EDIFICATION

“Therefore, my dearly-loved friends, who are always careful to follow my instructions (and are now even more faithful to do so in my absence), make every effort to hold fast to your salvation in reverence and in godly fear. For it is God Himself who works within you, giving you both the desire and the power to execute His will. Do everything without complaining, arguing and faultfinding, that you may be known as innocent children of God who shine like stars in the midst of a dark and perverse world. As you hold forth the Word of Life, you will give me reason for joy on the day Christ returns, knowing my ministry has not been a failure. If my life must be poured out like a sacrificial drink offering in order to nurture your faith, I shall continue to rejoice for myself and for you all. It is for the same reasons that we share the same joy.” (paraphrased)

The word “therefore” is the word that links this text to the dynamic paragraph preceding it. After the great Kenosis passage, Paul brings the Philippians down to earth, addressing Christian responsibilities. He applies the example of their obedient Lord to the situation in the Philippian church.

v. 12
Paul addresses the church as “my beloved,” a term of endearment. He compliments them for their faithfulness in his absence. Although he praises the Philippians for their obedience to him, he also warns regarding the danger of leaning on him rather than God (compare 1:27 with 2:12). He is training them to display self-initiative, whether he is physically present or not.

In this letter, Paul does not always express optimism about his soon release from prison (1:20 and 2:17). Free or not, he encourages them to continue in loyalty and obedience. Paul trusts the church will continue to minister and teach the things regarding salvation consistently, without his apostolic directives. He calls upon them to model the spirit of obedient submission which Jesus exemplifies.

God works His plan of salvation through a combination of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. However, the phrase “work out your own salvation” does not mean we are to earn it through good works. Neither does it mean God has left us to sort out everything by ourselves. The term “work out” is katergazesthe and indicates each believer must maintain a focused purpose in a lifestyle befitting their relationship to God. Paul is referring to the health of the church collectively, not individually. This term should be understood as a reference to the attitude the Philippians must have toward each other as they labor together. We are to work out in daily life what the Holy Spirit works in us.

Paul adds, we are to serve God “in fear and trembling.” This bespeaks the seriousness with which we should serve Him. Fear is used here in the sense of duty, reverence and sensitivity to God’s will. We must respect His strength, being conscious of our own weaknesses. Believers must perform their duties to God and others in cheerful obedience, without complaint or debate.

v. 13
The reason we are to do this is “because God works in us to do His will.” This phrase complements the idea in the previous verse: to allow our lifestyle to reflect what God has wrought within us. We reciprocate what God has done for us by blessing others.

v. 14
It is wonderful to serve the Lord together with a joyful spirit. We bless God by serving Him with a positive attitude that exemplifies self-denial and self-renunciation (1:29). We must not complain, mutter or argue among ourselves as we work together for God. Believers should meditate frequently upon this passage.

v. 15
To “be blameless and harmless” does not refer to cowardice or timidity, but means we are to live a life above reproach. Our way of life must be honorable in the midst of this crooked, distorted and perverse generation. The word “rebuke” (amoma) refers to that which is blemished (compare Matthew 12:39 and 17:17). Our testimony becomes blemished when our talk does not match our walk.

Their pagan neighbors in Philippi are described as depraved, ignoring the Word of God (Deut. 32:5). In contrast, Believers are to shine among them “as lights in the world.” The concept here has a double meaning. We are to illuminate those in darkness by shining like stars spiritually. This verse also calls forth the image of people holding torches in front of them, lighting the path for others. Mature disciples help banish spiritual and moral darkness. 

Jesus also makes allegorical use of light in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16). The concept of “darkness” in the Bible often symbolizes spiritual ignorance. Light is an active power that overcomes darkness, never the reverse. Strike the smallest match in the deepest cave and light will always overcome the blackness. Darkness bespeaks danger, damnation and discomfort. As the Light, Jesus penetrates our spiritual darkness. He presents Himself as “the light of life” (John 8:12). When Jesus says “I am the Light of the world,” He means there is no other (John 5:9 and 6:12).

Jesus informs us that Believers are also “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). It may be more accurate to say we reflect His light. The term “light” in Greek is phos, from which we get the word “photo.” When used metaphorically, it points to radiant illumination through the Word of God. He assumes we possess His light, instructing us to allow ourselves to shine. Jesus teaches those who have the light cannot hide it, for the human race has no light but that of the Son of God (Luke 11:33). We are to be the light of the entire world, for evangelism is a global mission. Jesus indicates the purpose for our shining is to reflect God’s glory, not our own. We can only light our candles from His.

v. 16
By “holding forth the Word of life,” we become torchbearers, illuminating His path for others. Paul infers we represent Christ both by the life we lead and the words we speak. The analogy of a footrace is in view here, denoting constancy, progress and perseverance (compare I Cor. 9:24 and Gal. 5:7). Paul feels confident he has not run or labored in vain (Gal. 2:2).

vv. 17-18
The Apostle regards the sacrifice of his life a small price to pay for the assurance the Philippian church is rooted and grounded in love. The term “sacrifice” here depicts a person poured out as a drink offering before God (II Timothy 4:6). Though he believes he may be released from prison soon, he tells them they must rejoice even if he is called to lay down his life for Christ.

The picture Paul paints in this passage is the portrait of a selfless attitude. As Christians meditate upon this text, they should compare it with the words of Jesus who says, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). The snapshot of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet should be posted in a prominent spot on our mental bulletin boards. 

EDIFICATION - STUDY QUESTIONS

MULTIPLE CHOICE

1. In 2:15, Christians are compared to:
A. water
B. oil
C. light
D. soldiers
E. none of the above

2. In 2:15, the combined terms of “blameless and harmless” refer to:
A. cowardice
B. innocence
C. persecution
D. timidity
E. none of the above

3. In 2:16, Christians are viewed as:
A. lambs
B. runners
C. angels
D. torchbearers
E. both B and D

EDIFICATION - REFLECTION

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES

1. As a couple, look up the following passages regarding the allegorical use of light and respond to the following questions:

Read John 3:19-21 concerning what Jesus says to Nicodemus about light (John 3:19-21).

<> In Romans, what are we encouraged to do?

<> In II Corinthians 4:4, how is the Gospel described?

<> What two things are contrasted in II Corinthians 6:14?

<> In Ephesians 5:14 what will Christ give you?

<> What are Christians called in I Thessalonians 5:5?

<> How is the Christian walk compared with Christ’s walk in I John 1:7?

<> What is said about the Lamb in Revelation 21:23?

<> What are we to point people toward, according to Acts 26:18?

2. In what specific ways does your marital lifestyle reflect the light of Christ?

 

3. List the things you grumble, murmur or pout about the most (2:14).

 

 

4. What are the primary topics of open disputes and arguments in your home?


ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS

1. Look up the following passages regarding the allegorical use of light and respond to the following questions:

Read John 3:19-21 concerning what Jesus says to Nicodemus about light (John 3:19-21).

<> In Romans, what are we encouraged to do?

<> In II Corinthians 4:4, how is the Gospel described?

<> What two things are contrasted in II Corinthians 6:14?

<> In Ephesians 5:14 what will Christ give you?

<> What are Christians called in I Thessalonians 5:5?

<> How is the Christian walk compared with Christ’s walk in I John 1:7?

<> What is said about the Lamb in Revelation 21:23?

<> What are we to point people toward, according to Acts 26:18?

2. In what specific ways does your lifestyle reflect the light of Christ?

 

3. List the things you grumble, murmur or pout about the most (2:14).

 


4. What are the primary topics of open disputes and arguments in your life?

 

 


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