We have all heard those words over the years, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” But what does it really mean? I thought I was saved? What do I have to work out? The answer has eluded disciples and yet it should not be a point of confusion. If you attended the School of Discipleship over the last several months you would already know that when you desire to interpret a verse of the Bible you always begin with the context of the passage. It is context that gives the verse it’s meaning. This verse in Philippians 2:12 is part of a powerful passage called the “Kenosis” passage. The Greek word for conceit in verse 3 is kenodoxia from the root Kenosis which means to have vain glory or be empty of glory. Paul begins the passage by saying, “be like minded,” and goes on in verse 5 by saying let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
As we go further in the passage we find that Christ who as our creator and God came to earth and became our bondservant to His creation because of His love for the Father, John 14:31. This gives us a great clue about what being sent by God means. We are to do what we do because we love God and wish to carry His love to others. It is hear that many drift off course with their understanding of love. They think it means to do whatever people ask of us. Let them control us or to give them whatever they ask for. However, Agape love gives us a much deeper definition. It means to make a mental decision to put the needs of others above yours.
But let’s remember our verse we are trying to interpret. As we read on in this passage we come to the verse 12 about working out our salvation and we read the next verse 13, “ for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Paul tells us it is God who works in us to do His will. So Paul begins the passage by telling us to be like-minded with Christ who emptied Himself of His own desires and came as a bondservant to His creation. Paul is writing this to the Philippian church while in Jail. He is telling us our salvation was not only to give us eternal life but also to help us live that life by joining God’s will and His kingdom purposes. He is even telling us how to do this by being minded with Christ. He also told us this in Romans 8:5 when he said set your mind on what the Spirit desires.
But now we get to the deep part of this passage and we read what Paul wrote to the Philippians in this passage. Listen to what he says in verse 2:19, “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. You must meditate on what Paul is saying here, first it seems Paul only has Timothy that he can trust to do what? That Paul would know their state, he is speaking of their spiritual state. What a great disciple maker Paul was and yet he seems to be saying he only has Timothy who he can trust. Now look at verses 20-21, “For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Paul is saying he only trusts Timothy to care for their spiritual state and to be able to discern their spiritual condition because the others available seek their own wills and don’t have the mind of Christ. This is so profound in my opinion that Paul is explaining what the mind of Christ really is to care about the spiritual state of God’s people. To give your life completely to God’s will, to form His image into His people. Who has died to their wills and cried, “Oh God not my will but your will be done in my life that I may care for the spiritual needs of your people. We must now ask ourselves do I have the mind of Christ? God help us all to be like-minded with Christ. Amen
Dr. Stephen L Gray
Pastor Followers of Christ Fellowship