It seems radical to edit Paul, but if I were his editor I might advise him to begin with “The Lord is at hand” and then carry on with his first truth that connects “rejoice in the Lord” to reasonableness. Then I’d suggest he connect “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” directly to “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” Right there, after “thanksgiving” I’d ask him to place a big “.” [a full stop]. There’s something holy about connecting rejoicing to our “reasonableness”…reasonableness to our “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”…and “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to our belief. Those are the connections of holy truth that verify we do believe “the Lord IS at hand” in our life for his purpose .
Did you notice how personal everything Paul writes is, even without my editing? It’s about your rejoicing, your reasonableness, your prayer, your supplication and your thanksgiving. Today if you dare to believe that, use my “full stop” and take a moment to rejoice over the Godly reality that sometimes His truth really is about you! Then read on. Paul is going to make your rejoicing even more personal with God’s promise to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“.”
That’s very personal for God too! “Again I will say, rejoice!” Take my dare! “Rejoice” over what He is making known to, and about, you. Rejoicing is reasonable evidence that you’re practicing “what you have learned and received and heard and seen” in your personal relationship with Him“.” He’ll love it!
Today is a word salad of definitions. I sometimes use definitions to help me see the truth of familiar words in a new and meaningful way. Paul was not patting himself on the back when he said “imitate me.” In fact his life was filled with circumstances no one would want to imitate. These are the words that stood out to me that defined what Paul asked as the inspiration of his ministry, not his self-promotion.
Imitating: using someone as an example to follow
Keep: continue in a specified way
Example: characteristic of its kind
Citizenship: legal status and relation with specific rights and duties
Await: to be in the future of someone
Transform: a thorough or dramatic change in character
Subject: cause to undergo a particular experience
Stand: maintain a position
Friends, connect with me to the truth I have shown you. Specifically continue to walk according to the characteristics of Jesus you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our legal status in heaven comes with specific rights and duties that insure our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ is our future. He will, by a thorough and dramatic change in our character, cause our lowly body to be like His glorious one. He’s the power that enables our heart to undergo the particular experience that draws it to Himself. Therefore, maintain your position in the Lord, my cherished friends.
There is no more important truth than the one Paul writes here: Jesus came to offer His own perfection, not ours, for one purpose — to make us His own. It was God’s perfection that redeemed the imperfect faith of clay-footed heroes in the Bible. It was God’s perfection that urged them to “press on.” Could I have understood there is transformation and forgiveness for unwilling prophets, errant kings, guilty persecutors, and even for willing followers whose failures break God’s heart as well as their own without their stories? The answer is so obviously no!
My story begins way back in Genesis with an evil serpent who’s goal was to teach people how to curse themselves. Throughout both Testaments of the Bible I see how well mankind learned that lesson. Thank God for His never-wavering faithfulness to His one purpose — to make us His own. Without reading of the redemption of those other clay-footed heroes, would I ever have recognized that “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to the promise of what lies ahead” is what I needed to “press on toward the goal…the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?” The answer is so obviously no! That is the prize!
This is the topic of the day…seeking! [Use an exclamation mark at the end of a strong command, an interjection, or an emphatic declaration.] Seeking has come up over and over these last couple of weeks in my own study, in Bible study and in external reading. When that happens I know this is not coincidence or an accident, it’s the Holy Spirit putting an exclamation point on the word of God so I’ll pay attention.
Paul hasn’t used that exact word but it’s surely implied in this passage. Isn’t the usual response to losing something to seek or replace it? He’s had his own exclamation point on the Damascus Road that has changed his focus from what he already knew from the Hebrew code of Jewish law that those who don’t believe in resurrection have no share in the world to come. His spiritual pedigree was beyond question but that has become “rubbish” to him now. What he had lost has become his personal desire to seek — to “gain Christ and be found in him with “righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Paul has reminded me seeking is much more than an other worldly goal, it’s “the power of [Christ’s] resurrection” at work in my everyday life, here and now. [see Galatians 2:20]
How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshiping, seeking, singing church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture… [A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God]
Here’s an interesting commentary explanation about Epaphroditus’s illness that is worth sharing: ( Philippians 2:25-30 )
“There is a word in this passage which later had a famous usage. The King James Version speaks of Epaphroditus not regarding his life; the Revised Standard Version uses risking his life; we have translated it hazarding his life. The word is the verb paraboleuesthai ( G3851); it is a gambler’s word and means to stake everything on a turn of the dice. Paul is saying that for the sake of Jesus Christ Epaphroditus gambled his life. In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women called the parabolani, the gamblers. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. In A.D. 252 plague broke out in Carthage; the heathen threw out the bodies of their dead and fled in terror. Cyprian, the Christian bishop, gathered his congregation together and set them to burying the dead and nursing the sick in that plague-stricken city; and by so doing they saved the city, at the risk of their lives, from destruction and desolation.” a
That insight into Epaphroditus is an interesting commentary because of the information about his risk, life and faith. I share it because it’s worth to me is the one Greek verb the Bible mentions associated with gamblers. Faith is a definite gamble. There’s a risk involved with believing a) there is a God, b) Jesus as God walked the earth as a man with a specific purpose — to reveal His truth about dealing with the risks of life and finally c) at the end of His earthly life God/Jesus left an internal helper for those who believe; the Holy Spirit. The main evidence we have to support those risky truths is the Bible, but there is risk there too. What if some, of many, translators got their words wrong? You might gamble and be wrong…but are you willing to the risk your life on betting God couldn’t get it right?
Everything about mitigating that risk depends on learning the truth about a) accepting, b) believing and c) confirming truth for yourself. It’s a calculated risk. No one else’s investigating really matters. It really is all about you! God/Jesus/Holy Spirit does not demand — He reveals Himself to those willing to risk investigating. When that revelation happens you begin to understand the risk/benefits of personal faith. Read on! If you read/hear something from your investigation once, it’s information. If you read/hear the echo of that truth again, it’s confirmation and finally if you read/hear it a third time, it’s affirmation that you’ve just experienced the Holy Spirit, personally! God really is teaching you! May it be so!
a William Barclay
Salvation is a reality that “God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” so you will become a “blameless and innocent” child “holding fast to the Word of life.” It’s not always convenient and sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable to learn something of value. OK I’m calling this experience an inconvenient confession. I think you’ll recognize my discomfort at hearing myself say — “I spent four hours looking up the eight cross references from a single passage and then the many cross references of each of those cross references some of which had cross references of their own and then I threw it all away because it didn’t seem to be about the lesson at all any more and I’d wasted my time” — out loud, in a Bible study! I am not a newbie at this and to be honest I felt guilty and frustrated before going in to this study because in those 240 minutes I hadn’t had some moment of revelation. I learned from this experience the something of value it takes to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is the uncomfortable confessing of an inconvenient truth.
Note to self: working out my salvation is NOT like going to the gym where I exert myself with the expectation of achieving some desired goal. Yet when those words came out of my mouth I realized that’s exactly how I’d reacted. I’d said exactly what I “didn’t” want to say — out loud! There I was among a group of women I trust and admire, who all want to effectively learn how to be better image bearers of Christ and I spoke the ugly reality of just what I hadn’t learned.
Confession often seems to include fear and trembling because it’s the hidden truth of the places we hide. I think God was probably rejoicing at my confession. I just wanted to take every word back and protect my seasoned citizen image so I’d look better than I am. The reality of what it means to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is not about performance or goals or study or guilt or frustration. “It is God who works in [me], both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” “Holding fast to the word of life” IS my salvation.
This is a mysterious truth about God choosing to advance His Gospel through the least likely of circumstances. What evidence do we have that supports Paul’s truth that what had happened to him had “really served to advance the gospel?” We have his many writings including four epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon written while imprisoned! God had given Paul a unique history that preceded him to Rome. He’d appeared and defended Jesus before so many powerful Roman leaders that he’d gained some notoriety. “The whole imperial guard and all the rest” clearly knew his “imprisonment is for Christ.” Paul had become a celebrity “criminal.” He was allowed to have visitors and two-way communication about his many ministries. It’s likely he was chained to his guards and they became his very personal in-prison ministry. People who would never have heard the truth of Christ in any other way became the captive audience of an “ambassador in chains” given one of the most mysterious opportunities for the Word to create new believers and inspire “brothers” to be “more bold to speak [the Gospel] without fear.”
— Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:5
— You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13
— We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
— God’s workmanship in me began long before a specific egg and sperm met one another
— God began to justify His choice in my mother’s womb before my first breath
— That first breath began my sanctification even before my first cognitive thought
— God has created me in the likeness of His perfection to insure I could be of value and succeed at what He’s prepared beforehand
— My whole imperfect and incomplete way of life is the inspired field of operation He’s chosen to accomplish His good works
— In him we live and move and have our being…for we are indeed his offspring Acts 17:28
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things. Philippians 4:8
John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus has come to this hour with a troubled soul and this prayer: “Father, glorify your name.” The crowd has heard Jesus speak those words to His Father. The voice of God responds in a shockwave of thunder to glorify His own name. Those who’ve heard God’s answer understand He has glorified His name, in Jesus. People begin to respond to Jesus with more interest as He tells them the glory story of God’s plan to lift Him “up from the earth ”…to glorify God’s name, “again.”
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God speaks to confirm the glory of His own name — in Jesus. Jesus has let God speak for Himself to the crowd. The crowd has heard and now Jesus speaks for God. “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” He speaks as the Son of Man and the Light God has placed among them…to “draw all people to myself.”
What does it say about people?
Some hear and understand the voice of God in the thunder is His answer for them, as well as for Jesus. It’s for their sake His name has been glorified in Jesus.
Is there truth here for me?
Jesus having a troubled soul would probably not be on any list of His attributes. It just seems too human. And it is. Jesus has made a deliberate choice to exempt Himself from all the rights of His identity as God in order to complete His identity as the Son of Man. God in a rare verbal display, thunders His acknowledgment that He’s glorified His name in Jesus’s life and is prepared to glorify His name again in Jesus’s death. Jesus’s willing choice, despite His troubled soul, is to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice of their Grace. ”Therefore, He elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other namesa His own.
ESV 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”…16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Born again is an intangible idea. There is no document that can verify its reality or prove it has happened. Every detail of that new birth is internally stored in you. You are the safekeeper of your salvation through Jesus. I wonder if that’s exactly what this Word from Philippians 2:12 is speaking about? Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Born a second time is a mysterious internal awareness that allows our heart to “see” the Kingdom of God has been placed within us for safekeeping. That awareness is the gift of the salvation God has worked in us. Our new birth is confirmed to us by personal growth and discovery that equips us to live a life of faith, despite our fear and trembling, because…God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.