Read Philippians 2:14-30
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16as you hold out the word of life — in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
25But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. (NIV)
If we look at this passage and remember what was just written in the previous few verses where Paul writes: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose,” we see that Paul puts forth 5 signs of salvation.
First there is “effective progress.” Paul says to work out your salvation. Our salvation, while assured upon acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord, has so much more benefit to it than the day we accept Christ. There is the change in us, the rebirth, the moving on to perfection that happens. And this is a lifetime journey of increasing our faith and living the best life possible. And it is work, not for salvation, but for growth as a disciple.
He then gives us the second sign, we do it with fear and trembling. This is not a fear of punishment, but a fear that comes from the recognition of our humanness, our weakness and our inadequacies. We recognize that we cannot do this alone. So it is a fear and trembling that does not cause us to hide from God but to know that the source of life is God and therefore we seek God out to ease our fears and find peace in life.
The third sign comes that we do things without “complaining or arguing.” In Christ, we don’t need to argue or complain as we have everything. It is only when we demand the worldly things that complaining creeps in. When we covet others and their stuff, this wrong attitude can creep in. So when we have peace with God, we share Christ and not argue. We lift up rather than tear down. There is a serenity that begins to permeate our lives.
The fourth sign is a “purity.” Paul’s prayer in the letter is for the hearer to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.” We are called to live lives of purity and thus, become blameless. This comes through that growth process, a process that scripture calls sanctification. It is the time after we accept Christ and becomes a time where Christ begins to work in our lives with us as participants. Prior to our acceptance of Christ as savior, Christ did all the work. After, we become co-participants with Christ in becoming holy.
The fifth and final sign Paul points to is “missionary endeavor.” This is where Paul writes: “in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” The word here for stars is actually the Greek word used in the translation of the creation story that is used for the creation of the sun and the moon. These are not small lights that sign, but lights that shine in the darkness and make a difference in the darkness. And the light we shine is the Gospel which are words of life to those who believe. We have a purpose and calling, to share the love of Christ with those we meet.
Paul then uses an picture that probably comes from the athletic games. He writes that “I do not want you to run or labor in vain.” The words here convey the effort of someone who puts every ounce of energy into a task. This was something the athletes did in there training. The athletic contests were a big part of the Greek culture. And Paul is using the picture to say that I don’t want you to have invest all your life energy into something that didn’t matter in the end. The athlete has a clear goal in mind for his or her effort. We need to have the same focus in our lives.
What are the signs that you see in your life that you are moving on to a deeper faith in Christ? Is your energy used to further your walk and to share the Gospel or is it in pursuit of earthly gain? This is a difficult thing to look at because there are things we do to live in this world that have to be done. But it is good to look at where we put our energy to see if we are working in vain.
There is a lot more going on in this passage, but this is enough for now. Questions, comments?
Blessings and Peace