First a little background about the book. Philippi was an important city in the western part of Macedonia, which was generally in the area of modern Greece. Paul wrote this letter from his prison cell in Rome. The Philippian church was started by Paul, so he had a particular fondness for them, considering them his spiritual children, so he wanted very much for them to grow in their faith and service to God. He originally went to Philippi as a result of a vision he had, calling him to go there.
Today I’d like to focus briefly on chapter 2, verse 12 and 13, where Paul wrote: So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.
Some misinterpret Paul’s meaning when he said “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. This does not mean that we earn our salvation by works, which would contradict his teaching in Ephesians 2:8-9 which said, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.”
So what did Paul mean here in Philippians? It helps to look at how it reads in the original Greek. I don’t have time for a detailed explanation of the language, but Paul was saying, “Even though I’m not there to teach you, don’t stop living your lives in such as way as to please God. Keep doing the things that you have learned are right. You are new creations in Christ. Show the evidence of that in how you live and in how you treat each other. Don’t become lazy in doing this, because God Himself is doing a work in you, giving you the desire and ability to become the person He wants you to be.”
Guys, even though we live in a pretty messed up world, we are called to hang in there and bring the light of Jesus to the darkness that seems to pervade this place. The awesome thing about dark and light is that no amount of darkness can extinguish light. But the smallest amount of light always chases away darkness. You might feel as if your influence is small, but believe me, the light that is in you cannot be squelched if you’ll allow the Holy Spirit to do the work he has started in you. What God begins, He will finish.