EVANGELICAL MENNONITE CONFERENCE
It is one thing to save a soul but it is another to save a church. The corporate testimony of the church was at stake at Philippi. Philippians has to do with saving the corporate health of church.
I. SAVING A CHURCH, 2:12-13
A. HUMAN SIDE FOR SAVING A CHURCH, 2:12
The “therefore” connects verses 12-16 with verses 1-11. This word acts like a hinge that connects the Philippians to Christ. Christ gave himself in humility, even the humility of a criminal’s death (2:5-8).
Most of us want others to cater to us. We will not go out of our way to minister to them. Alas, that is not the attitude of most of us. We want to be served, not to serve. That was not the attitude of our Savior. His attitude was to serve others.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
This is just the opposite of what took place in the church of Philippi. Euodia and Syntyche thought they had a right to sustain a feud because they were hurt by the other person. As a result, the entire church took sides. They did not win people to Christ but operated a religious debating society to determine who was right.
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
“Salvation” in this verse is the corporate salvation of the church from division. People often interpret “work out your salvation” to mean saving the soul. The context, however, is saving a church from splittinginto fractions.
The church was to work out the problems of their congregation but they were not to do with a sledgehammer but with “fear and trembling.” We do not go to a plumber for brain surgery.
B. GOD’S SIDE OF SAVING A CHURCH, 2:13
for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure
Both human responsibility and Gods’ enablement are necessary to save a church. The church resolves division ultimately through God. We feel as if the whole thing depends on us.
The word “work” here always conveys supernatural work (I Thess. 2:13; He 4:12). God works according to a blue print. Either he will work in us or he will work on us. Either way, he will accomplish his purpose. God has taken an oath that every Christian will ultimately be just like the Lord Jesus. We have all seen the sign on the highway “MEN AT WORK.” We can put a sign over the church: “GOD AT WORK.” God provides both the will and the ability to heal relationships.
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF A MODEL CHURCH, 2:14-15
A. Characteristic #1–Free from Destructive Attitudes, 2:14
Do all things without complaining and disputing.
The word “all” is a disconcerting word: “Lord, did you mean ‘most things’ with some exceptions?” “No, all things!”
1. Destructive Attitude #1—Complaining
“Complaining” is a bad attitude expressed in grumbling. The word “murmur” means to speak in low almost inaudible terms. This was the favorite indoor sport of the nation Israel,
“Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (I Co 10:10).
Some Christians are perpetually unhappy; nothing pleases them. They are on the negative side of very positive question and on the positive side of every negative question. They are born inside out.
We go through life complaining about people. The trouble is that our ego hurts for lack of recognition for the “real us.” Yet the “real us” is a complainer that everyone avoids if at all possible.
2. Destructive Attitude #2—Disputing
This vacuum in our souls develops when others do not act upon us in church. In that vacuum we argue our case. The trouble is that our ego has been hurt by lack of recognition and appreciation so we love to debate.
B. Characteristic #2–Four Constructive Attitudes, 2:15
1. Free from Censure–that you may become blameless
The first characteristics of a model church is that it is free from censure. “Blameless” connotes freedom from criticism of the church. The corporate testimony of the church was at stake.
2. Genuine–with Unmixed Signals–harmless
The second characteristic that contravenes a poor testimony is “harmless.” This word was used for unadulterated, undiluted wine. After a customer became inebriated, an ancient tavern keeper would dilute his drinks with water. Such a person was called a huckster. The opposite of a huckster is a person who has genuine testimony before those without Christ.
3. Children of God–children of God
The third characteristic is that the child of God should act like his heritage. He should be conscious of who he is: “I am a child of the King! I do not have to fuse and fume with other Christians.” This is an identity issue. Everything I do reflects on King Jesus: “I must comport myself as a child of the King. There is work to be done.”
Royalty does not put their feet upon the dinner table. A child of God does not do battle with other children of God.
4. Anticipate Criticism–without fault
The fourth standard to keep in mind is “without fault” mentality. This person has no sinful stain on his life.
C. A MODEL CHURCH IS LIGHT TO ITS GENERATION, 2:15
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world
Paul now presents the reason why these criteria are necessary in 2:15-16. People outside Christ wrote the Philippian church off. The “crooked and perverse generation” viewed Christianity with skepticism and cynicism.
Christians should shine as lights in a “crooked” and “perverse” world. Darknessis where the light is needed.The only light this world can see is the believer. That is why it is so dark. We are the best Christian some people know.
God calls Christians to shed luminosity as widely as possible. The word “lights” means luminaries and carries the idea of reflected light. The sun generates light but the moon reflects light. The world receives light from both bodies of light. The sun that generates light is the Son of God. The believer is the moon that reflects the light of Jesus. If all non-Christians see is critical Christians that is a poor depiction of Christ.
III. A MODEL CHURCH KEEPS ETERNAL VALUES IN VIEW, 2:16
holding fast the word of lifeso that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain or labored in vain.
The “day of Christ” refers to when he returns to meet his own in the air. Paul rejoices that he taught the Word of God. Paul kept a global view of his life of how the Lord would evaluate his life. Our race is a race against a wasted life. It is so easy to live for unimportant things.
Anyone can criticize an egg but it is much more difficult to lay one! If you are a critical person, remember it is easier to criticize than put yourself on the line. Someone may try to share Christ, build another believer, care about someone, or support someone. They may not have done it right. They might have done it better. Maybe someone else could have done it better but at least they were on the firing line.