A paradox can be defined as two seemingly contradictory statements where both happen to be true. Nowhere does that seem to cause so much confusion than with statements that show up in the Bible.
We all have certain tendencies that get in the way of humility and obedience; so as we go through this text, I hope to put into words what Paul is kindly and affectionately, yet carefully pointing out – and what Paul points out effectively provides solutions to our sanctification process as we grow in humility and obedience.
I) We Have a Tendency to Stray (12)
Stop there for a moment – can you hear what Paul is graciously suggesting – you have obeyed my authority when I was with you – now be very careful and even more diligent to be obedient while I’m away.
Paul effectively says to the Philippians, you’ve been obedient in my presence, but now I want you to obey even more so when the pressure of my presence isn’t there in Philippi.
• A growing reputation is based on how you act when people are watching
• Growing in sanctification is how you act when people are not watching
As we mature in our sanctification, the pressure of presence moves from an external authority to an internal Authority who happens to be the Spirit of God.
II) We Have a Tendency to Stall (12b)
By the way, make sure you understand that Paul is writing to Christians. He isn’t defining how you get salvation; he’s referring to how you demonstrate salvation.
Paul specifically tells the growing believer to work out their salvation.
Keep in mind that throughout the New Testament, we are given three dimensions of salvation.
1) The past dimension
Our past salvation saved us forever from the penalty of sin – He bore our penalty on the tree. That is past tense and forever settled and secure.
2) There is a future dimension
Our future salvation will save us forever from the presence of sin – that’ll be gone forever
3) The present dimension
Our present salvation is saving us from the power of sin; one temptation at a time. We can call this present dimension of salvation – sanctification. This is the process of spiritual growth Paul is referring to here in Philippians 2:12.
III) We Have a Tendency to Strut (12c)
So, Paul adds here a perspective that will help us from getting too caught up with our progress in sanctification; verse 12 – work out your salvation with fear and trembling. He didn’t write, with gloating and self- congratulation, but with fear and trembling.
Work out your salvation with humble respect and awe and no one struts in the presence of the glory of God.
IV) We Have a Tendency to Steal (13)
In other words, we have a tendency to take the credit for our accomplishments.
Here’s the paradox – we are commanded to work outwardly – but now we’re told that what we work outwardly is a result of God working inwardly.
Which, in the context of humility, is Paul’s way of reminding us that God alone deserves the credit because ultimately He was at work in us – both to will (to want) and to do (to act). I mean how humbling is that?
It happens to be some of the most telling evidence of your growth in sanctification. Anything good that I desired was a desire He put in me. Anything good that I did was something He did through me. Ultimately, it is God who is at work.
Stay alert! Stay the course! Stay fearfully respectful! Stay grateful!
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