4 October 2014

Philippians 2:12-18

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (vv. 12-13)


Today's verses bring us down to earth - we perhaps need reminding that to the people of the time in which Paul was writing the day of judgement was an imminent reality. Paul, having spelt out in the hymn the obedience of Christ (Philippians 2:6-11), is calling the people to whom he is writing to be obedient, not to his personal authority for he is not with them, but the obedience is to be to the God who works in them.

For us living so long after the words were written, who have read the predictions of the end times, and even over the centuries seen other deadlines come and go, Paul's words might seem strange and somewhat isolated from our own experience. There are not many people today who live in fear and trembling for their own salvation.

However, to the people to whom the letter is written, the expectation is real, and Paul's warning that they must live as faultless children of God, separating themselves from the "crooked and perverse generation" (v. 15) is an appropriate one as they waited for the day of Christ's return. Paul reminds them that when he was in more frequent contact with them they were obedient to him and to what he desired them to do, but now though they must take responsibility for themselves and be obedient to God.

Aware of the possibility of his own imminent death Paul asks that they would hold fast to the faith he taught them, so that when the time of judgement comes he can be credited with bringing them to God. He then asks them to be joyful for him despite the circumstances he finds himself in, as he is joyful for them in their faith.

To Ponder

  • In the light of the fact that the predictions of the second coming of Christ have not yet come to fruition, should Christian believers live as if each day could be their last? Why?
  • To what extent should Christian people separate themselves from the "crooked and perverse generation" (v. 15) in which we are living today, or should we be breaking down the walls which divide us?
  • How would we respond if we were brought to judgement in the way Paul thinks he will be? Would it be a positive or a negative response?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.