3 November 2010

Philippians 2:12-18

"For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (v.13)


In his introduction to Philippians, Eugene Peterson (author of the modern English translation The Message) says, "This is Paul's happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we've read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves; the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us."

The closing verses of today's passage certainly convey that sense joy and happiness Peterson is talking about. That feeling of happiness is all the more remarkable when we consider the Paul's circumstances when he wrote this epistle. For a start, Paul was in jail. He spent two years in a Roman prison - either late in the year AD61, or early 62. And knowing that Paul was in financial hardship, the Philippian church had sent him gifts via a messenger, Epaphroditus. This epistle was, amongst other things, Paul's thank you note back.

Paul's tone in today's passage is very much one of a doting father talking to his children. At times it seems as if he is worried about his reputation as a minister, and how it would reflect on him if the people in his care don't behave properly, or put into practice what they have been taught by him (verse 16). Ultimately, though, Paul isn't worrying about his reputation, but rather acknowledging how intertwined his life has become with that of the people in his care.

To Ponder

What do you think it means to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (verse 12)?

In verse 14, Paul urges the Philippians to "do all things without murmuring and arguing". How do you differentiate between dealing with disagreements and conflicts between people, and "murmuring and arguing"?

If you are in a position of authority over other people, to what extent do you take pride in their progress?

Bible notes author

George Luke

George Luke works as an editor and writer at Methodist Church House. He grew up in Sierra Leone and now lives in London.