Philippians Week #7 – Notes for Church

Philippians 2:12-18

Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
 
SALVATION, A FULL PACKAGE. The letter to the Philippians is replete with assurance that when God begins his saving work, he will bring it to completion (1:6). There is a genuine, personal responsibility to work out his salvation (i.e., work out the implications more deeply and more broadly in all of life). But even this call is grounded in the reality that God continues to work “in you” (2:12–13). Even more encouraging is the fact that he does this “for [or according to] his good pleasure” (v. 13)—not according to our work or good intentions. He is not limited by us; rather, he enables and empowers us. Paul is explicit: God works in our wills and in our works (v. 13) And, again, why? Because he wants to! It’s his plan and pleasure to do this!
 
WORKING BECAUSE OF GOD’S WORK. The sovereignty of God’s sanctifying work in the Christian is far from a disincentive to our own personal work. God’s work is the very basis and primary motivation for ours. It is certainly a mystery precisely how the human responsibility of verse 12 and the divine sovereignty of verse 13 work together, but both are indeed true; both truths are clearly stated. But the word connecting them, “for” (v. 13), is telling, since it speaks to the motivation of our work, or the implication of God’s work. God’s ongoing, gracious work must not lead to laziness, indifference, or passivity, but to an awe-filled longing and striving to see salvation worked out more broadly and deeply.
 
THE SIN OF GRUMBLING. Paul calls on the church to resist “grumbling” and “disputing” (v. 14). This is one way in which salvation is worked out into the corners of everyday life. But this seemingly simple command also has a missional aim: “that you may be … without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation among whom you shine as lights in the world” (v. 15). The absence of complaining and arguing is a testifying mark of those who have put their full trust in the Lord and his plans. Therefore, God takes the sin of grumbling quite seriously. This was a major theme in Israel’s years in the wilderness. Not coincidentally, Paul quotes from one of those stories of Israel’s grumbling when he exhorts the Philippians to be “without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (see Deut. 32:5). But Paul borrows this language with a twist. Deuteronomy 32:5 spoke of the grumbling Israelites as “no longer his children” but rather “blemished” and part of a “crooked and twisted generation.” But Paul now calls on the Philippians, as true “children of God” (v. 15), to do what Israel did not do: to trust God and not complain or argue. They must be different from Israel of old and the world around them now.
 
LIGHTS IN THE WORLD. When Paul writes that the Philippians “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15), he is tapping into rich biblical language. God promised in Isaiah 42:6–7 that he would one day “give a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind.” The New Testament writers clearly saw this promise fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (Matt. 4:16; Luke 2:32). In fact, Jesus himself insisted that he is “the light of the world” (John 8:12); he came into the world “as light, so that whoever believes” in him will “not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). But Jesus also told his disciples that, by extension, they are “the light of the world.” He said, “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). Elsewhere in Isaiah, God said he will raise up a people who will be “a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). Paul and Barnabas quote these very words as the basis for their mission to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47). So too the Philippians are to “shine as lights in the world.” In short, the Philippians are part of this same great thematic development in God’s global saving purposes.
 
SACRIFICIAL OFFERING. Paul sees his possible martyrdom as a “drink offering” (Phil. 2:17). This is language from the Old Testament Levitical system in which wine was poured onto the ground or an altar as a sacrifice and as a symbol of a life poured out for God. Paul sees his death as worship, as sacrifice, and as a sign of a life fully consecrated to the Lord (see 1:20). Further, he sees the sacrifice of his life as a drink offering which is “upon the sacrificial offering of [the Philippians’] faith” (2:17). Their faith and ministry is its own sacrificial offering. Paul’s “offering” in death, should he soon be martyred, would be a kind of completion of their sacrifice (again, see 3 John 6–8).
 
SANCTIFICATION. The Westminster Shorter Catechism from the 1640s explains sanctification as “the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” That’s what Paul writes about in Philippians 2:12ff., beginning with a general appeal (vv. 12–13) and moving to specifics like not grumbling (v. 14) but instead rejoicing (v. 18). This is a lifelong process, not something immediate or fully achieved in the short term. Sanctification is comprehensive in that it involves the will, actions, and affections. It is not merely moral improvement, not merely “biting the tongue” to hold back grumbling. It is spiritual, even personal. We resist grumbling as “children of God” (v. 15). Sanctification is also gospel-rooted, and yet being worked out (v. 12). Thus, there is no real spiritual fight against grumbling or arguing without continually “holding fast to the word of life” (v. 16). It is only this kind of true spiritual transformation that can bring “joy” even in the prospect of a dear friend’s impending death (vv. 17–18).
 
Kelly, R. (2014). Philippians, A 12-Week Study. (J. I. Packer, D. C. Ortlund, & L. T. Dennis, Eds.) (pp. 47–49). Wheaton, IL: Crossway
 
 
First Big Idea: This verse summarizes the various calls to action that Paul has given the Philippians: to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27), to be like-minded (2:2), and to consider others more important (2:3). Verse 12 focuses on the manner in which these actions should be implemented: with fear and trembling. Working out salvation here is referring to the practical matters of following the Lord and allowing Him to work through you. This is stressed in the very next verse, which answers why we should do this with fear and trembling: because God is the one working in us, not we ourselves (see Eph 2:10).
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Progression of Thought: There is a series of supporting statements in 2:12–13 that develops in ways similar to how we might use rhetorical questions in English. The command to work out our salvation emphasizes the manner in which it should be done: with fear and trembling. The next sentence explains why we should do it in this way. It is not us that are the ones working it out, but God working in us. Paul tells us that God works in us not because of our righteousness or anything we have done. Instead, God works in us for His own pleasure. Thus there is no room for pride or arrogance; fear and trembling is the proper response.
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Second Big Idea: Paul takes what could have been a bland statement and makes it comprehensive. Commanding us not to grumble or complain would have been sufficient. If it involved grumbling or complaining, we should not be doing it, right? Paul adds emphasis to everything, which is already implied by the command not to grumble. The command to do everything without grumbling or complaining raises the standard—the comprehensive nature of the command is explicit instead of implicit.
 
Runge, S. E. (2011). High Definition Commentary: Philippians (Php 2:12–18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 
2:12 you have always obeyed Obedience is evidence of faith in God. Paul appeals to the entire community to continue to obey, which means adopting the attitude of Christ in their relationships with one another.
work out Emphasizes that obedience is intentional and purposeful. Paul’s point is that salvation, once received, must be put into practice through obedience.
 
fear and trembling Refers to reverence and awe before God (compare 1 Cor 2:3; 2 Cor 7:15; Eph 6:5). Paul’s imagery is derived from similar language used in the OT (e.g., Exod 15:16; Isa 19:16).
 
2:13 the one at work in you God’s transforming presence empowers believers to live in faithful obedience to His will. Compare Phil 1:6.
 
2:14 without grumbling and disputing Expressions of discontentment and arguing lead to a spirit of division within a community of believers. Paul commands the Philippians to abandon such things so as to promote unity.
 
2:15 blameless and innocent Paul creates contrast in this verse between the humility, kindness, and purity of God’s children and the sinful ways of the world.
 
you shine as stars Alludes to Dan 12:2–3, in which the wise shine like stars. By reflecting God’s character through their conduct, believers stand out against the darkness of the world and reveal the transformative power of the gospel (compare Phil 1:27).
 
2:16 word of life Refers to the message that brings life—the gospel.
a source of pride to me The Philippian believers—mostly non-Jews—represent the fulfillment of Paul’s calling as apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Gal 2:9; Rom 11:13). Their faithful response to the gospel proves that his ministry has not been futile.
 
2:17 drink offering In the ancient world, a drink could be poured out as an offering to a god (e.g., Gen 35:14; Hos 9:4). In the present verse (and in 2 Tim 4:6) Paul uses this imagery to describe his sufferings for the Philippians—including his present imprisonment—as an offering to God. He might be referring figuratively to the possibility of his death (compare Phil 1:20–24).
 
I rejoice Following the example of Jesus, Paul is not only willing but glad to suffer for the gospel.
 

Cranks some blanks

God is _____________________
 
God is working in _____________
 
God is giving you ______________
 
God is giving you ______________
 
Big Idea: God’s activity in your life can be comprehensive
 
Results are: Light to a dark world
 
Challenge for the day: How we live _________________ !!
 

Try memorizing a verse:

Philippians 2:14

Do all things without grumbling or disputing

I’m enjoying this worship song this week.
 

 

Going Deeper Study for Week #7


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