...

3.      When Paul wrote “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering...” he could have been referring to the possibility that he would be martyred for his commitment to God...after-all, when he wrote these words he was in prison, probably in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar...he didn’t know what the outcome of his trial would be...

4.      But there is another way to interpret that phrase...the two words translated “Even if” can also mean “Even though” or “Since”... taken that way, Paul would be saying, “Since my life is being poured out ... I rejoice and share my joy with you all...”...and it seems to me the thing Paul is saying in v.17 is, “I have found joy in a life of relationship with and commitment to God...and I gladly share that joy with you...”

5.      The principle I want you to see here is this: Joy is not found in what you do or in what you have...joy is found only in relationship with God...joy is the by-product, the result of knowing Him...living in relationship with Him...being obedient to Him...

6.      Tucked away at the end of the 16th Psalm is a wonderful statement which says it so well...in Psalm 16:11 David makes this perceptive observation...”In Thy presence is the fulness of joy...” ...if you want to experience real joy, the only way to do so is through the abiding presence of God in your life...we don’t not find joy by seeking joy...we find joy by seeking God....when—

--your heart is right with God...

--your priorities are God’s priorities...

--you love what God loves...

Then, and only then, will you begin to experience the kind of joy Paul is referring to in this passage...

7.      But not only is joy the result right relationship with God, but...

 

Joy is the result, the by-product of right relationship with people

1.      It is obvious from these verses that a special relationship existed between Paul and the Christians in Philippi...many scholars contend that this was Paul’s favorite of all the churches he started...perhaps that was because this was—

--the first church Paul founded outside of Asia Minor...Philippi is in Macedonia in northern Greece on the continent of Europe...

--the only church which supported Paul’s 2nd missionary journey with financial contributions...

For whatever reason, a close bond of fellowship existed between Paul and the Philippians...

--he told them “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you...”[1:3]

--he called them “...my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown...” [4:1]

2.      And both Paul and the Christians in Philippi found great joy in their relationship with each other...that can clearly be seen in the last part of v.17 and in v.18...

--in v.17b he speaks of his rejoicing and sharing his joy with them...

--in v.18 he speaks of them rejoicing and sharing their joy with him...

 

3.      Now, what is the lesson in all that for us?...it’s that one source of joy is our relationships with others...Paul rejoiced in knowing that his friends in Philippi were progressing and growing in the faith...and as we learn to rejoice at the successes and victories of others, we  tap into an inexhaustible source of joy...


4.      There is a wonderful story about Magic Johnson, the famous former basketball player...for many years, when Johnson played for the Los Angeles Lakers, his coach was Pat Riley...one of Johnson’s teammates was Kareem Abdul Jabbar...Riley says that on the night that Kareem Abdul Jabbar broke the all-time NBA scoring record, Johnson said to him, “I want to be the guy who passes you the ball when you make the record-breaking basket.”...Pat Riley, the Laker coach describes what happened this way: “...when it was about time for Kareem Abdul Jabbar to score that record-breaking basket, Magic got off the bench, put himself in the game, and dribbled down the floor, passed the ball to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the ball went through the hoop, and the record was shattered.  If you’ll look at the video-tape of that event, you’ll see Magic Johnson leaping into the arms of Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  And if you’ll look closely, you’ll see tears streaming down his cheeks.”...and then Riley adds this statement about Magic Johnson: “He is the most unselfish basketball player I’ve ever seen.”[Sermon Central]

5.      And as we unselfishly seek the best for those around us, we will discover great joy in the successes and achievements of others... joy is a by-product, a result of healthy relationships with others...

6.      No doubt you’ve seen the little acrostic made by the word JOY...I’m not sure who first thought it up, but I believe it sums up well what is being taught in this part of God’s Word...J...O...Y...

 J - esus

O - thers

Y - ou

Joy comes to us as a result of a right relationship with God and a right relationship with others...

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