Read Philippians 2:12-16.
Over the last few centuries, the Christian faith has been haunted by the phrase works-righteousness. The meaning of this phrase has generally been focused on a religious system of actions or deeds those works that must be done to count for righteousness. As you can imagine, this works righteousness is consider inferior to a righteousness of faith. After all, doing works simply because you must isnt very inspiring or enriching, now is it?
In contrast to this seemingly empty and hypocritical works righteousness is the notion of faith righteousness. It is a righteousness that is given to us by God and his Spirit. It is a righteousness that we cannot obtain on our own. Now as you can imagine, anything that would seem to interfere with that external gift of righteousness is avoided lest it become a process for manipulating Gods grace. This is why some are concerned that baptism or the Lords Supper could be a form of works righteousness. They are concerned that these physical acts are an attempt to put a claim on God and his grace.
Our problem is not a choice between Works Righteousness vs. Faith Righteousness. That is a false choice. Even Martin Luther, who coined these terms, allowed that both types of righteousness were proper and had their place. He was not opposed to one over the other. But here we are almost five centuries past Luther and we seem to operate on polar extremes when it comes to this issue.
I want to suggest that these polar extremes are not helpful and that Paul, in his letter to the Philippian church, is recommending that faith and works are not only compatible, but also vital.
Paul has already commented on the mind of Christ. Having the attitude and mindset of Jesus Christ is so very important. He did not avoid humbling himself and bearing shame for the sake of others and out of obedience to God. God exalted Christ. But the example of Christ and action of God demonstrates that this mindset and attitude is more than just mental it results in action and behavior.
So, Paul follows on the heels of this hymn to call us to work out our salvation. This phrase is very confusing to modern English. Work it out can mean figure it out. Someone with a problem can be dismissed by another who says well, just work it out. It might also be a non-specific promise that we will figure something out. Dont know how, but well work it out. It will all work out in the end. But thats not what this text is saying. Salvation is not the goal of the work. Salvation is something that God has already begun in us.
If theres still any doubt, let verse 13 clear up the confusion ... for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
So, having the attitude of Christ is not just a matter of thoughts and beliefs. It also involves deeds and behavior. Of course we could just as accurately rephrase this and say that having the attitude of Christ is not just a matter of deeds and behavior, it also involves thoughts and beliefs. Both are true. There is a harmony here that is so important ...
People who have the attitude and behavior of Christ are going to stand out. We are meant to be a contrast to the warped and depraved cultures around us. But this isnt a reactive stance to the world. We are not to simply do the opposite of the world or reject new fads and technologies because they are worldly. We are to be a contrast in all cultures and ages. How do we do this?
Shining like stars means standing out. A people who are a contrast. Holding out the word of Life Living out our salvation (putting it into action) is evangelism. It is sharing the gospel.
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