Thursday, June 02, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Sanctification 101: Phil 2:12-13

Earlier this week as we looked at Philippians 2:12-13, we said that this was the main point that the Apostle Paul wanted us to appreciate about sanctification: because God accepts us freely, change is possible.

This week the point is going to be related, but slightly different. Because the other thing that Paul stresses so clearly in this passage – and you see it in the end of verse 12 – is that God is the one at work in us, working to change us.

The whole passage is about sanctification. It’s not about justification, it’s about sanctification, becoming like Christ, God changing us.

That is important to recognize because of what Paul says in Philippians 2:12: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Paul does not mean that you must somehow save yourself from God’s judgment by doing good works or by your efforts, or your goodness. He’s talking about those who have already been converted and accepted by God.

He’s telling them how to live like Jesus. How to grow in their Christian life. And so when Paul says work out your salvation, he is in effect talking about your sanctification: show the fruits of God’s saving work for you in the way you pursue godliness.

And that means that he’s stressing here that if we’re going to pursue godliness, it’s because God is at work in us for godliness.

Philippians 2:12-13 is, in the final analysis, an encouragement. We said last week, in this passage Paul is not teaching us here that God accepts you, and therefore no change is necessary in your life, but that God accepts you and therefore change is now possible in your life.

Because God is at work in you, you work in hope. We’ll look at Paul’s exhortation in four parts: “Continue to obey,” he says; “Work out your salvation…in fear and trembling…because God is at work in you.”

I. Continue to obey.
Paul is not like a coach saying to a team that is not getting his point, “You knuckleheads! Stop doing it wrong! Do it the way I told you to do it!” No, Paul is actually saying, “You got it! You’re doing exactly what you ought to be doing! Keep on doing what you’re doing.” It’s like he stops practice, blows the whistle, and says, “Yes! Just like that! Keep it up!”

This is an encouragement. He’s not bashing his team, he’s encouraging them. He says, ‘You know what? You not only obey when I’m there with you, you obey when I’m not there with you. Keep it up. That’s exactly right.’

Boy, is that important for us to hear! Because what Paul is telling you is, as he commends them for obedience.

The first principle is simply this: Obedience is a natural, vital, and necessary part of the Christian life.

II. Work out your salvation.
He is saying be active in pursuing holiness and godliness in the Christian life. And that leads us to the second principle that we learn here: we are to be active in living the Christian life. We are not passive in growing in grace.

Recall when earlier in Philippians 2, we emphasized that Paul’s call to Christian unity, unity does not just happen. Yes, God has united us to Christ, and He’s united us to one another, but if we’re going to express and experience that unity, we are going to have to contribute to it. Why? Because we are going to sin against one another. If we think that unity is just going to happen, we are living in a pipe dream! We must be intentional in promoting that unity, especially when we have been offended in the context of the body. Paul is just saying here you’ve got to be active in living the Christian life. It’s not sitting back on the hammock and swinging back and forth on the porch; it’s active commitment to growing in grace, if you are going to experience and express all that God has for you.

III. Do this before God in reverent awe and humility.
He means that we’re to do all of this in reverent awe and humility of God, because God’s at work in you. It’s an awesome thing. When you see yourself not only wanting to do what the Bible tells you to do, but doing what the Bible tells you to do, you are seeing that the living God who made heaven and earth is at work in your life. And it ought to cause you to tremble just a little bit, because the Almighty God is at work in you. Everywhere you see yourself wanting to follow the Bible, and following the Bible in your life, that is evidence that God is at work in you.

The third principle: We are to be humble and God-fearing in our living of the Christian life.

IV. Live this way because God is at work in you.
The fourth principle is Paul tells you that God is at work in you to encourage you. Thank God that He did not say, ‘OK, you’re forgiven. Now you’re on your own.’ Because I can testify that it’s hard enough to pursue holiness with His help. I can’t imagine pursuing it without Him. So he’s encouraging you: ‘God Himself is at work in you, so be encouraged by that.’

But the fifth principle that we learn from the passage is that God’s work doesn’t lead us to say ‘I don’t need to do anything. I don’t need to work.’ But rather, it leads us to work in hope. You see, the logic of sanctification goes like this: God is at work in you, and therefore everything that you do matters to grow in grace. It’s so important to understand that that operates everywhere in the Christian life. God is at work in you; therefore everything that you do matters as you seek to grow in grace.

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