Here’s a recap of some of the discussion from Week 8 of our Bible study on Philippians 2:12-30.
What did Paul expect from his dear friends in Philippi?
Paul expected the believers in Philippi to continue on in the faith and to keep growing. He urged them to take some responsibility and put great effort into their life of faith. He was in a prison 800 miles away and could not hold their hands or baby them along. Paul encouraged this young body of believers to stick with it and don’t fizzle out.
Paul made it clear that it is God who does the work IN us, but we are to work it OUT. To be very clear here — we do not work FOR our salvation, or even ON our salvation. Salvation is a work of God and God alone, not something we earn or strive for. There can be no salvation without God, but what God offers, people must receive. And once received, there is expectation that growth and maturity will follow.
When a baby is born, it is a joyful event! There is rejoicing in that delivery room! But what a tragedy it would be for that new little life to never leave the delivery room — to never grow or mature or experience life beyond that space. Our spiritual birth is important, but it is only the beginning! Baby Christians need to grow up into vibrant, mature believers.
What does it mean to “shine like stars”?
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” That’s a fact. That’s who we are. We are not to hide our light or be secretive about our faith. We are the way God shows His love to the world. If we don’t shine, the dark world just becomes darker. Maybe a better question is, “What is your wattage?!” If we are bright spots, we will obviously stand out against darkness.
Verse 14 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Whew — that’s a tough one. Is it even possible? Why is complaining such an affront to God?
- Complaining voices a lack of trust in God.
- Complaining is a way of saying God is insufficient.
- Complaining is a backhanded accusation that God’s ways are not good.
The word “complain” means to “murmur”, which is a reference to the people of Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness (see Exodus). They continually called into question God’s goodness and His leadership. Complaining about God got them in lots of trouble.
On the other hand, many Old Testament people complained. King David wrote, “I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” (Psalm 142:2) Job also voiced many complaints to God but “Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:22)
It’s okay to take your complaints TO God, but we need to be careful not to complain ABOUT God. Or His Bride, the church. (See here)
Also, a group of people constantly whining or arguing make a very poor witness. One way to shine like stars is to avoid negative, degrading, divisive talk.
Paul ended this section by holding up two men as examples of servants who embodied everything in verses 1-5 of chapter 2.
Timothy (verses 19-24)
- took a genuine interest in the welfare of others
- went where he was most needed
- humbled himself under Paul’s authority as a son
Epaphroditis (verses 25-30)
- volunteered to make an 800 mile trip to deliver an offering from the Philippian church to Paul
- almost died, serving at great risk to himself
- was willing to put the work of Christ first over his own comfort
An interesting note on “risking his life” (v. 30): That was a gambler’s word that meant to risk everything on the roll of the dice. “In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women who called themselves the gamblers. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. Often, when a plague struck a city, the heathen threw the dead bodies into the streets and fled in terror. But the gamblers buried the dead and helped the sick the best they could, and so risked their lives to show the love of Jesus.” (David Guzik)
What brought Paul joy? Being poured out as a pleasing sacrifice to God.
What does a mature believer look like? Someone with an uncomplaining, grateful heart who is willing to risk something for God.
How can we shine like stars? By letting the same light that broke into the void on the first day of creation (And God said, “Let there be light.” Genesis 1:3), shine in our hearts out to a world that’s becoming increasingly dark.