JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”
May 15, 2010, 3:19 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

After Paul gives us a wonderful poem or song of Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation, in chapter 2 of his letter to the Philippians, describing the major focus of the body of Christ – Jesus Christ is Lord, Paul goes back now to his original thought that “whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

“Therefore (so), 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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” What an amazing sentence! Paul loves these Christians so much! He also wants to to see Jesus’ life to be fully expressed through them to bring praise to God! Paul continues to bring home his initial prayer for this organic body of believers “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure (sincere) and blameless (unoffending) until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

If we are in Christ and living by His life, then fruit will be produced. A fruit tree doesn’t have to work at producing fruit, it produces fruit in season because of the sap in the branches. The branch receives sunlight, nutrients from the sap, and it organically produces fruit. I think Jesus’ words from John’s gospel makes it clear that faith in Christ cannot be detached from His fruit – love or obedience to Christ. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” What was Jesus’ command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This fruit of the Spirit, love, is based on being in Christ. Jesus also said: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” How do we “work out” our salvation? We “remain” in Jesus. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” How often we have found ourselves failing in such and such because we were trying to do something on our own, in our flesh, and not relying on Jesus and His Body? This doesn’t mean we lose our salvation, it just means we need more of Jesus lordship in our lives. What does His lordship look like? “…encouragement in Christ….solace of love….sharing (fellowship) of Spirit….compassions and mercies…having the same love…nothing according to selfish ambition, nothing according to empty conceit but with humility considering one another more important than oneself, each not looking out for one’s own concerns but each also for others’ concerns.”

The body of Christ, living a life together by His life, should recognize that it is not OUR life that we should be expressing towards one another, it is Jesus’ life that we are to express. Jesus, “who, being in very nature God…Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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.”

As Paul describes to the Christians in Corinth in explicit detail, because of living by their own life and not by Jesus’: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” and here Paul is also referring to their life together as a body of Christ not just individually. The very God who created this universe for the church, He lives in you and I and us! There is an atmosphere not only of joy in the body of Christ when living Jesus’ life together but also that of “fear and trembling” recognizing that it is not about playing games, and enjoying each others company, which is extremely beneficial for building relationships, but it is mainly about the lordship of Jesus Christ, His reign in me and us! It is God, Christ in us, His Holy Spirit working in us “to will and to act according to his good purpose.” It is about God’s purpose!

When He is Lord then we will “do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 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. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Wow, blameless, pure (or harmless), faultless! If we are living by His life, then this is how the world will see us! While God sees this already in us, being in Christ, He so desires to see Christ’s life worked out of us.

I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Perhaps Jesus was thinking of when Christians gather in the name of the Lord Jesus in an organic way, when Christ’s life is expressed towards one another when we gather we will “shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” Are we holding out the word of life, Jesus’ life, when we gather together in His name? Isn’t this what Paul means when he says rhetorically: “if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion”? When Christ’s body gathers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ then organically we “hold out the word of life,” fruit is produced, His life is made manifest.

If there is one thing that makes what Paul is going through, being “in chains for Christ,” suffering for Christ, and “being poured out like a drink offering” worth his very life was because of Christians living by the life of Christ in them together. That’s what brings “glory and praise” to God! That’s what brings joy to the hearts of believers! “You to should be glad and rejoice with me.”

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