God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 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, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 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, 16 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. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. – Philippians 2:9-18
Glorious paradox. Two mutually exclusive things are held side by side and declared to be true. It leaves us in a place to worship his infinite complexity and simplicity. He is far above our ways and our understanding while presenting us with simple instructions to be obeyed. These are the kinds of truths that when encountered cause us to fall on our knees and worship him.
God has highly exalted Jesus, therefore, work out your salvation. Motivation is secondary; empowerment is primary.
Jesus is exalted so that every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth, and confess that he is Lord. That is our motivation to obedience which is specified as working out our salvation.
For, it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. That is the energy for both motivation (will) and empowerment (work).
You are assigned an impossible task. But you are assured you will be able to complete the task. This assurance doesn’t make the task easier or less impossible but does give you confidence as you work on the completion of the impossible task. This is what it is to “work out your own salvation.” Paul is not urging us to work hard so we can go to heaven when we die. He is not proposing a works based salvation. He is encouraging us to promote what is on the inside to show up on the outside where others can see Christ in us. In theologeeze, we are speaking of sanctification. We take an active part in it, we put in our own effort, but the willing and the working to accomplish our sanctification is God, not we ourselves. The task for us is impossible, and yet it will be achieved.
Paul goes on to add some very practical instruction. Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Apparently, Paul had attended a church committee meeting or two. Or, maybe he had a future vision and foresaw Facebook.
Pauls point? That we, in the midst of this crooked and twisted generation shine as lights in the world. How do we do that? By being perfect? No. By letting what is on the inside show on the outside. By holding fast to the word of life. Another way of saying that is to say by holding without admixture the gospel as taught by Paul, the gospel of grace, the good news of the one creator God who created and sustains all things and has provided for the salvation all creation along with his redeemed sons and will come again to judge the living and the dead. His glorious grace and his glorious justice will be demonstrated. Simply hold fast to that truth. Do not compromise and adjust to the crooked and twisted generation in which we live.
Paul is the happy apostle of the happy God. He ends this section of this letter encouraging the Philippians to rejoice with him even if his life is poured out as a drink offering. Paul is referring to his impending execution for standing firm in the gospel and declaring Jesus as Lord. He is rejoicing because the Philippians had come to faith in Christ. They are his joy. He finishes, “Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” They knew Paul’s days could well be numbered and they could possibly not see him again, but joy and gladness dominate due to their fellowship in Christ and the eternal hope that lies before us all.
So, because of the exalted Christ, work out your salvation, let your little light shine, and rejoice in the midst of this crooked and twisted generation. Selah!