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Philippians 2:16

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

15 in order that you may prove to be blameless and innocent, children of God, above reproach, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

16 all the while holding fast the word of life,

so that I may have reason to be proud in the day of Christ

because I did not run/strive in vain nor toil in vain.




Our text this morning continues our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Now remember Paul is writing to encourage the Philippians to stand firm, to stand together, and to stand for Christ in the midst of opposition/trial.

Therefore, Paul calls his readers to continue walking/working according to their own salvation. That is, despite hardship, we are to imitate the example of Christ’s self-giving service, His obedience to God, and His concern for the well-being and salvation of others. At the same time, we are to pursue (instead of ignoring/resisting) the very things that Scripture says God’s grace is doing in us.

In our text this morning Paul turns from what the believer is to do (work according to your own salvation) to how we are to do it.


Verse 14-15 (Review)

Notice at once, how Paul tells us to go about working according to our own salvation: Paul says do all things without grumbling or disputing. Why? Notice the danger of grumbling and disputing. In both cases, self is placed over Christ. Think about it: I grumble because I did not get my way. I argue because I want my own way. As such, the Gospel ministry/mission of the church is hindered and the character of Gospel life is obscured/misrepresented.


Verse 15

Next, notice the reason Paul tells us to avoid grumbling and disputing. Paul says do all things without grumbling or disputing in order that you may prove/demonstrate to the world that you are: blameless and innocent, children of God, and above reproach. In other words, by avoiding grumbling and disputing we show ourselves to be sincere followers of Christ who serve without hidden or impure motives. As such, the world has nothing to point to by which it can dismiss or discredit our witness.

Notice then the point: notice why Paul calls us to be distinct and sincere children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse world. Paul says that God has placed us in the world to shine as lights in the midst of darkness. In other words, God intends the new life that grace is working in us to shine like stars in the night sky, offering that same grace, hope, and healing to the world around us.


Verse 16

Next, notice if verse 14-15 told us to do all things without grumbling or disputing then verse 16 provides the manner in which we are to go about it. Notice then Paul says that while you are doing all things without grumbling or disputing make sure you are holding fast the Word of Life FN#1. That is, Paul says to make sure you are holding fast to Scripture. Why? First, by holding fast to Scripture you will know the sort of things you are to do without grumbling or disputing. In other words, it is not enough to simply have a good/cheerful attitude (to be a friendly church). Instead, if you are going to live according to your own salvation and according to what grace is doing in you, you need to base what you do on what God tells you in His Word that He is doing. Importance: at once verse 16 reminds me that grace is not an empty/nondescript concept. Instead, God’s Word is the blueprint that grace follows in your life. That is, God’s Word is what grace is doing/unfolding in your life. Notice then for Paul the Word of Life (Scripture) is what describes and directs the Newness of Life that God has given FN#2.

However, that said, please note: For Paul, holding fast the Word of Life does not just mean following/obeying God’s Word. Instead, for Paul holding fast the Word of Life also means trusting/clinging to the hope and promises of life that God has given you in His word. Think about it: Paul knows that his readers (both then and now) will face all manner of trials in this life FN#3. Therefore, Paul tells us, through it all, not to lose sight of God’s great assurances: Christ is Lord over all we face; that already His hand is governing every detail of life according to the promises made to His people; and finally God assures us that we will overcome. As such, Paul tells you (amid all you face) to turn to Christ and hold fast the assurances He has given you in His Word.  In fact, for Paul, these two notions (holding fast by trusting God’s promises and holding fast by following/obeying God) go hand in hand. How? Without the hope and assurance of God’s favor and presence with you, you will not follow/obey for very long. In the end, working according to your own salvation means walking according to the hope, assurance, and direction that God gives in His Word. As such, verse 16 reminds me of the vital importance of spending non-superficial time in God’s Word each day.


Next, notice the result: Paul says that by the Philippians holding fast to God’s Word, Paul will have grounds/reason to be proud on the day of Christ. That is, Paul will be able to look with satisfaction on the fruits of his ministry on the Day of Christ’s return FN#4. Why? Despite the difficulty, resistance, and opposition Paul faced doing the work that God called him to do, he did not strive or toil in vain FN#5. Instead, God honored Paul’s ministry to the Philippians by bringing about in them genuine salvation.  How do we know that? We know because the Philippians did not abandon God, God’s call, or God’s word. Instead, true salvation brought about in them true and lasting faithfulness (the grace that saves you is a grace that sustains you) FN#6. Notice the result: as the Philippians stand with Christ and His people on the final day, Paul looks on with deep joy and satisfaction because God was faithful both to the calling He gave Paul as well as to the promises He made to the Philippians when they turned to Him in faith FN#7. Simply put, God has honored Paul’s ministry by bringing to completion the very salvation He sent Paul to proclaim FN#8. Importance: at once verse 16 reminds me that the same faithfulness God showed to Paul as well as the same faithfulness that God showed to the Philippians are mine also. In other words, God honors my faithfulness and the work He has called me to do (just as He did for Paul). At the same time, just as God was faithful to complete the salvation He began in the Philippians, so too He will be faithful to complete you and me as well.


Bottom line: for Paul, working according to your own salvation means walking according to God’s Word. Why? God always honors the work He has called His people to do; and the salvation God have given will not fall short for even one of His children. Therefore, we have confidence to stay the faithful course.



Verse 16

1] λόγον ζωῆς (word of Life)- Here the λόγον ζωῆς describe the Gospel as the word which gives true and eternal life and according to which that new life unfolds. It is interesting to note that this phrase occurs only one other time in Scripture (1 John 1:1) and refers to Jesus who is the life giving Word/logos of God.

            Importance: Paul’s unique description of Scripture as the Word of Life gives us an indication of what he means by holding fast to that word (especially in light of the immediate context- 2:5-18)

·       Because the Word of life is what describes and directs the new life that is ours in Christ, holding fast means following/obeying God’s Word (2:8,12).

·       Because the Word of life is the offer of new life in Christ, it is the content of our witness (what we shine before the world- 2:15b).

·       Because the Word of life gives the assurance and hope that God is faithful to all His promises, holding fast means clinging to this hope/assurance amid all we face (2:9-11; 1:6).



2] Note: included in this notion of holding fast to Scripture so we will know the sort of things we are to do is also the idea holding fast to Scripture so that we will know what we are to be shinning/offering the world. In other words, our message is not some empty man-based notion of love, positive thinking, or open-ended self-affirmation. Instead, our witness is to the one true living God of Scripture and the salvation He alone has provided. Importance: God’s Word not only describes the very salvation/new life that grace is working out in me it also describes the very salvation/new life that I am sent to offer the world.



3] Already the Philippians are facing opposition for their faith (1:29-30). In turn, Paul himself is in prison with a death sentence over his head (1:20-21).



4] ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ (the Day of Christ)- Note: “the Day of Christ” points to Christs return, the final judgement, and the full manifestation of the Kingdom which He accomplished (c.f. Phil 1:6; 1:10)



5] ἔδραμον…… ἐκοπίασα (run/strive…toil)- The picture behind ἔδραμον (run/strive) is that of a footrace (thus the word means to run). By extension it comes to mean: strive to advance, exert oneself. In turn, the picture behind ἐκοπίασα (toil) is of one who has become exhausted from hard work or exertion As such, it points to more than just ordinary occupation or labor. Therefore I have translated it as toil.

In both cases, these words underscore strong exertion, hard work, and striving. At the same time, they both indicate striving towards a goal (verses working aimlessly- c.f. 1 Cor. 9:24). In the end, ἔδραμον and ἐκοπίασα are used in verse 16 to point to the same thing: Paul’s labor on behalf of the Philippians. As such, they stress the difficulty, hardship, and tireless effort that Paul has put forth for his flock.



6] Note the Christian’s perseverance is a work, sign, and indication of saving grace. In other words, the grace that saves you, sustains you, and completes you. God has provided the whole of our salvation.



7] Notice we have seen this very twofold faithfulness before

Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Notice then our text this morning (verse 16) points to the fulfillment of God’s faithfulness both to Paul’s confidence as well as His faithfulness to complete the Philippians’ salvation. In a sense verses 1:6 and 2:16 provide bookends to the first part of Paul’s letter. And between these two verses Paul unfolds the manner and the nature of the Christian life that God’s grace is accomplishing in us. 



8] καύχημα (reason to be proud)- Note the word καύχημα (proud/boasting) can also mean what is said during boasting, in the sense of bragging on someone or being proud of someone. As such, it carries with it the sense of praise and rejoicing (e.g. Deut. 10:21 "He is your praise (καύχημα in LXX) and He is your God”). This sense fits our current context well. Notice then Paul’s pride is not self-derived or self-focused. Instead, Paul’s pride is directed towards God. That is, Paul looks with satisfaction on his ministry because God was faithful both to the calling/labor He gave to Paul as well as to the salvation He gave to the Philippians. As such Paul’s pride is both a satisfaction as well as a praise to God in whom that satisfaction rests.



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