“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” (Philippians 2:12). This verse follows Paul’s well-known description of Jesus Christ’s ultimate example of humility. We often quote this verse, but what exactly does Paul mean when he tells Christians to ”workout” our own salvation? The Greek word “workout” means to work in order to bring something to its completion. Paul’s message in verse 12 is similar to his message earlier in Philippians 1:27: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ...” As followers of Jesus, we are to ensure that the gospel of Christ is lived out in our lives. With that in mind, Paul gives Christians three things to consider in the verses that follow.
God is faithful to help us: I will be the first to say, living in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ is not always the easiest thing to do. Temptations are often difficult to overcome. Revenge is our natural instinct when we are wronged. Yet Christians are still called to be lights in a dark world. So, how can we do it? “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT). While living faithfully may not always be easy, those who desire faithfulness have the promise of God’s help.
Unity shows Christ in the world: Throughout Paul’s writings, he consistently calls his audiences toward deeper unity. To the Philippians, Paul says in 3:14 to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing...” What is Paul’s reason for this command? “...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..” (Philippians 3:15). Living in the mist of a crooked, ungodly world, Christians are called to shine the light of Christ. For us to do that, we must begin by working toward our own unity.
We must hold fast to God’s word: Undoubtedly, this section of scripture is focused on the Christian’s faithfulness. As he continues on, Paul says, “... 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” (Philippians 2:16). In 2 Peter 1:3, Scripture is described as giving us all things that pertain to life and godliness...” For us to live faithful lives, shining the light of Christ to the world, we are to focus on and live out the words found in Scripture.
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