Read Passage: Phil 2:12-16.
On the North West coast, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, one million cubic feet of water per second from the river meet huge swells crossing the Pacific Ocean coming all the way from Japan. Where there two bodies of water meet, the energies combine to produce waves of forty foot or more. It is through these treacherous waters that the river pilot must guide large container ships up the river on towards Portland harbor. It is not for nothing that these waters are called “the graveyard of the Pacific”
At places there is less than 6 feet between the bottom of the hull of the ship and the rocks beneath. While the river pilot knows these waters by heart, he does not take control of the ship, but merely directs the captain of the ship. It is the captain of the ship who is still in charge of giving the orders of where to turn, but he is fully dependent on the guidance of the river pilot if he wants to avoid disaster.
It is obvious that the bridge is no place for prideful arrogance and self will on the part of the captain.
This is no different for the believer: though we as believers have been declared righteous through faith in the atoning work of Jesus, we are not yet sanctified and are still trapped in this sinful body in a dangerous world, so that we cannot do what we want: We need the guidance of our pilot, the Holy Spirit if we are to avoid disaster. In fact, as an inexperienced captain of a ship may feel he knows better than his pilot, we also in our flesh are set against the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says: For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
The passage before us today reminds the believer of his responsibility of obedience to God and guides him into three attitudes in obedience and three reasons why obedience is needed.
We will look at these attitudes and reasons for obedience side by side
Actually when you look at the passage in context the overall attitude in obedience to God has already been given. Philippians 1:27 conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
And then Gives Christ Himself as the perfect example of doing so
2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.
· For believers to be Christ like in obedience, the First attitude in doing do we find in verse 12. “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. What is Paul talking about? Roman Catholics have long pointed to this passage as proof for works salvation. Don’t you work out so that you will be saved? No, the context is clear: just as Jesus humbled himself and became obedient, so the Philippians also were obedient while Paul was with them (early part of v12). So now, much more in his absence they must continue to be obedient. The work out your salvation in this context just means to do the works associated with true faith-obedience. And notice: they have to be obedient with fear and trembling.
· Here then we also find the first reason to obey: v13: You must obey in fear and trembling “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Did you get that? That stirring in your heart that you get when you know you that you need to help the single mother buy clothes for her son…. That empathy in you towards your brother struggling with sin and being moved to go and call him to repentance…..that zeal you have for the Word of God urging you to preach! ….you, in obedience to God’s command of sexual purity, purposefully avert your eyes when a beautiful woman reveals too much …..That is God working in you to want to act in obedience to His Word and what is more: it is God who enables you to work out what He wants.....It is God!....it is the HOLY God!.... should not your attitude to obedience be that of reverent fear? Remember when the Israelites where spoken to by God? Exodus 20:18-20 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." 20 Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin. Brothers, we are serving that same God: we need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s with reverent fear.
· Please note this verse is not referring to some mystical spiritual feelings unconnected to the Holy Scripture, but rather applying Scripture in your daily lives. It is God that works IN us, so that we can work OUT, by His power, what He teaches us in His Word. Ephesians For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Notice our total dependence: We would not know how to obey unless God has revealed that to us; we would not want to obey unless God puts that desire in us to obey and we would not have the ability to obey unless God supplied us the power to obey! Friends, it is by our obedience that we know that our faith is true faith! We could not obey unless the Holy Spirit is within us! That is the test of true faith- obedience.
The Second attitude in Obedience is that of cheerful, joyful submission. Verse 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing.
· You can obey while grumbling about it. Think of your son grumbling that he has to take out the trash, yet he obeys.
· You are dishonoring God if you grudgingly obey Him. Are you forgiving someone because God said you must forgive, yet do so grumbling about the unfairness?
· Are you disputing what God’s Word means rather than just obey?
· The Scriptural attitude of submission to God is obedience to all he commands us with an attitude of cheerful joy: Cheerfully doing God’s will trusting God that His will is always perfect!
The Second reason to Obey we see in verse 15: so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
· As believers in this world, we are surrounded by non-believers.
· It is by the testimony of our lives of obedience that we are witnesses of the transforming grace of the Lord
· If we confess to be God’s children, yet live lives of disobedience, we can be the cause for people turning away from God- who want to follow a hypocrite?
· For the sake of the salvation of our neighbor we need to be blameless and innocent so that our witness is not harmed.
The Third attitude in obedience we see in V 16: “holding fast the word of life” The Greek word for “Holding” can have two different interpretations:
1. To hold Fast: this is the preferred translation in NASB: it speaks of your dependence on the Word as you cannot stand alone in your power. Your attitude must be that of complete dependence on the will of God as given to you in Scripture! You hold on fast to the Word as there is nothing else to hold fast to!
2. To hold forth is to hold the Word as a beacon to those in darkness- like lifting a torch above your head in the darkness. By your dependence on the Word and Its impact on your life, you hold the Word forth as the power in your life, preaching It to those drawn to by its effect on your life!
Though the NASB , ESV and NKJ translated it as holding FAST, I prefer the KJV rendering of holding FORTH. This meaning does fit into the preceding verse: “you appear as lights in the world”.
This is also the third reason to be Obedient: WE are in the midst of a perverse generation as lights in the world. Remember Jesus’ teaching on the mount? Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
· To be a light to the world is both to dispel the darkness, a challenge to change for the unsaved,
· as well as a beacon to draw those to the source of that light: Jesus Christ himself.
My Brothers: let us examine ourselves in our attitude in serving our Lord in obedience. Test yourselves whether you are in the faith. Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
My friends let us come afresh to the God of our salvation and repent from our half hearted obedience to His perfect will and strive to be Christ –like in our submission to Him.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.