Philippians 2:12-15

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

October 30, 2002


Paul has exhorted the believers in Philippi to live together in unity.

(Phil 1:27 KJV)  Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Living together in unity is how we live “worthy” of the gospel of Christ.

He gave us some reasons why we ought to live together in unity.

(Phil 2:1-2 KJV)  If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, {2} Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Because there is encouragement in Jesus, comfort in His love, fellowship in the Spirit, and because we have compassion and mercy, we ought to live together in unity.

He gave us a way in which we ought to find unity.

(Phil 2:3-4 KJV)  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. {4} Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Unity comes when we don’t fight with each other or seek empty glory.  Unity comes when we learn to look at others as better than ourselves.  Unity comes when we become more concerned about the needs of others than the needs of ourselves.

He gave us an example to follow to have unity:

(Phil 2:5-8 KJV)  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: {7} But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: {8} And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus is our example.  He was the epitome of humility.  He gave up His rights, became a lowly servant, and even died on a cross, all for us.

It’s in the light of all these things about unity that Paul goes on to write,

:12-13 God is at work

:12  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,

Whereforehoste – so that, insomuch that; so then, therefore, wherefore

belovedagapetos – beloved, esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love

askathos – according as; just as, even as; in proportion as, in the degree that; since, seeing that, agreeably to the fact that; when, after that

alwayspantote – at all times, always, ever

obeyedhupakouo – to listen, to harken; of one who on the knock at the door comes to listen who it is, (the duty of a porter); to harken to a command; to obey, be obedient to, submit to

presenceparousia – presence; the coming, arrival, advent; the future visible return from heaven of Jesus, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God

absenceapousia – absence


What do you do when no one is watching?

It’s one thing to act like a Christian when the apostle Paul is in town.
But how do you act when he’s in a Roman prison, far, far away?

:12  work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

work out katergazomai – to perform, accomplish, achieve; to work out i.e. to do that from which something results; of things: bring about, result in; to fashion i.e. render one fit for a thing.  This is a “present imperative”, meaning that this is something we are being commanded to do continually.

This does not mean to “work for” your salvation.

Wuest:  The words “work out” are the translation of a Greek word which means “to carry out to the goal, to carry to its ultimate conclusion.” We say, “The student worked out a problem in arithmetic.” That is, he carried the problem to its ultimate conclusion. This is the way it is used here. The Philippians are exhorted to carry their salvation to its ultimate conclusion, namely, Christlikeness.[1]

salvation soteria – deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation

This word is being used here to describe our relationship with the Lord.  The Philippians are to make progress in their Christian life.

fear phobos – fear, dread, terror; that which strikes terror; reverence for one’s husband

trembling tromos – a trembling or quaking with fear; with fear and trembling, used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty

“This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposes to high-mindedness in the admonition, ‘be not high-minded but fear.’ It is taking heed lest we fall; it is a constant apprehension of the deceitfulness of the heart, and of the insidiousness and power of inward corruption. It is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Saviour” (Vincent, quoting Wardlaw On Proverbs ).[2]

There is a sense in which there ought to be a healthy “fear” in our lives.


When Luther became a priest and celebrated his first Mass, in 1507, he trembled so much he nearly dropped the bread and cup. He became so terrified of the presence of Christ in the sacrament that he tried to run from the altar.
-- "Martin Luther--The Early Years," Christian History, no. 34.

:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

which worketh energeo – to be operative, be at work, put forth power; to work for one, aid one; to effect; to display one’s activity, show one’s self operative

We get our word “energy” and “energize” from this word.

to will thelo – to will, have in mind, intend; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish; to love; to like to do a thing, be fond of doing; to take delight in, have pleasure

to do energeo – to be operative, be at work, put forth power; to work for one, aid one; to effect; to display one’s activity, show one’s self operative

of hishuper – in behalf of, for the sake of; over, beyond, more than; more, beyond, over

good pleasureeudokia – will, choice; good will, kindly intent, benevolence; delight, pleasure, satisfaction; desire; for delight in any absent thing easily produces longing for it

Wuest:  Wherefore, my beloved ones, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, carry to its ultimate conclusion your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is the One who is constantly putting forth His power in you, both in the form of the constant activity of (your) being desirous of and the constant activity of (your) putting into operation His good pleasure .[3]


God gives you the desire to follow Him.

Our natural man only wants to rebel against God and do what is wrong.
When we opened our heart to the Lord, He begins to give us the will to do what is right.
Yet sometimes we still face that inner struggle of evil and good.
(Rom 7:18-19 KJV)  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. {19} For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
If you are struggling with not wanting to do what is right, then pray, ask God to give you a desire to do what is right.


God gives you the energy to obey.

This comes through the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 1:8 KJV)  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
powerdunamis­ – power, strength, ability.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to give us the ability to do the things God has called us to do.


Obey Him / with Unity

God has given you what you need to obey Him.
So “work it out”.  Do what’s right.
There’s a story about the man who made his sons work in the cornfields while their peers spent the afternoon at the swimming hole.  Someone scolded the father saying, “Why do you make those boys work so hard?  You don’t need all that corn.”  The wise father replied, “Sir, I’m not raising corn.  I’m raising boys.”
God is at work raising us.  And a whole lot of growing up is learning to “work out” our relationship with the Lord and do the things He has before us.
Ultimately it’s the doer who counts.  For as President Theodore Roosevelt once said:  “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory.”

Work for unity.  This is the thing that Paul has been encouraging the Philippians with.

:14-16 Shining Attitude

:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

dopoieo – to make; to do

withoutchoris – separate, apart; without any; besides

murmurings goggusmos – a murmur, murmuring, muttering; a secret debate; a secret displeasure not openly avowed

Wuest:  It refers, not to a loud outspoken dissatisfaction, but to that undertone murmuring which one sometimes hears in the lobbies of our present day churches where certain cliques are “having it out,” so to speak, among themselves. The word refers to the act of murmuring against men, not God. The use of this word shows that the divisions among the Philippians had not yet risen to the point of loud dissension. The word was used of those who confer secretly, of those who discontentedly complain. The word is found in a secular document reporting an interview between Marcus Aurelius and a rebel. A veteran present interposes with the remark, “Lord, while you are sitting in judgment, the Romans are murmuring.”[4]

disputingsdialogismos – the thinking of a man deliberating with himself; a deliberating, questioning about what is true; hesitation, doubting; disputing, arguing

The murmurings lead to disputings.

:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

ye may be ginomai – to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being; to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen; to be made, finished; to become, be made

Better translated, “may become”.  They were not at this moment “blameless and harmless”.

blameless amemptos – blameless, deserving no censure, free from fault or defect; strictly unblamed, one with whom no fault is found.  This of course refers particularly to the verdict of others upon one.


There was a little 5-year-old girl, Katie, singing a Scripture song about becoming blameless. Katie confidently sang out, “Do everything without arguing, that you may become brainless and pure, children of God” (Phil. 2:14-15).

-- Lynn Hall, Worland, WY.  Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."

harmless akeraios – unmixed, pure as in wines or metals; of the mind, without a mixture of evil, free from guile, innocent, simple; simple, literally free from any foreign admixture, unadulterated, free from disturbing elements.

It is translated “simple” in:

Ro 16:19  For your obedience is come abroad unto all [men]. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

without rebukeamometos – that cannot be censured, blameless

crookedskolios – crooked, curved; perverse, wicked

perversediastrepho – to distort, turn aside; to oppose, plot against the saving purposes and plans of God; to turn aside from the right path, to pervert, corrupt

ye shinephaino – to bring forth into the light, cause to shine, shed light; shine

lightsphoster – that which gives light, an illuminator; of the stars, sun and moon; light, brightness

Wuest:  All things be constantly doing without discontented and secret mutterings and grumblings, and without discussions which carry an undertone of suspicion or doubt, to the end that ye may become those who are deserving of no censure, free from fault or defect, and guileless in their simplicity, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a perverse and distorted generation, among whom ye appear as luminaries in the world .[5]



While prayer is like a sweet incense to God, our “grumbling” is a putrid stench.
(1 Cor 10:1-13 KJV)  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; {2} And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; {3} And did all eat the same spiritual meat; {4} And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. {5} But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
The Israelites in the wilderness had many wonderful advantages.  Imagine having been part of the crowd that walked through the Red Sea.  Imagine having lived on manna in the wilderness or having drunk water from the rock.
But God wasn’t pleased with many of them.
{6} Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. {7} Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
This is speaking of the golden calf, where the people had grown tired of Moses being gone so long and demanded that Aaron make them a “god” to follow (Ex. 32).
{8} Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
This is speaking of how the Israelite men committed fornication with the young Moabite women at the direction of Balaam (Num. 25).
{9} Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
The issue here (Num.21:6) was the complaining that the people were constantly doing.  After all they had gone through and after all that God had done for them, they were constantly complaining and wishing they could go back to Egypt.

Criticism is easy; achievement is more difficult.

-- Winston Churchill,

{10} Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
This was another incident (Num. 16) when Korah and others began to grumble about the leadership in Israel.  They thought they could do just as good of a job as Moses and Aaron.  The only problem was that God had chosen Moses and Aaron.

A man decided to join a monastery and one of the rules of the group was that you were only allowed to speak two words every ten years.  At the end of ten years he said, “Bad food!”

Ten more years went by and he said, “Hard bed!”

Finally, on his 30th anniversary with the brothers, he thundered, “I quit!”  And the priest in charge responded, “You might as well. All you do is complain anyway.”


There’s the story of the man who came down to breakfast one morning and told his wife he wanted two eggs—one fried, one scrambled.  With no comment, the long-suffering woman cooked each egg to his specifications and then quietly put the plate in front of him.  “Oh no!” he groaned, pushing it away.  “You’ve fried the wrong egg.”

Have you ever had a person in your life like that?

{11} Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. {12} Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. {13} There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
We often think of temptation as being some sort of sin like fornication or murder.  But God considers our grumbling to be quite offensive.
God will provide the way of escape, even from complaining, if we look for it.


Your attitude counts

It’s not just doing the right things, but having the right attitude that counts. That’s what makes us “shine”.
You and I are to be such that as we walk up and down the streets of life, people will be struck and attracted.  You have seen them turn and look at a well-dressed person. ... They should be struck by us, and look at us, and think, “What is this person?  I have never seen anybody quite like this before!” ...
That is the kind of people we can be and the kind of people that we must be.  And when we become such people, believe me, the revival we are longing for will start, and the people outside, in their misery and wretchedness, will come in and will want to know about it.

-- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There’s a story of some gold prospectors who discovered an exceptionally rich mine.  One of them said, “Hey, we’ve got it made as long as we don’t tell anybody else before we stake our claims.”  So they each vowed to keep the secret.
Because they had to have more tools and provisions, they headed for town.  After buying all the supplies they needed, they hurried back to the mine site.  But they weren’t alone.  A crowd of people followed them because their discovery was written all over their faces.
What happens on the inside shows on the outside.  Joyful Christians with the light of God on their faces are needed in the darkness of this world.

[1]Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Php 2:12). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[2]Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Php 2:12). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[3]Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Php 2:12). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[4]Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Php 2:14). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[5]Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Php 2:14). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.