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Philippians 2:12-18 Meaning (Verse-by-Verse Study & Commentary)

Philippians 2:12-18 Scripture

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:12-18)

Philippians 2:12 Meaning

“Therefore, my beloved, as you 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” (Philippians 2:12)

The first thing to note about this verse is that the Philippian church was not followers of Jesus to be recognized by anyone. They were the real deal.

Paul basically says at the beginning of this verse, “You have always obeyed the Gospel. You obeyed when I was with you and now you are obeying since I’ve been gone.”

What an incredible testimony for the Philippians!

The second thing to take note of is the apostle Paul did not say work for your salvation, he said work out your salvation. This is a very important distinction. Salvation is a free gift we receive through repentance and faith, but our good works and obedience to the Lord are our love response to the free gift we have already received.

You see, the Bible says that we are made up of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

When we repent and turn to Christ and begin following Him, we receive salvation in our spirits.

However, our body is not saved. In fact, this physical body we have now is already corrupted by sin, it will never be saved. We will have to receive a new body when Jesus returns at the second coming (1 Corinthians 15:42-45).

The only thing we can do now with the body we have is to offer it as a sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1) and to continue to walk in the Spirit through prayer. This way it gets quickened by the Holy Spirit and does not cause sin to take place in our lives. This will be a continual fight until we receive a new body on the day Christ returns.

The other part of us that isn’t saved is our soul. Our soul is our mind, our will, and our emotions. We have to renew this day by day through the word of God and faith (Romans 12:2, James 1:21, and 1 Peter 1:9). In fact, this won’t be saved either until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and renews our souls automatically when we get a new body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

I say all of this to say, the salvation we currently possess is in our spirits and it will not flow out into our souls and into our bodies until we renew our minds with the Word of God and walk in the Spirit. This is what Paul meant by “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Love cannot be a fruit in our lives unless we walk in the Spirit (a.k.a work out our salvation). The same is true for joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, and any other fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5.

All the fruits of the Spirit are there, in our spirit man, but they need to be accessed by submitting our souls and our bodies to the salvation we possess in our spirit.

Philippians 2:13 Meaning

“…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

The moment we receive salvation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the moment that we have the God of everything at work in us for His will and good pleasure. 

God has placed on the inside of us every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), every good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and the transforming power of God (Ephesians 1:17-19, 2 Peter 1:1-3). 

The key to the Christian life is believing these facts and renewing our minds through the Word of God and time with the Lord, so that His work on the inside of us manifests itself to the world around us.  

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Philippians 2:14-16 Meaning

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16).

To do all things without complaining and arguing sounds fairly simple but in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to fulfill.

This is why it is critical that we are consistently in our Bibles renewing our minds, and consistently in prayer submitting the flesh. That way when we come into a situation that is less than desirable we can go through without an ounce of complaint and without any need to argue and prove our points.

You see, every word that comes out of our mouth should be guidance to a relationship with Christ for those listening. So if we decide to prove our point or “give a piece of my mind” then we are not exalting Christ with our words and we are not shining as lights on this earth.

If we are able to live out our lives without complaining about things and arguing with others then this verse says that we will be: 

  • Blameless 
  • Harmless
  • Without Fault 
  • A light to those around us
  • And we will hold fast to the Word of life   

And finally, Paul says that by the Philippians doing this (not complaining and not disputing with others) he gets to rejoice because he is certain that they will be mature in Christ at the time of His return and therefore his work in them was not in vain.

Philippians 2:17 Meaning

“Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” (Philippians 2:17)

Paul is speaking of his death for the Gospel’s sake in this verse. He is basically saying that if He has to die for the Gospel then it will mean nothing to him but a time of rejoicing!

As you probably know, Paul was consistently getting beaten and threatened for his preaching of the Gospel, and it was likely that he would be killed for his faith very soon.

In fact, Paul wrote this letter in prison roughly around A.D. 60. Soon after this Paul was released from prison, did a few more years of ministry, and then was killed roughly around A.D. 64 in Rome by Emperor Nero. [Related article: Philippians Chapter 1 Meaning (Complete Commentary & Study)].

Philippians 2:18 Meaning

“For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:18)

In the previous verse, we saw that Paul said that he would be glad and rejoice if he died for his faith. Now he is telling the Philippians to do the same for him.

Paul didn’t want the Philippians to be sad if he passed away, he wanted them to rejoice and to get excited, for Paul’s reward, inheritance, and citizenship is found only in Heaven.

This is true for every follower of Christ. The earth is not our true and permanent home. We are pilgrims simply passing through.

So let’s treat this life as such. Let’s share the good news of the Gospel with every creature, and let’s make disciples of all the nations while we are here so that when we do go to our true and permanent home we will have fruit to show to our King.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it assisted you in your walk with God.

If you want to read more commentary on Philippians you can check out my complete verse-by-verse commentary on Philippians chapter 1.

Or you can read the following articles on Philippians chapter 2:

Philippians 2:1-4 Meaning (Verse-by-Verse Study & Commentary)

Philippians 2:5-11 Meaning (Verse-by-Verse Study & Commentary)

Philippians 2:19-24 Meaning (Verse-by-Verse Study & Commentary)

Philippians 2:25-30 Meaning (Verse-by-Verse Study & Commentary)

God bless you all and enjoy!

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