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The Christian's Obedience, Part 1 (Sermon Recap)

Gospel Partnership Series


Our most recent sermon was the first of a number of sermons to be preached on Philippians 2:12-13. The full title of these sermons is "The Christian's Serious, Satisfying, and Supernatural Obedience." 

After setting Philippians 2:12-13 in its larger context (e.g., these two verses continue to build on the theme of the gospel-worthy life that began at Philippians 1:27), we considered the frame of mind with which we must pursue obedience. The call to obedience is clear:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)

The question is, what should be our attitude as we pursue this obedience? The passage presents or implies at least five aspects of an obedient mindset.

First, we must pursue obedience within the sphere of love and joy. Paul says, "Therefore, my beloved." And earlier he had said that his ministry toward the Philippians was aimed at "[their] progress and joy in the faith" (Philippians 1:25). Paul's heart for the Philippians is a reflection of Christ's heart for the Philippians (e.g., Philippians 1:1, 1:8). So, if you are a Christian who lives in the grace of God, then you should hear the instruction of Philippians 2:12-13 as a word of grace, mercy, and peace from the throne of God! God wants you, His beloved children, to have more joy than you ever thought possible, and that river of joy comes on the riverside joy walk called obedience.

Second, we must pursue obedience with a sense of responsibility, a responsibility that we all share together and yet a responsibility that each believer must own for himself or herself. The instruction to "work out your own salvation" applies to the whole church and to each member of it. It is not enough for certain key leaders or isolated individuals to be the only ones who understand, feel, and embrace this responsibility, but rather everyone must do his or her part to pursue the obedience that is enjoined upon us all. Everyone must follow Paul's example and "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

Third, we must pursue obedience with deliberate and diligent spiritual exertion. The call to "work out your own salvation" and "[strive] side by side for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27) and "press on toward the goal" (Philippians 3:14) and "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1) is a call to deliberate and diligent exertion in the things of God. We must be at the ready, at all times and in all places, to put our faith into practice and our love into deeds. Like the people in Nehemiah's day who "had a mind to work" (Nehemiah 4:6), we must have a mind to work at growing in holiness of life and demonstrating love for each other and evangelizing our community.

Fourth, we must pursue obedience with serious and humble reverence for God, which is to say "with fear and trembling," as verse 12 says. The opposite of "fear and trembling" is frivolousness, superficiality, weightlessness, lack of heartfelt conviction, lack of sober-mindedness, lack of reverence and awe. If we would follow after Christ, there must be in us a serious and humble reverence for God in which we realize that we live on holy ground. The truth that Jesus is Lord of all (Philippians 2:9-11), the truth that our calling to obedience involves our participation in God's overarching purposes for the entire universe ("work out your own salvation," Philippians 2:12), and the truth that God Almight is the One who is attending to us and investing in us and preparing us for significant works in the administration of His mission (Philippians 2:13), should promote healthy and humble "fear and trembling" in our hearts.

Fifth, we must pursue obedience in humble dependence on God and His work in us. The responsibility assigned to us in verse 12 is real and serious, but verse 13 makes it clear that we cannot carry out our responsibility in our own strength: "... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." On our own, we do not have the internal capacities and resources that are required in order to please God through a life of faithful obedience. But if the Holy Spirit has regenerated your heart, then you can be sure that God is sowing and sustaining godly desires and spiritual abilities in your redeemed heart. And if the living God is at work in you, then you live under a sacred and holy obligation to "work out" the good things that He is producing within you.

So, how should we pursue obedience to the instructions in Philippians 1:27–2:4? This way: Within the sphere of love and joy, with a sober awareness of our God-given responsibility, with a mind that is ready to obey, with serious and humble reverence for God, and with profound dependence upon God – love one another, pursue congregational unity, participate in our God-given mission, honor your brothers and sisters, pour out your life in service to others, glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of your life, and do it all willingly and with joy.

You can read the whole sermon here.