Philippians 2:12-18 teach us a lot about Christian discipleship and God’s expectations for His people. This passage shows us that the Christian faith stands on two foundations: TRUST and OBEDIENCE. As followers of Jesus, we are to pursue a lifetime of obedience. Our obedience flows from a deep trust in who Jesus is. When we trust and obey, it leads us to become more and more like Jesus.
This passage in Philippians has often been misunderstood to mean some sort of works-based righteousness. That couldn’t be further from the truth! There is nothing you and I can do to earn our salvation and there’s nothing we can do to keep our salvation. God has already worked salvation for us and we receive it the moment we place our faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Paul doesn’t say we are to work FOR our salvation, he says we are to work OUT our salvation!
In other words, God saves us by His sovereign grace through the atonement of Jesus, and “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). But we have to “work out” that salvation in our everyday, practical living (Philippians 2:12).
One of the practical ways Paul tells us do “work out” our salvation is by avoiding grumbling and complaining. I believe Paul uses this because pursuing Jesus is hard and when it gets difficult we will be tempted to complain. I also believe Paul uses this practical application because when we grumble and complain we lose our distinctiveness and our effectiveness as Christ followers. We can claim to know God but when we grumble and complain…we are NO different from the world around us.
Just imagine how attractive Jesus would be if His followers replaced grumbling and complaining with gratitude and praise. God’s expectation for us is to be a proclaiming church, not a complaining church!