The Letter To The Philippians, Part 7

Philippians 2: 12-13
Begin with intentional reading:

  • Read Philippians 2:5-11 slowly and carefully.  Consider the following:
  • Did you notice anything in this set of scripture you have never noticed in the Bible before?
  • Did you read any familiar verses? Which ones?
  • Were any of the verses you read particularly meaningful to you today? Why?

What a rich set of verses we have to dig into today! Paul has just finished encouraging the church at Philippi to adopt Christ’s attitude of humility and to strive for unity in the church.  He then begins this next section by discussing obedience. By following his teaching about humility with his encouragement for continued obedience, Paul is linking humility and obedience together for the Philippians.  Without humility, obedience is impossible.  This was a principle that Jesus both knew and demonstrated.

  • Reread Philippians 2: 6-8 then read Philippians 2:12. How are humility and obedience connected? Why is humility required for obedience? 
  • There is no greater example of humble obedience than Jesus’ obedience to death on the cross.  In comparison to what God asked of Jesus, how heavy is our burden of obedience?  What is the root of our struggle with sin? Humility or obedience?

In verse 12, Paul goes on to say “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Now, before we consider what this does mean, let’s be sure of what it does not mean.  The words “work” and “works” in scripture have caused believers to struggle to find the balance between doing actions for the glory of God and doing actions to earn our salvation.  Paul is for sure not telling us to work for our salvation or that our salvation is somehow dependent on our works. If that were the message Paul were sending to the Philippians, it would contradict the message he sent to the church at Ephesus.

  • Read Ephesians 2:8-9. What does Paul make clear about the relationship between salvation and works in these verses?  

Instead, the Greek word translated into the English phrase work out is from the single verb katergazomi. This Greek verb brings with the context of actions being done with a definitive goal in mind.  Paul’s audience would have understood that he was telling them to live with purpose, intention, and do everything possible to be effective in their efforts to spread the Gospel.  And, in the context of obedience that begins this verse, Paul is telling the Philippian brothers and sisters live lives of obedience as they live with purpose and intention.   Paul not only connects obedience to humility; he connects it a life well lived for Christ.

  • With this understanding of katergazomi, how would you explain “work out your own salvation” to a new believer?  How would you explain the connection between humility, obedience, and living a purposeful life for Christ?
  • Read Matthew 7: 16-20.  What connection do you see between Jesus’ teaching about recognizing fruit, and Paul’s encouragement to live a life of purpose for Christ?

In addition, Paul is encouraging this young church – and all believers – to conduct their lives in such a way that when temptation comes along, they are not living so close to the edge of sin that they fall in.  Living intentionally and purposefully helps us guard against that, but Paul gives even more encouragement in verse 13.   When he writes that it is “God who works in [us] to will and to act according to His good purpose,” Paul is doing 2 things.  He is letting us know that we do not have to self-discipline ourselves into sinlessness and giving us confidence to continue in the struggle against sin.

  • Carefully read Philippians 2: 13.  Who does Paul say works in us? What does this verse tell us God works in us to do?

The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of each disciple who has accepted the salvation of the Lord.  It is Holy Spirit that helps us both desire to God’s will and then have the power to fulfill that desire. God has not left us all alone to obey Him in a fallen world with a fallen nature.  Instead, God, in His infinite grace and through His Spirit, helps believers desire to do His will.  

  • Read Galatians 5:16-17 and Romans 8:12-13.  According to these verses, how does Holy Spirit help us overcome sin?
  • Does it change the way you view temptation and your desire to sin knowing that God wanted Holy Spirit to live inside of us specifically to help us overcome sin?

Because we have our own wills, however, there will be times in our lives that we will face temptation.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that sometimes our own will is at war with the will of God.  But verse 13 assures us that God will not only help us desire to do his will, but Holy Spirit will help us live it out. “Acting according to God’s good purpose” is another way for Paul to say “work out your own salvation.”  In verse 13, He simply reminds us that we are not alone while we set our lives to acting on what God asks us to do. This is why, once again, humility, obedience, and living with purpose cannot be separated.

  • What is Holy Spirit leading you to act on for the glory of God and the good of the kingdom? What are your hesitations? Pray that God will help you both “will and act according to His good purpose.”
  • Read Ephesians 2:10. How does this verse confirm that God has a “good purpose” for you that is specifically tailored to your life?  Pray to “work that out” with Holy Spirit’s help.

Be blessed.  Be a blessing.

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