PHILIPPIANS-SERIES NR 9: The fruit of sanctification
Scripture : PHILIPPIANS 2 : 12 – 18
Is the Apostle Paul perhaps contradicting himself here in verse 12? In all his letters, Paul’s complete message is that salvation does not come about through man’s works or deeds! Our best works are before God like filthy rags (Is 64:6).
But here in verse 12 the Apostle is saying: WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION/DELIVERANCE! With fear and trembling. It certainly sounds as if he is contradicting himself, does it not? ”Work out your salvation”.
Remind yourself once again what the Good News sounds like which the Apostle preached to everybody everywhere:
Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection reconciled sinners (that is all who would ever believe upon Him – the elect of God) with God 2000 years ago – completely and perfectly reconciled! The Holy Spirit awakens in the sinner the realization of his/her complete lost condition, and the need for redemption. The Holy Spirit turns the sinner 180 degrees. The Holy Spirit creates in the repenting sinner the faith to trust God for the atonement He worked through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And in this way (and no other) man receives salvation, in his own personal experience.
Christ took sinners’ sin and blame upon Himself to the cross, and they receive His righteousness and holiness the day they repent and come to faith. Trusting God for this already accomplished salvation, is not a good work that man has to do to find favour with God! As if what Jesus did was only a part of the process to get the sinner into God’s good books – that there is still something extra necessary to be done from our side! That is sacrilegious! Faith-trust is merely the empty hands with which we receive. And those empty hands are also a gift from God. Even that does not come from man’s own efforts and achievements. Paul’s message is very clear: NO WORKS to become righteous before God!
Then what did he mean with verse 12? (Read it again).
The answer is as follows:
Here Paul is not talking about justification/salvation/redemption. He is not talking about atonement and becoming a child of God. He is talking about sanctification! The life-long process of the already-saved person – to live a practical life out of the salvation, and to be changed more and more to the image of Christ. That also is worked by the Holy Spirit. Not by man.
Paul’s meaning is exactly the way it is translated in the 1983 NAV: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Fear and trembling = in reverence and awe of God.
But listen to the instruction: CONTINUE TO live out of the salvation with which you have been saved so perfectly on the cross – absolutely practical!
BECAUSE (reason/basis) – verse 13: For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose!
Yes, we must read verse 13 together with verse 12.
We sometimes think: The salvation/redemption/justification is from A-Z the work of God, but the sanctification is our work! The good works – being the fruit/result of the salvation – are our work, our responsibility.
But Paul is saying, no, the sanctification is also God’s work! He receives the glory for everything! It is BECAUSE in us, He is working all-powerful and glorious to will and to act according to His good purpose!
Ephesians 2:10 puts it so beautifully: God prepared good works in advance for a believer to do, so the believer can just live in it.
It is like a mother who makes a dress for her little daughter in which she can just live!
Have we ever considered this? That the devout life and practical good works that we do, are also the WORKS OF GOD? And that HE receives the glory for it?
And what does this life of sanctification look like in practice?
Paul explains it in the next few verses up to verse 18. When we live in practice like redeemed people, what does it look like, what does it imply? Completely practical and concrete… you will now see how the way the fruit of the child of God’s life is completely the opposite to that of the unsaved worldly people’s life. It is two completely different kingdoms. The child of God and the unsaved person actually have nothing in common.
1 > No complaints and grumbling and objections > The unbelieving worldly person / the fallen sinful nature as such = is characterized by complaining/grumbling/objecting. It comes by itself. But the fruit of the Spirit is that we want to be different. That we do not want to complain about everything and about our circumstances and to be uncomfortable about life as such . That which we previously thought to be part of our personality, now starts to be an enemy that we hate, and we look for a better way. Where does this inner holy desire come from? It is truly the work of the Lord in our lives! It is die fruit of the Spirit of the living God!
2 > Above suspicion and sincere (Blameless and innocent) > The unbelieving worldly person can never be blameless because he is not in Christ. But the believer’s faith-trust rests on God’s infallible Word that he/she possess Christ’s innocence and blamelessness! And once one is anchored in this truth, you begin to crave a life of blamelessness and integrity. Once more: Where does this change of lifestyle come from? It is truly a work of the Lord in our lives.
3 > Irreproachable/faultless (without blemish or wrinkle) in the midst of a degenerated humanity > The unbelieving worldly person is fully part of the degenerated humanity, but the believer is standing apart, is no longer part of it, and wants to live a faultless/blameless life. The person in whom the Holy Spirit lives, starts to hate and despise the atmosphere of degenerated humanity, and does not want to be part of it any longer. Once again: The believer is clothed with Christ’s blamelessness! What is His is mine, and what is mine is His!
4 < Light bearers in the world by spreading the Word > The unbelieving worldly person is essentially living in the dark, and the last thing on his daily agenda is to spread the Word. But because the believer is included in Christ’s Light, can and will he/she spread the Word of the Light everywhere they go! It becomes an urgency to win people for Christ. When a child of God looks at people, he/she instinctively wonders where that person stands with the Lord. The reality of hell, where every unsaved person is heading, starts to crush the child of God in such a way that he wants to see people repent and come to know the Lord. It just becomes more and more a burning desire. That is why you exert yourself for it and pray for people’s salvation. It is a very clear fruit of the Holy Spirit.
5 > Ready for the second coming of Christ > The unbelieving worldly person is not in any way ready for the second coming. Not clothed in Christ and standing naked before God. The only hope an unsaved person has for the future, is to breathe their last breath (Job 11:20). The lost person has only ONE hope: To breathe a dying gasp!! That is where it ends. In contrast to this, the child of God’s life only truly BEGINS when he/she breathes their last!! The child of God knows that Jesus’s second coming is an accomplished fact, and he looks forward to it with longing. Oh, what a future! An eternal future! Ensured by the Son of God’s resurrection from the grave!
6 > In the Lord’s service > The unbelieving worldly person is serving only himself and the world-system, and “what people say and expect”. The fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer is first and foremost, that he/she serves the LORD in everything – from Monday to Sunday. Consider the enormous difference: Serving myself and the world AGAINST serving the living God!
7 > Joy > The unbelieving worldly person’s joy fluctuates according to his circumstances and how he is feeling. The joy of the believer is produced by the Holy Spirit and is present in a strangely mysterious way when one is least expecting it, for example Paul himself: When he wrote this PHILIPPIANS letter, he was captive in a Roman prison – innocent and unjust. The imperial guard were his friends. And yet, Philippians is known as the “letter of joy”.
These things are the fruit of the sanctification which is at work in every born-again person’s life!
To God all the glory!
Translated by Marthie Wilson