Friday, November 21, 2008


From the time we were little we were taught to say the words, “Thank You!” Now, as we enter the Thanksgiving Holiday we need to be reminded that an attitude of gratitude involves so much more than just saying the words, “Thank You!” This is made very clear in Paul’s writing to the church in Philippians 2:12-18.

Paul begins in verses 12-13 by telling of our need to remember our purpose which is to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” The verb, “work out,” is written in the imperative mood meaning that it something that it is command, not simply an option or a suggestion. It is written in the present tense meaning that it is a continual activity as opposed to a one time action. In other words, we are to keep working out our salvation. It is carrying something out to its ultimate coal or conclusion like you would a math problem. It is the same Greek term used for working a mine or a field.

And what are we to continually be in the process of working out? We are to work out our salvation. It is important to note that Paul is writing to people who are already believers. He calls them “my beloved” in 2:12; “Brethren” in 1:12; “My Brethren” in 3:1; and “Beloved Brethren” in 4:1. Since his readers are already believers, then Paul is definitely not teaching that we are to work “for” our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we are saved by grace through faith completely apart from works. Paul is speaking here of the self-initiated activity of continually becoming more like Christ. Once we come to know Christ as our Savior, we do not automatically become just like Christ in our living. We have a role to play in the process of sanctification as we daily are transformed more and more into the likeness of our Savior.

And how serious are we to take this responsibility? We are to do so with “fear and trembling.” This is not just something we do when we are at church on Sunday. Paul knew they did this when he was present but he exhorts them to do so even more in his absence. We all watch ourselves in public but we need to be all the more committed to our purpose of working out our salvation when there is not one solitary soul around us.

This is God’s will for us as His children. Paul says that it is God the Father who is the one at work in our lives. The word “work” is the same word where we get our word “energy.” He is the One energizing us so that we can accomplish our purpose of working out our salvation by becoming more like Christ. He is the One who wills and does His good pleasure in us. He is the one who supplies us the power for accomplishment.

But along with remembering our purpose we must also refuse to complain (2:14-16). And this we are to do in “all things.” This too is a command not a suggestion. It too is also a continual action. The word “all” here is the key word. It is in the emphatic position for emphasis. In other words, as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling we must do so in all situations. And to do so means that in everything we do we are committed and we make every effort to do so without any "grumbling" or "disputing." More on those two words next week.

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