Notice, that Paul begins with the word, ‘therefore’. In other words, everything he says in this chapter about relationships and unity is there because Paul knows that unless we keep our unity unless we practice love, we’re not going to be able to stand strong when we are opposed and when we suffer, Philippians 1:27-30.
He’s just spoken about standing firm and suffering for Jesus Christ and Paul says what will make my joy complete is, ‘let me hear, that you love each other, it’s not enough if you have the right attitude about me but don’t have the right attitude about each other.’ My joy can’t be complete until I hear that your fellowship is complete’.
And so, Paul tells them about the resources they have for fellowship. He says, ‘we all have our common unity to Jesus Christ, we’ve all been united in Jesus Christ, we all put him on in baptism, we’re all united with His death and resurrection, we’ve all been washed in His blood, that’s something we share’.
‘We all have the comfort of His love, we’ve all known the love of Jesus Christ poured into our hearts, we’ve all felt that. We all have the fellowship of the Spirit, we were all baptized by the one Spirit into the one body, and we are all partakers of the empowering of the Holy Spirit who leads us and guides us. And we all have the compassion that comes from being saved by the mercies of God.’
And because of all these resources that we have in Christ, ‘make my joy complete by being like-minded, that of the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.’
When Paul says, ‘I want you to be alike, I want you to be like-minded, he’s not urging, reaching conformity’, he’s not saying, ‘you all need to dress alike, you all have to think alike’.
There’s no way you can get a crowd of people together and get them to all think alike, that’s not what he’s saying. But even though we’re never going to all think alike, ‘we can all think the same way about each other’. He’s saying, we can all be like-minded in the way we think and treat each other.
Now there’s a special kind of ‘minding’ that Christians practice. We have the mind of Christ, we have a way of looking at each other, even when we’re having problems, even when we disagree that’s very special.
That was going on in Philippi, with Euodia and Syntyche whom we read about in Philippians 4:2-3, they’re having a fuss and it was upsetting the church.
And Paul says, ‘have you all forgotten how you are supposed to think in Christ, have you forgotten that even though you don’t always think the same way about things, you could think the same way about each other’?
The greatest thing impacting our influence in the world is the relationships in the church that aren’t right. Our greatest threat isn’t on the outside, it’s on the inside. If only we could rediscover the passion of the doctrine in the Bible of the unity of believers. If we only could rediscover a passion for what the Bible says must exist if we’re going to stand firm, Romans 15:5-6.
If we don’t have the oneness of heart, we can’t glorify God, we can’t do what we were meant to do until we have unity, Ephesians 4:3. United we stand, divided we fall.
Remember, Paul said earlier, ‘the aim is fidelity’, we want to stand firm for Jesus, Philippians 1:27-28. If we’re going to stand firm against the opposition on the outside, we’ve got to have unity on the inside, that’s the key.
What do we need, if we’re going to have real unity? What we need is humility because most churches that are divided have always got a pride problem, Philippians 2:3. If we don’t practice humility, we’re going to hurt the unity of the church and if we hurt the unity of the church, we’re going to hurt the witness of the church.
We’ve got to remember what God thinks about pride, 1 Peter 5:5. To get rid of pride we must begin by remembering that we need grace in our life and if we want God’s grace in our life, we’ve got to get rid of pride. God hates pride, and we’ve got to look at pride the way God looks at it.
What is humility? Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, humility isn’t thinking of ourselves at all. Paul’s point is that we’re in a battle, a war and if we’re going to stand strong for Jesus, we’ve got to practice unity.
Our greatest weapon is spirit-produced oneness. We’re supposed to gather around the cross, the blood of Jesus and stand strong for Him. That’s what Jesus prayed, out of all the things He could have prayed for the night before He died, that’s what He prayed for the most, John 17:21.
These verses have been called ‘The Christ song’, and Paul says when tension arises, let the cross of Jesus, cross our mind. Or to put it this way, ‘the cross of Christ controls how we think and act towards each other.’
Paul wrote this for a very practical reason, he’s trying to say, ‘Jesus is the supreme example of unselfishness, He is the ultimate model when it comes to dealing with others’. In other words, Jesus looked out for others’ interests, even when they weren’t looking out for His, Philippians 2:6-7.
Here is One who had everything, who had every right to have everything. One who had done no wrong, looking out to a world full of people full of envy and hate, who had a right to nothing. And instead of clutching, He let go to serve.
The problem is, we come together, we read verses about the cross, and we sing about the cross. We put crosses on our necks, we put crosses on our church buildings and then we leave the church and go home and we don’t think about the cross again for seven days.
The apostle Paul is saying, ‘those scared hands of Jesus have decided once for all, who we listen to, what we think about, and how we live.’ We’ve got to cross our minds, and it’s not easy, and I think God knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so do you know what God said?
God said, ‘To help you out, here’s what I want you to do, Every seven days, every Sunday, get together, and have a meal together, just to remember the cross, just to keep it on your mind, break some bread, drink some wine together, and when you do it talk about the cross’.
We’re not supposed to come to the Supper if we have got problems with one another. God says, ‘It’s an affront to Him if you do that.’ Because we can’t come to the Supper if you won’t cross our mind.
When Paul quoted this beautiful song about Christ, his main purpose was ethical. He was trying to change the behaviour of the lives of some Christians.
I think that song tells us something about Jesus, that everyone needs to be clear about. Whether someone names the Name of Jesus or not, we don’t want anyone to stand before God someday and say, ‘they never understood what Jesus did.’
First, we’ve got to start with the problem, the problem of why our world needed Jesus. God made a perfect world, and he put Adam in that world and asked him to take care of it and things got messed up pretty bad, pretty fast.
God is supposed to be the centre of our lives and we were made in the image of God to look up to Him and worship Him. But do you know what Adam did? He listened to a lie from Satan and he decided, he would try to clutch or grasp at being God.
Satan came along and said, ‘why do you want to worship God when you can be like Him?’ And so Adam said, ‘that’s what I’ll do, I’ll try to be like God, I’ll be God, and I’ll be my own God.’
And he’s past that down to all his kids and his grandkids and that’s what we’ve all been doing. We’ve been trying to be our own god and we’ve got the wrong centre, and that’s why this world sounds so ugly.
Notice what Jesus did, sometimes he’s called the second Adam. Paul says, Jesus ‘didn’t grasp at trying to be God,’ Philippians 2:6. The Bible says He did two things, ‘He made himself nothing and he humbled himself.’
First He emptied Himself or made Himself nothing as some translation has it, so that He could serve, Philippians 2:7. Who was Jesus? Was He a God or was He a man, just who was He? Well yes, He was both, He was the God-man.
When the Bible says, ‘he emptied himself’, that doesn’t mean He became less than God, when He was on earth, it means He became more than God. He was God, but now He was also a man, He didn’t get rid of deity, He emptied deity into humanity.
He could never stop being God because God’s His nature. But do you know what He did? He relinquished His glory, He concealed it in human flesh.
Now and then we got a glimpse of it. He was up on a mountain one time, with three disciples and He was transfigured and they saw his glory. Paul saw it on the Damascus road, John saw it in Revelation 1 in his vision. And someday we’re going to see the bright brilliant glory of Jesus.
But when He was on earth as a man, He concealed that glory. Do you know why? So that we can approach Him. So that He could come near to us and serve us and meet our needs, heal the sick, wash our feet and tell us about God.
And so He humbled himself or emptied Himself in order to serve us. But that’s not the only reason, He needed flesh. None incarnate deity has no flesh for a nail, Jesus of Nazareth was born to die, Mark 10:45.
If He had come as a man and had been born in a palace as a king that would be commendation enough. But oh no, He came to eject Himself to the absolute humiliation of a criminal’s death. Why? Because it was the only way you and I could be saved.
The Bible says, ‘He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.’ Philippians 2:8. How do we humble God? The only way God is ever humbled is if He humbles Himself.
The Bible says, ‘He humbled himself and he became obedient to death’. Jesus didn’t have to, Jesus obeyed when He died, He chose it. Why? Because it was the only way, you and I had a chance, Isaiah 64:6.
Jesus Christ came and lived a sinless life and then took the penalty that you deserved, willing to transfer His righteousness over to us so that when God looked at us, He saw sinlessness, 2 Corinthians 5:21. God took the place where only He belonged.
Jesus of Nazareth was God in the flesh, so that, that flesh could be nailed to a cross and the penalty our sins deserve, take the righteousness that we never could have, He could give, 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Now, what did God do? The Bible says God did two things in Philippians 2:9. First, Paul says that ‘God gave him a place no one can claim; God exalted him to the highest place.’
The word ‘exalt’ is the same word that is used in the Gospel of John, John 12:32. In other words, men lifted up Jesus on a cross, so that they could be saved and then God lifted Him up out of a grave and gave Him a place above everyone and above everything.
That means there’s not a person or a thing in this world that has a claim on us that ought to supersede the claim of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:20-21.
That’s why we go every Sunday and give Him praise. There is only One who deserves our worship, there’s only One who deserves our praise. There’s only one in the highest place, and it’s the man with the scarred hands, Hebrews 2:8.
The day is coming when ‘every knee is going to bow and every tongue is going to confess’, which Christians have been declaring for years. Because God not only gave Jesus a place that nobody else could claim but God gave him a Name, that everybody is going to name, a Name that is above every name.
And what is that Name? What is the Name that every intelligent being ever created is going to name someday? That name is Jesus, and He is Lord and that had significance on that little church called Philippi.
Remember, Philippi was a Roman colony and back then, a soldier might walk up to a Christians and get them to say, ‘Ceasar dominus noster est’, that is, ‘Caesar is Lord.’ But they would die before they would call anybody else ‘Lord’.
The day is coming, when every being in heaven and every demon in hell and everyone in-between is going to say what that little persecuted church said every Sunday when they worshipped, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.
Paul again uses the word, ‘therefore’, in other words, in light of everything he’s said about Christ, how He humbled Himself to save us, how He’s been exalted above to the highest place.
Notice that Paul did not say, ‘work for your salvation’, he didn’t say, ‘work at your salvation’, he didn’t say, ‘work toward your salvation’. He’s writing to people that are already saved and we know that because he said back in Philippians 1:2.
A Christian can only work out the salvation God has already worked in and so, we need to do is advertise the salvation God is working in by working out. In other words, we need to experience and express the salvation that God has given us in the way that we live, Philippians 1:27.
God wants to give us salvation in the past, the removal of the penalty of sin and someday He’s going to give us salvation in the future, the removal from the presence of sin. And right now He wants to give us salvation in the present and that is victory over the power of sin.
And He wants us to experience that, He wants us to grow with that and to express that salvation and let it out. And it’s your responsibility, not somebody else’s, Philippians 2:12. In other words, if we depend on ourselves to do it, then we’re not a church, we’re a cult.
Experiencing my salvation depends ultimately on God and not on man and so we need to work out that salvation between us and God. Not only that but you need to do it because it’s serious. Paul says, ‘do it with fear and trembling’.
I don’t think he means we better do it because someday we’re all going to stand and pray before the judgement seat of God. He’s already said, ‘you’re in Christ Jesus, you’re saved, people.’ But what is a Christian’s greatest fear?
It’s this, that we would break the heart of God by abusing His grace. In light of all He’s worked into my life, in light of all He’s given me. The thought that I would stand before my God someday as a flabby out of shape witness should be a great matter of concern to me.
Notice Paul said, ‘you can’t work out your salvation without God.’ It’s impossible without God, the same God that was working through Paul was going to work in the Philippians.
What’s God going to do? God’s going to work in us, 1. To change our will and 2. To change our actions, Philippians 2:13. Sin destroyed our power to want to do good, and sin destroyed our ability to do good.
And there’s not a person in this world who can live a life that pleases God by themselves but God is capable of producing the kind of life that He wants in you when you yield to His Spirit.
In Greek, the word ‘work’ is the word, ‘energain’, Philippians 2:13, is where we get our word, ‘energy’. In other words, God is our energiser, God is our power source, and God is there to help us complete our salvation and experience everything He wants us to know.
Now, all we’ve got to do is work it out and Paul continues to tell us how to do just that.
Paul has told us three things that need to be a part of our workout plan.
1. Cut out the grumbling.
Paul says, ‘I want you to work out your salvation’ and he says, the first thing we do to start working out our salvation is ‘we stop the grumbling.’
We’ve got this salvation from God working in us and Paul wants us to work it out so people can see us. And it’s very hard for non-Christians to see salvation when Christians moan as much as everybody else, Exodus 16:8 / Matthew 20:9-12 / Luke 5:30.
People can say, ‘well I’m not grumbling against God’, but God takes it personally. When God has supernaturally delivered a person from a life of slavery and bondage and given them freedom, they could never get on their own and never deserve it.
When God does that for a person and they start grumbling, God gets upset and so God says, ‘do everything without grumbling and complaining. Everything!’
2. Let out the light.
We’ve to reflect the brilliance of God’s holiness in this dark world, Ephesians 5:8-14. Paul says, ‘that it is crooked and perverse’, in other words, it is full of crooks and perverts and God needs some big old stars in it.
People aren’t always going to like the light because the light exposes their evil deeds, that’s why sometimes they’re going to criticise the light, sometimes they are going to argue with the light, sometimes they are going to mock the light, but we’ve got to keep on shining.
And that’s what Paul said, we just need to keep on shining because it’s not going to be hard to shine in the holy city, Revelation 22:5. When we experience our future salvation and we’re taken to heaven and God Himself is going to be the light of heaven, it’s not going to be hard to shine but God said, ‘I want you to shine now amid a very ugly world’.
What we need is some salvation getting worked out in the world. We’ve got to be in the world so we can shine. Yes, we’ll be criticised but we’ve got to make sure there’s no just criticism against us. We’ve got to live such bright lives that we shut up some of that criticism, 1 Peter 2:11-12.
It’s God’s will to let our lights shine so bright, that some of the nonsense and sin gets spewed out, 1 Peter 2:15. Some of the venom being poured out in this world just gets shut up because it just can’t stand the heat of the light.
Now please understand, I’m not saying, that we work it out to save ourselves, we don’t work for our salvation. But let’s be very clear, God does use our works when we work out our salvation to shine light into people’s lives and bring them to salvation.
3. Hold out the Word.
Paul says, ‘Shine like stars as you hold out the word of life.’ In other words, the light of our Christian character is an un-interpreted parable if we don’t speak of Christ. It’s not enough just to be light, the purpose of the light is to call attention to our lives, so then we can hold out the Word of life and speak of Christ.
It’s the Word of God that gives life, there’s life in the Word of God. When we share the written Word, the Bible when we share the spoken word, our testimony of Christ. What we do, is we reveal the living Word, the Lord Himself.
Working out our salvation demands bearing witness to the source of our new life, John 5:24. We have found new life in Christ and we want others to hear about that because we don’t want them to live in the darkness anymore, 1 Peter 2:9.
Paul says, ‘I’m just about used up for Christ and I am so happy’. The point is this, the more we commit to express our salvation, the more joy we’re going to have.
A cup of wine was poured out with the offering of Old Testament sacrifices, Numbers 15:1-10. Paul rejoices that his sacrifices and toil have been poured out in conjunction with the sacrifice and service that has resulted from the Philippians’ obedient faith.
Because the Philippians had also poured out their cup of sacrifices, then they could rejoice with Paul in his sacrifice and service for the Lord.
Paul doesn’t know how his trial is going to go he’s not sure yet if he’s going to be released, although he wants to be released and wants to come to Philippi soon.
He’s saying to them, ‘I can’t come straight away, I’m going send the closest thing to me I’ve got, I’m going to send a piece of me, I’m going to send Timothy, I have no one else, like him.’
Why wasn’t there anybody else like Timothy? Paul answers the question by telling us ‘he takes a genuine interest in your welfare’.
Evidently, Paul was looking for someone to go to Philippi, he was looking for somebody, who could go an encourage them and evidently, he couldn’t find any people in Rome that had any interest in that church in Philippi.
But Paul said, ‘I know, I’ve got one man who has proven, he’ll take the form of a servant if I need him.’ Timothy put down his own interests to serve others that’s what humility means. In other words, he put down his interests to serve others.
Paul couldn’t leave right away, and he wanted to wait to find out how things were going for Timothy and so he talks about Epaphroditus. So who is this guy?
He was a Philippian, and when the Philippian church heard that Paul was in prison in Rome, they said, ‘we’re going to send somebody with some money and not just with some money, we’re going to send somebody to go and stay and minister to Paul.’
And they chose Epaphroditus, and so he takes off on the road and apparently either on the trip or just after he got to Rome, Epaphroditus became gravely ill. Somehow Epaphroditus learned that the people back in Philippi know he’s sick, they know that he’s really sick and it says that it caused him great distress.
And so he’s more concerned about their anxiety than he is about his own health and when he does get stronger, Paul says, ‘I’ll tell you what Epaphroditus, your so upset, your so concerned for your loved ones, I’m going to send you home, I’m going to send you home so that you’ll feel better and so that they’ll feel better.’
And he decided on the way that maybe he better prepare them for his coming back. Maybe some people in Philippi were wondering why he came back early. Epaphroditus laid down his life to serving others. How did he risk his life? In two ways.
1. By his willingness to minister to a prisoner charged with a capital offence.
Paul was trialled because they were charged with being a threat to the Roman government. And when Epaphroditus shows up to be a friend and minister to him, he opened himself up for the same charge.
2. By his determination to complete his mission amid severe illness.
Maybe some people told him on the way, ‘Epaphroditus you’re sick, you need to go back home’. And Epaphroditus says, ‘no, I’m not going to stop until I get to Rome and give Paul what I’ve brought him.’ Epaphroditus chose against himself for the sake of somebody else, 1 John 3:16.
Notice how Paul describes Epaphroditus, ‘he’s my fellow brother, he’s my fellow worker, he’s my fellow soldier, we’re in the same family, we have the same focus and we share the same fight.’
Now that’s a strange and exciting concept to me, the church is an army of servants. An army of servants that are going to march into the world and risk their lives by serving the world from the bottom up.