Philippians: Real Joy in Real Life                                 Oct. 15, 2017

Part Five – Philippians 2:12-18

What title would you choose for Philippians 2:12-18?

  1. Take responsibility for your spiritual development
  2. Live out what God has done for you “in Christ”
  3. Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel
  4. Becoming blameless and pure
  5. How to shine like stars
  6. Work our your salvation


Philippians 2:12-18

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.


  1.  “Therefore” at the beginning of verse 12 reminds us to look at the previous passage where we are challenged to think and act like Jesus. (Yes to live for the interests of others).
  2. “Work out your salvation” (12)

– Paul is not telling us to work for our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9)

– Paul, however, is telling us how we are to live out our salvation

– Salvation is a rich concept that includes forgiveness, adoption, being gifted, reconciliation, freedom from God’s wrath and so much more

– Living out our salvation is therefore a very broad command that affects our  entire life and in keeping with the context it is also a call to live out the pattern of thinking Jesus modelled for us. (Yes a life given to serving the interests of others)

  1. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act…” (13)

– God works in us so that we will both want what He wants and, as well, to help us to act in order to accomplish His good purposes. Therefore, Living Like Jesus is not primarily up to us!

  1. One specific example of living out our salvation is “doing” everything without grumbling or arguing” (14)

– Was the church at Philippi tempted to complain because they were suffering persecution? (1:29)

– Were they tempted to argue in regards to an internal dispute (4:2)

– When we catch ourselves complaining we need to repent

  1. In verses 15-18, Paul tells the Philippians why he wants them to obey everything he has just said.

– He wants them to be blameless and pure (15)

– He wants them to learn a lesson from the nation of Israel as they journeyed to the Promised Land (See   Deuteronomy 32:5, Numbers 16:1ff, 1 Corinthians  10:10)

– There are always behaviors God’s people must avoid and virtues we must possess if we are going to “shine like stars” (15b)

– Paul wanted his ministry to count for eternity (16b). (He wanted his ministry to be effective)

– Paul was not concerned that his ministry was costing him his life (17)

– We too should rejoice that we are being used for a cause as great as the Gospel.

“This is the true joy of life, the being used for a great purpose recognized by God as a mighty one; the being an instrument in the hands of God instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making me happy.” Adapted Quote from George Bernard Shaw


Life Group Study – Part Four – Philippians 2:12-18


Open Up:

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs his followers to – among other things – pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matt 6:10).


Name some of the things that have been happening in the world currently that are troubling – that are in need of repair or renewal.  What things are heartbreaking to you?  What things make you long for the world to be “put to rights” – to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as in heaven?


Dig In:

In Philippians 1:27, Paul calls the church to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”; or perhaps a better translation of this politically loaded phrase: “Live out your citizenship – the heavenly one of course – in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Gordon Fee’s translation).  In 2:1-11, Paul speaks about how each person is to act in relation to all the others (see vv.1-4), and he uses the story of Jesus’ self-giving love as the pattern we are to emulate.  Now in 2:14-18, Paul speaks of how the church as a whole is to live their heavenly citizenship in distinction to their broader culture.


  1. Read 2:12-18. We need to remember that this section follows directly after Paul tells the Christians to live with a shared pattern of thinking, feeling and acting – one that is humble and looking out for the needs of others (2:1-4), just as Jesus lived for us (2:5-11).  Paul is then encouraging the community there to live out these relational commands from 2:1-11.  How do vv.12-13 encourage us to actually live in a way that is humble and looking out for others interests, not our own?



(Note on v.12: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” can be difficult to interpret.  It is best understood as “work out what your salvation means in every part of your life – especially your relationships with one another all of life” (cf. 2:1-11).  But what about the ‘fear and trembling’ part?  Just as “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” is the guiding clause of the household code in Ephesians 5:21-6:9, so “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is ultimately done out of reverence for Christ. For the community at Philippi to “work out their salvation,” they must obediently emulate Jesus’ example in vv. 5-11, with “fear and trembling” toward God.)


  1. Read 2:14-16 again. What is Paul’s big concern for the Christian community here? What does God’s wants for them – and for us?  What will be the result?



  1. What Paul prays for in 1:9-11 he now offers as instructions in 2:12-16. How do Paul’s instructions here encourage you?  What parts of your life does it challenge?



  1. The background of Paul’s words against “grumbling and arguing” is the story of Israel’s time in the wilderness (Paul quotes Deut 32:5). God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, and yet they complained against God and against God’s appointed leader, Moses, wanting to go back to Egypt – to a life of slavery.  Ancient Israel failed to perceive their lives as bound up in God’s rescue and to trust God through the difficult time on the journey toward God’s good future.  The Philippian congregation must not take this same route of grumbling and arguing.  In a sense, then, the story of God’s rescue of Israel has parallels for the Christian life.  We are a rescued people on a journey together toward our heavenly homeland (cf. Phil 3:20), since the world in its present form will give way to the redeemed and renewed heaven and earth (see Rev 21:1-5).


One scholar writes about this section: “If Paul’s language here strikes us as alien [strange/different], it may well be because we have lost sense of being pilgrims or sojourners [we don’t really belong in the world as it now stands – with its evil and ugliness and injustice and sin].  We may well find that we have become so acclimated to our current situation that we no longer see the yawning chasm between our comfortable lives and God’s deepest desires for us.  Whether we characterize our deepest desires in terms of holiness (as Paul does here) or communion with God…unless we sense the extraordinary difference between our world and God’s desires, we will always feel too much at home to conceive of ourselves as pilgrims and of our life together as a journey” (Stephen Fowl, Philippians).


  1. Do you think that it’s easy for Christians to feel too “at home” in the world as it now is, and fail to see our selves as a pilgrim community? Why or why not?


  1. In verses 14-16, Paul describes the evangelistic influence of the church. Here Paul is showing the need for the church to be “distinct from the world for the sake of the world.” What tensions are there between connecting to our culture, and living distinct from our culture? What does “distinct” look like based on the letter to the Philippians?



  1. Read vv.16b-18. Why does Paul rejoice, and call others to rejoice with him? What is the source of his joy, and how can that be yours too?



Prayer:  Take some time to pray for those at your table.  Share some of the areas this text has challenged or encouraged you, and ask for others to pray that God would strengthen you in these ways.