Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 24 2020 - Philippians 1:27-2:18 – Go on working out your salvation

In Philippians chapter 2 Paul provides us with a breath-taking view of the drama of salvation. Before he came into this world, Jesus Christ shared all the glory and dignity of God, along with the Father. But Jesus did not hold on to that for all he was worth. Rather, he freely let it all go. He took upon himself our human nature and came into this world as a servant – the great Creator became a creature; the Lord of all became servant of all. More than that, he humbled himself in going to the cross – being despised and rejected by those he had created; suffering the penalty of our sin and the wrath of Father God. And because of this, God raised him up from the dead and exalted him to the highest place in all of heaven. All of this was done in order that we might have a way back to God. It is God's purpose that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11). It is God's purpose that all things in heaven and earth should be brought under the dominion of Jesus Christ – that his kingdom should extend over all.

And this is what is happening in the world. This is what happened to us when we came to hear the message of salvation and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We were saved, or to be more precise, we are being saved. So Paul says to these Christians at Philippi – and to us – "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (2:12-13). What areas or aspects of your life have not bowed the knee to Christ? Are there remaining areas of pride and self-will that are inconsistent with the character of the incarnate God that has been displayed in Jesus?

And just in case we are tempted to think that we are practically perfect in every way, Paul adds, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God..." (2:14-15) – that's a big ask! We never get beyond the need for fresh subjection to Jesus Christ, in all the detailed aspects of our lives. That is why we are to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling." It is serious and demanding work that can only be accomplished in the fear of God and with an eye to his burning purity and holiness. It can only be accomplished with an eye upon the Lord Jesus Christ and his self-effacing character and glory. But, thanks be to God, it's not a work we have to do by our own strength – we cannot make ourselves like Christ; we can only make ourselves like the Pharisees. The wonder of our salvation is that "God is at work in [us] to give us the desire and the power to act according to his good purpose." It's a work that has to be done from the inside out. It's a work that can only be accomplished by the Spirit of God – by the Spirit of the risen Christ.

But this outworking of God's saving purposes is not individualistic. It is God's purpose that every knee should bow to Christ and that every tongue should confess him as Lord. It was this vision that drove Paul in his ministry; the outworking of salvation meant telling all the world about the Lord Jesus Christ. We also are to shine as lights in a dark world, bringing the word of life to a dying world.

Lord, help me to be engaged in the great work of salvation, both in my own life and in the lives of those I touch, for Christ's sake and for the glory of God the Father.

Peter Misselbrook