The Expository Files



Shining As Lights In The World   

Philippians 2:12-16


 A grave concern to any thoughtful Christian is how quickly our  society is changing, and clearly for the worse.   As some theologians would describe it, we now live in a "post-Christian culture".  This simply means that the old norms once held true are no longer accepted by the majority.  For example, people as a majority, once believed in God, that the Bible was the Word of God, and that Jesus was the Son of God; but such is no longer the case. The majority no longer accepts certain basic principles of morality taught in both the Old and New Testament, even  ridiculing those people who do as "old-fashioned" and     "un-enlightened". While most still say they believe in God, most live in ways other than which the Bible says we should. 

 That we live in a "post-Christian culture" is true both socially and religiously.  Socially, we see that divorce, remarriage, living together without marriage, and homosexuality are now commonly accepted as "alternative lifestyles".  Religiously, in that women in the role of church leadership,   homosexual ministers, and various forms of "new age" religions  are now accepted by many. 

 How are Christians to react to this change in our society?  What can we do to change the direction in which our society is  heading?  Should we form "political action committees" and try to change it using the organizational powers of the church?  Should we resort to boycotts, picketing, or other forms of "economic blackmail"? Should we resort to violence, both verbal and physical, if  necessary?  What can we do to protect ourselves, and our children?  Should we simply change our views to conform to those of society?  Should we isolate ourselves, or form communes?  

II believe that the Scriptures provide the correct answer, in a letter written by Paul to a church which, like many others in New Testament times, lived in a ''PRE-Christian culture". The letter is the Epistle to the Philippians. Written to Christians living in city heavily influenced by the Roman culture, with its paganism, intellectualism, and immorality.  What Paul wrote to them, is very likely the sort of things he would write to us today.  Especially the things mentioned in  Philippians 2:12-16. 


Work Out You Own Salvation (Philippians 2:12a)

Jesus put it this way: “First, remove the plank from your own eye.” (see Matthew 7:1-6). This passage, often misused to prevent any proper judging, is emphasizing the importance of  "getting your own act together  first".  Notice, that once you have "removed the plank", you can then  (and should) be used to "remove the speck" in another's eye. 

But we must be careful as we do so to always behave toward others in ways that honor God.   Many people go about trying to change society for the better, using methods that will keep themselves out of the kingdom of God! - (Galatians 5:19-21). The cowardly murder of a doctor that performs abortions is not something a faithful Christian would do at all. Paul saw the need to be very careful when trying to save others (1 Corinthians 9:27; James 1:19,20).


With Fear and Trembling (Philippians 2:12b)

The word “fear” in connection with God is not popular today. Perhaps this is a reaction to the "hell, fire and brimstone" preaching of another generation. But could it be that we have gone to the other extreme? Have we diluted the concept of the "fear of the Lord" by our definitions to the point there is no place for "trembling" in our definition of fear? Jesus certainly taught the "fear of the Lord" (Matthew 10:28). 

Without “fear and trembling”, it is unlikely we will seriously make the effort to "work out our own salvation." Could this be a reason there is so much apathy and fruitlessness in the church today?


Let God Work In You (Philippians 2:13)

It will be essential to let God do His work, something He is able to do beyond our ability to   comprehend (Ephesians 3:20-21). He is there "working in you"! - (Philippians 1:6). How?  Both “to will" - (helping us in our motivation) and “to do" - (helping us in our ability). But if we are not cooperative with Him, we can quench God's efforts to work in us (by our worldliness, compromise distraction & neglect) (Philippians 2:14).


Do Not Murmur (Philippians 2:14)     

Maintain a positive attitude! Living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation can easily get us down and cause us to become constant complainers. But allowing that to happen will render us less effective, and as with Israel, "murmuring" can lead to our own downfall (1 Corinthians 10:10-12). 

Unity among brethren is also extremely important as we try to convince the world concerning Jesus (John 17:20-23). Disputing with one another simply reveals we have some growing up to do! - (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).


Children of God Without Fault (Philippians 2:15)

Becoming “blameless” sounds like an impossible task. Not that we must be perfect, but like elders are to be blameless,  we are to be "above reproach". We may sin, but we quickly confess our sins and make amends when it is called for, repenting of our shortcomings. We should live in such a way that we have no "outstanding  faults" that are clearly evident to others. Nothing hinders our ability to "shine as lights" like  inconsistency and hypocrisy, especially that which is evident to all! 

Also, though we may firmly oppose sin in all forms, sinners should  never fear bodily harm from us!(2 TIM 2:24-26).  Jesus said, we are to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).


Hold Fast the Word of Life (Philippians 2:16)

The word of God is the “sword of the Spirit.”   It is the only offensive weapon we have in the armor of God  (Ephesians 6:10-17). It is the instrument by which the Spirit convicts the world of sin, produces repentance and brings about the new birth - (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Romans 1:16). Thus it is truly the "word of life"! Hold it forth to the world!


This article is based on an outline by Mark Copeland

By Jon W. Quinn

Expository Files 23.2; February 2016