Philippians 2:12, 13
Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
The purpose of the present passage, as we have seen, is to secure in the Philippian converts that consideration for the welfare of others which is the grand secret of Christian unity. The example of Christ has been brought forward for the same object. Salvation, as wrought out by Jesus, has been the pre-eminent example of public spirit. But now we seem to have come across a break in Paul's idea, as if he would center the converts in self once again, while laboring to deliver them from self. And the passage has been torn from the context and split up into antagonistic exhortations, so that it seems a theological battle-ground rather than a call to Christian power and peace. Let us see if we do not altogether escape the difficulty by holding hard to the connection of the apostle's thought,
I. PAUL SPEAKS HERE UNQUESTIONABLY OF PERSONAL INSPIRATION AS POSSESSED BY THESE PHILIPPIAN CHRISTIANS. Of course, we are here using inspiration in the sense that the Philippians were each tenanted by the Holy Spirit. They were inspired men, inspired for action, if not for authorship. The Holy Spirit had got their wills in his control and also the issue of their wills in action. Here is the broad fact, therefore, of their personal inspiration. Now, the Holy Spirit's influence upon the will is a most interesting as well as intricate subject. It is not, however, either an unreasonable or a tyrannical influence. It is not unreasonable, for it is upon the line of reason and of moral suasion that the Holy Spirit always moves. It is not tyrannical, for it is by his inspiration we are delivered from the prejudice and partiality which sin induces and which mar our liberty. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 2:17). We are never so free as when we are surrendering ourselves implicitly and completely to God's inspirations. But the power to carry out the impulses of the inspired will is also the gift of God; so that the Christian is an inspired instrument for the accomplishment of the will of God. He is moved from within by the almighty Spirit.
II. PERSONAL INSPIRATION MAY WELL BE ENTERTAINED WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING. (Ver. 12.) If it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when we have risked and courted his displeasure, it is surely no less fearful a thing to lie in his hands as an instrument of his good pleasure. We should regard our personalities with awe and reverence as sacred things. The temple on Mount Moriah was not half so sacred as we are ourselves if the Holy Spirit really dwells within us. It is this tremendous thought which Paul feels assured will vanquish fornication and all the lewdness which invested Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:9-20). We are Divine temples; we walk the world as inspired men; we may well contemplate the organisms we are with fear and trembling. Just as we handle with a fear and nervous tremor some exquisite piece of mechanism which some mighty genius has devised for some admirable purpose, afraid lest rash handling might disarrange it; so are we to handle our inspired personalities, and make body, soul, and spirit with a sober, awe-inspired joy tributary to God's praise.
III. PERSONAL INSPIRATION ISSUES IN EARNEST WORK. (Ver. 12.) God does not inspire men that they may turn out lotos-eaters. The inaction which Brahma induces, for example, can never be induced by the Christian system. Inspiration is for work. The movement in earnest life is the proof positive that the spiritual force has entered into the professedly Christian soul. But what will the work be? This is the question. Does working out our own salvation mean living in a perpetual fever of spiritual anxiety? Does it mean a never-ending attack of spiritual despondency? By no means. It will be found in the spiritual life, as in life physical, that the hypochondriacs are in danger, and that it is those who have no time to think upon their own ailments, they are so busy ministering to the welfare of others, who are really making most progress towards the spiritual perfection which is salvation in its fullness. And here it will be seen how consistent these verses are with all that has gone before. Paul wishes the Philippians in Ver. 12, just as in Ver. 4, to be living the self-forgetful life. It is only when we look away from self to Christ as the ground of our salvation, and when we look away from self to others as the sphere of our special work, that we are living the earnest Christian life. Our salvation is assured when we are enabled to make Christ's work our chief anxiety and Christ's glory our constant aim. Inspired lives lead to self-forgetful and self-sacrificing work. The secret of all safety and nobleness lies here. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.