Friday, December 27, 2013


Exercises of Humility 2:12-18.

“So then” (Phil 2:12) has the sense of therefore, and marks the action to be taken by the believer that has the mind of Christ. O’Brien calls it an “inferential conjunction.”[1] It is the logical conclusion of having the mind of Christ. Constable quotes Motyer as to the importance here:
God's 'therefore' (verse 9) is matched by the Christian's therefore (verse 12), [footnote 1: The Greek words are different (verse 9, dio, 'therefore, wherefore'; verse 12, hoste, 'so then'), but the effect is the same.] and that, in a nutshell, is what this passage is about. Just as God assessed and then reacted to the worth of his Son's life of obedience (verses 9-11), so the Christian must ponder the example of Christ and determine upon a worthy response (verses 12-18).[2]

It should be noted that this section centers upon our responsibility as believers. Responsibility is shared by God and man in a co-laborer relationship (1 Cor. 3:9). Man needs the enablement of God and God works in conjunction with a man who is a channel of His grace. Gromacki reminds us that, “The believer cannot become spiritual by himself nor can Christ live His life through an unyielded vessel.[3]

Our responsibility is to have and exercise the mind of Christ in humility. Humility is not passive, but active. The words obey, works, do, prove, holding, rejoice, and share are action words. All of them appear in this section. They indicate we are to take action by exercising our humility in certain ways. Paul gives us 3 ways we exercise our humility:

  1. By Working Out Your Salvation (2:12-13)

My beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but how much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). The verse brings out three thoughts about exercising our salvation. First, is obedience. Salvation is exercised in the path of obedience. “Trust and Obey, for there is no other way…” the old Hymn declares. As Jesus was “obedient (2:8), so we are to carry out our humility with obedience. There is much truth in it. Paul brings out that obedience is not dependent upon who is or is not present. It is none regardless. It is a path that must be followed. You cannot exercise your humility apart from following the path of obedience. Second, the emphasis is the phrase, “work out your salvation.” This is the key phrase of the passage. It is vital to note that Paul does not say…work for your salvation! Salvation cannot be earned. It is by grace through faith, and must be received, not achieved (Eph 2:8-9). However, when one has salvation Paul says to work it out. They have salvation, now exercise it in a practical outward way. The Greek word is katergazomai, which means to produce, bring out, practice, or bring about. Eadie translates it as “carry out your salvation.”[4] It has the idea of working to full completion. It is used of a farmer who works the field to get the best it can produce. It is an imperative and “involves a constant process of self-initiated activity.”[5]  Silva observes: “Because salvation in its entire scope necessarily includes the manifestation of righteousness in our lives, it follows that our activity is integral to the process of salvation.”[6] Our justification is a onetime act of being declared righteous. Sanctification is an ongoing process of working out our righteousness outwardly. Working out our salvation is an act of sanctification. Third, this is to be done “with fear and trembling.” This speaks of manner of working out one’s salvation. The phrase should not be taken as something that is frightening. Fear is not the manner or means by which one works out his salvation. Both Greek words used have a wide range of meanings. The word phobos (fear) is “always a reaction to man’s encounter with force.”[7] It can range from terror, or fear to respect or reverence. Likewise, tromos (trembling) means a quivering, and “could picture a person standing with quivering fear or trembling awe before someone or something.”[8] The determining aspect of the meaning is determined by context. This is a common Old Testament expression for “humble reverence, dependence, and devotion to God” (Psalm 2:11; Isaiah 19:6).[9] It seems to me that the context indicates one of two possible meanings: (1) with nervous anxiety to duty, or (2) with respect and reverence. Either fit the context, although I favor the respect and reverence meaning.

However, Paul does not stop with our effort. Our effort alone is not good enough to work out our salvation—it is simply the work of the flesh. Human perseverance must be blended with Divine empowerment. “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).   The word “for” denotes reason or explanation. It explains why we can work out our salvation—“it is God who is at work in you.” The literal reading is “For God is the [One] being at work in you.” It draws attention to and emphasizes God. It is His active work. The Greek word for work is energeo, meaning to activate, to effect, to put into operation, to energize. God is the believer’s energizing battery.  The location in which God works is “in you.” God is actively working within us energizing our new life and service for him. His purpose of His in-working is “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He uses believers to fulfill His good pleasure.

  1. By letting the light shine (2:14-16)

Philippians 2:14-16 is one lengthy and complex sentence. It continues the exhortations of Paul on how to exercise the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ in humility is exercised by being the child of God. Humility calls for harmony and good will toward others.

This involves the following: First, we are to “do all things without grumbling and disputing” (Phil. 2:14). This deals with attitude, which is not to be negative. Grumbling and disputing are not acts of humility, but of selfishness and pride. These actions involve muted comments, complaining, whining, verbal expressions of discontent and disagreement. They are expression of pride, lawlessness, and rebellion. Such an attitude is an expression of dissatisfaction with God (Exodus 16:9). They are tools used of Satan to destroy humility (1 Cor. 10:10). Light cannot shine through such attitudes. You cannot express these attitudes and be exercising the humble mind of Christ.

The purpose of not letting these attitudes get a place in your mind is so “that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent…” (Phil. 2:15). The connective “that” (iva) indicates the purpose of the command. It indicates “in order that.” It is followed by the Greek word ginomai, a common word (found over 600 times in the New Testament), which has the root meaning of “come to be.”  Working out their own salvation with fear and trembling by exercising the mind of Christ in humility, rather than with grumbling and disputing, will show themselves to be blameless and innocent. The Greek word amemptos means blameless or without defect. It does not mean perfect, but it does have the idea of being faultless. Paul uses the term in regard to his standing as to legalistic righteousness (Phil. 3:6). Luke also used the term regarding Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:6). The word innocent is the Greek word akeraios, meaning unmixed, thus sincere, pure, or innocent. It is used of unmixed wine. The word speaks of continual care to be acting blamelessly and in purity. This has the idea of being blameless by others, and pure in the motives of your own heart.

Second, believers are to stand in sharp contrast to their environment. They are to be all that they can be. He heart of this exhortation is to be the “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 1:15). The words, “above reproach,” are tied to and give an explanation of the aim of being harmless and pure. It is a translation of one word in the Greek: amomos, meaning without blemish or blame. Eadie says this word is stronger that the word amemptos in this verse, in that it indicates being without cause to blame, or without ground for moral challenge.[10] It has the idea of being faultless. This is in contrast to the environment that is anything but blameless and pure. It is “a crooked and perverse generation.” Some seem to take this as a reference to national Israel which once again became a crooked and perverse generation (cf. Deut. 32:5).[11] It may also be a reference reflecting the Judaizers presence as well (Phil 3:2). The context here does not indicate the Judaizers are the primary object in view here.[12] However, in this context I do not think we should limit it to those of Israel, but to the unbelieving world. It marks the characteristics of the world of Israel and Gentile world. Paul warned the church of Ephesus that such people will creep in (Acts 20:29-30). We live in a twisted, corruptive, and sinful society. Paul is warning to guard carefully against all crookedness and perversion of the society in which we live.

Among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15). While some take this as an imperative (i.e. Calvin, Hawthorne), it is preferable to see it as an indicative, since it is a declarative and describes an actual condition. Much of the incentive of the Christian life is based upon our condition—being what we are. The phrase is interesting because of two of it words. First, the word appear is the Greek word phaino meaning to appear, bring to light, shine; as a passive it indicates being seen, appear, or to be visible. The verb is passive, thus appear is technically correct. Although many prefer the word shine, and both interpretations seems to converge in this context.[13] Second, the word light (phoster) means a cause of light, illuminator, luminary or star. The term is an allusion to heavenly bodies; thus the NIV translates it as “shine like stars.” It points to an unstated contrast between the stars that shine in the darkness of the universe and believers who shine in the darkness of the present crooked and perverse generation. We are to be luminaries of God’s light (cf. Daniel 12:3). Paul declares in Ephesians 5:8, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light.” Believers are light (Matthew 5:16).

How is this done? By “holding fast the word of life” (Phil 2:16). The clause can be taken as either epexegetically (explanatory of, thus equivalent to the first clause) or instrumental (indicating how, or by what means).[14] In this case I take it as instrumental. The Greek word is epecho, and means to hold to, hold fast; or hold out towards, to hold forth. Translators are mixed as to which to use. Some translations used “hold forth or out” (KJV; NIV) and others “holding fast” (NASB; ESV).  The difference is whether Paul is talking about evangelistic influence of the Philippians, or if Paul is talking about standing firm in the faith within a crooked and perverse generation. The context can favor either. I am not so sure these distinctions need to be made. This is one of these contexts where both are true. One cannot hold fast the Word of life without holding forth the word of life. It speaks both of the Philippians holding forth the word and holding firm to its truth. Believers let their light shine by holding fast to the Word of life.

“So that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Phil. 2:16). Interestingly, Paul turns from them to his own interest in them. He has an investment or stake in them. “So that” indicates results. Paul looks beyond the immediate, to the future day of Christ. Silva brings out two key thoughts: (1) the hope that the believers will be grounds for glory, a concept that is repeated in 2 Cor. 1:14 and 2 Thess. 2:19-20. (2) The possibility that his ministry would come to naught (cf. Gal. 2:2; 1 Thess. 3:5).[15]  Not only does this look to the results, but acts as a transition to the next exercise of humility.

  1. By the exercising joyful sacrifice (2:17-18).

Paul continues to give himself as an example. In doing so, he ties two key ideas together: sacrifice and joy. He opens with the language of sacrifice: “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith” (Phil 2:17). Paul uses the language of sacrifice more than commonly believed. We have all heard people say there are no longer sacrifices being offered. However, they should be more specific. True, animal sacrifices are no longer to be offered (Heb. 9:11-14, 24-26). There are, however, still sacrifices that can be offered. Paul says our bodies are to be living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). These living sacrifices can be “poured out as a drink offering.” It is a reference to his possible martyrdom (cf. 2 Timothy 4:6). Hawthorne indicates this is active—“I am being poured out.[16] Thus, it is the process of service and faith that is the offering.  Later, in Phil. 4:18, says that giving is an acceptable sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15-16 speaks of praise, good works and sharing as spiritual sacrifices. These are sacrifices under grace and can be offered in this dispensation of grace.

More importantly, the verses indicates that Paul’s joy is wrapped up in these sacrifices, both his, and that of the Philippians. As ministry is mutual, so also is the joy their share. “I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (Phil. 2:17-18). Humility is exercise by mutual rejoicing in regard to reciprocal sacrificial ministry.

 [to be continued]

[1]  O’Brien, 273.
[2]  Constable, NOTES ON PHILIPPIANS, 37.
[3]  Gromacki, STAND UNITED IN JOY, 103.
[4]  Eadie, PHILIPPIANS [2:12], Electronic media, n.p.
[5]  Ibid, 104.
[6]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 139.
[7]  Balz, “Phobos,” (Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, editors), THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Volume IX, 192.
[8]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 99-100.
[10]  Eadie, PHILIPPIANS [Phil 2:15], electronic media.
[11]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 102.
[12]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 145.
[13]  Ibid, 146.
[14]  Ibid, 146 fn 82.
[15]  Ibid, 147.
[16]  Hawthorne, PHILIPPIANS, 106.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul
By C. Marvin Pate
Kregel, Grand Rapids MI, 2013.

C. Marvin Pate has presented a unique perspective on the theology of Paul: Eschatology. He sees the work of Paul as a product of the times in which Apocalyptic Judaism was the dominant view of theology among the Jews. In doing so, he sees the record of Acts and the Pauline corpus as a unity. He sees Paul’s (or Christian) eschatology as a development of the old Jewish view of the Present Age/Coming Age which is inaugurated eschatology into the present age that will be consummated at the coming age: the already/not yet paradigm. He sees the outworking of Paul’s eschatological theology as a reaction or outcome of opposition from non-Christian Jews, the Roman imperial cult, and Hellenistic religion.

He presents Paul as Apocalyptic Seer. It started with his apocalyptic vision of Christ on the road to Damascus when Paul realized Jesus was the inaugurator of the age to come. He was called to preach this Apocalyptic Gospel to the Gentiles. This message included confession that Jesus is the Christ; that Jesus’ death and resurrection inaugurated the age to come; the means of salvation and entrance into the age to come was solely by faith; and Paul was to bring about the end-time conversion of the nations.

Pate then proceeds epistle by epistle in chronological order giving the apocalyptic features of each. In this, he shows how Paul’s inaugurate eschatology runs up against the popular apocalyptic scenarios of the times, including Hellenistic, Merkabah Mysticism, Roman, and Imperial Cult. He ends with a chapter summing up Paul’s theology which he views through the apocalyptic gospel lens.

There are some things that concerned me. First, I am not sold that apocalyptic is a correct term to use of his eschatological views. Second, His view of eschatology does not take into consideration Paul’s dispensational influences on eschatology. Third, I am not convinced that eschatology is the essence of Paul’s theology. It is evident that we see Paul’s eschatology differently. Fourth, there is no index, which would have been an aid to the reader. Fifth, it is not the most readable and not always easy to follow. However, that said, this book should not be dismissed. I learned about the apocalyptic scenarios of the times and their relationships to Biblical eschatology. It gives insights that will aid anyone studying eschatology. 

[Thanks to Kregel Publications for providing a free copy of this book for my honest review.]

Monday, December 9, 2013


Kenneth Gangel wrote 12 years ago on the "Marks of a Healthy Church" [Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct-Dec 2001]. Here is a reminder, they are timeless, yet so overlooked today:
1. Healthy Churches are Measured in Spiritual rather than Numerical terms.
2. Healthy Churches follow Biblical rather than Cultural Patterns of Ministry.
3. Healthy Churches are based on Theological rather than Sociological Foundations.
4. Healthy Churches focus on a Ministry Model rather than a Marketing Model.
5. Healthy Churches adopt Scriptural rather than Secular Models of Leadership.