Online Bible Commentary
Philippians 2: 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (NKJV)
Paul wrote this letter to the Church at Philippi in Macedonia, which is now northern Greece. It is thought that he wrote this during his first Roman imprisonment when he was under house arrest.
The time of the writing is about 62 A.D. Epaphroditus visited him in prison and Paul sent this letter back with him to deliver it to the church.
Philippi was abandoned in the fourteenth century after the Ottoman conquest. The current city of Fillipoi is located near the ruins of Philippi.
At the time of Paul’s letter, Philippi was a principal city. Paul established the church on his second missionary journey.
The church at Philippi was the first known church in all of Europe and it supported Paul financially. In many ways it was a model church.
Paul is writing to the believers at Philippi. Therefore, these are also God’s instructions to Christians of today.
Paul begins this passage by writing “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12). He refers to the Christians at Philippi as “my beloved”, “agapetos” in the Greek from “agape”, Christian love.
Paul is reminded how they have “always obeyed” God. Now, in Paul’s absence, they should continue to obey, which he describes as working out “your own salvation with fear and trembling”.
To “work out” in the Greek is “katergazomai” which means to produce or accomplish. The word fear in the Greek is “phobos” meaning fear, terror, respect, or reverence, from which comes our word “phobia”.
So, obedience to God produces salvation, through a certain amount of “God phobia”, a reverence of His power and what it can do. People who choose to not obey God have no fear of God, which does not produce salvation.
There are some who interpret verse twelve as meaning that salvation can be earned by works. Proper interpretation disputes that conclusion. Verse thirteen is a continuation of verse twelve that gives us the “how” of verse twelve.
Thus, Paul writes “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (v. 13). God, the Holy Spirit, works in us to produce obedience.
In this verse the word “for”, means because. “Good pleasure” is the Greek word “eudokia” which means goodwill, favor, pleasure, or desire.
The word “both” points us to two different types of obedience that the Holy Spirit produces within us. The first is through our will.
“Will” in the Greek is “thelo”, meaning to decide. So, by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we make the decision to obey God.
The second type of obedience is “to do”. The word “do” in the Greek is “energeo”, from which comes our word energy. “Energio” obedience is the continued action of allowing God, the Holy Spirit, to continue to work through us.
God is the source of both types of obedience. The tug of the Holy Spirit gives us the will to obey and our continued obedience comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us. So, we continue to obey because God, the Holy Spirit, is working in us according to His pleasure.
Since God is the source of both types of obedience, to will and to do, this obedience comes from a yielding to God’s works and not from our good works. Good works are a result of salvation not a path to salvation. God is our path to salvation when we yield to Him, allowing Him to work through us.
This, then, is how we can “do all things without complaining or disputing” (v.14).
Paul continues “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (v. 15). It is not our nature to obey God, but we can accomplish Paul’s command through allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us. This leads to us being shining stars, “blameless and harmless”, in a “crooked and perverse generation”, the world.
Paul continues “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (v. 16). We continue to shine by sharing the word of God, the Bible. Paul will therefore have reason to boast on the “day of Christ”, the rapture.
Paul writes “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me (v.17-18). In conclusion, Paul writes that even if he is martyred by that time, he will be glad and rejoice with us, and we should do the same with him.