Verse Study: Philippians 2:12

I will occasionally be doing verse studies as part of this devotional page. It is an opportunity to take a look at a Bible verse in depth and to study it with a deeper intentionality than casual reading provides. This method is my personal approach and should not be understood as the only method for doing verse studies. I simply wanted to share with some of you my insights using one Bible verse as a teaching tool. I hope this proves interesting. -Scott

Philippians 2:12 (NASB)

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

1. “So then” (ὥστε, hoste) – for this reason, therefore, so. The statement that follows is connected logically with something else said beforehand. This requires reading the verse(s) before to determine how they are connected.

       1      “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.

4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus,

6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name, which is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Everything that follows in verse 12 is in light of having a selfless attitude, not grasping equality with others, but seeking selflessness toward everyone else for the sake of oneness of mind, love, spirit, and purpose.

2. “my beloved” (ἀγαπητοί, agapaytoy) – Who is the beloved? Philippians 1:1 reads, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:” Paul is speaking in verse 12 to the Christians in Philippi, including their leadership.

3. “just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.” The Philippi Christians are obedient to the word that Paul preached there during his journeys (Acts 16:12). They remain obedient (even more so) than when he was actually there. This indicates they received his word well. “Just as” means that since they have been obedient up until this point, he is about to ask them to be obedient in something else.

4. “work out” (κατεργάζομαι, katergadzomai) – to cause a state or condition, bring about, produce, create. By doing something, a condition will occur/transpire.

5. Your (own) salvation (σωτηρία, soteria) – Paul commands the Philippian Christians to be obedient by “working out their own salvation.” Once a Christian has obtained salvation, what is the natural product of that? Holiness or sanctification, achieved by the divine work of the Holy Spirit, encouraged by one’s own obedience to Christ’s commandments. In other words, working out one's salvation is the ongoing act of obedience to Jesus.

6. “with fear and trembling” a phrase found in two other places in the New Testament.

a. 1 Corinthians 7:15 – “His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.”

b. Ephesians 6:5 – “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”

c. Both passages reflect that “fear and trembling” is an idiom for being obedient with great seriousness.

7. Conclusion: When all phrases are put together, the conclusion is that the Philippian Christians were to be obedient by working out their own salvation with great seriousness. This working out was done by having the same selfless attitude that Christ had when He laid down His life. By having this attitude, Christians surrender selfishness in the name of brotherly love. So, working out one’s own salvation is an ongoing act of obedience by having a selfless attitude.

Pastor Scott