March 31, 2014 | 0 Comments
Since the beginning of this year, we have been slowly working our way through Paul's letter to the Philippians during our worship services at Christ Community. In the past two weeks we have seen Christ's humility in leaving His heavenly glory to take on human flesh to die a death on a cross (2:5-8) as well as His exaltation by His Father as a result of His obedience (2:9-11). These are wonderful glorious passages that are impossible for us to fully comprehend, but what Paul gets to in the verses that follow (vv. 12 - 18) is the difference all these things should not only make in our lives for eternity, but also in the immediate present.
On the basis of what Christ has done, Paul exhorts us to "to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (2:12b, 13). Note that this command is not only given within the context of what Christ has done, but is doing (v. 13) and will do at His return (v. 16). In short, Paul's exhortation to a holy life for God's people is within the context of God's grace behind us, with us, and ahead of us. It's all grace and we need God's grace every bit as much to live a life that is holy and pleasing to Him (Romans 12:1,2) as we need it to be made right with Him (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
Derek Thomas, in his book, How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, gives us some encouraging words toward a holy life in light of what Christ has done, is doing, and will do. Consider this these truths and how, in view of God's mercy in and through Jesus Christ, we may offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him.
There can be only one proper response to grace: a life of grateful holiness. Christ’s atoning death was “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4).
There are two ways of understanding these words. One way is to view them as a statement of what our Lord achieved on the cross: He fulfilled what the law required by offering up a perfect obedience (the active obedience of Christ) and by meeting the law’s retribution for our sin by His death (the passive obedience of Christ). He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law for us in His life and death.
More likely, however, Paul is stating (what he will elaborate on later in this chapter) that Christians, whose sins are forgiven, now live in holy, obedient gratitude for the grace they have received. Grateful law-keeping is the saved sinner’s response to received grace. The rest of our lives are a way of saying, “Thank you.”
Of course, salvation by grace rather than our performance can be seen as a license to sin (antinomianism). Paul’s response in Romans is something like this: if we are not tempted to think like that, we have not understood the gospel. The apostle anticipates our objection at the beginning of chapter 6: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1).
Grace must raise the temptation to think we can sin as we please; if it does not, we have not understood the true extent of grace. However, at no time can we yield to the temptation to think this way (note Paul’s answer to his question in 6:1—“by no means”), because Christians are called to a life of holiness—holiness motivated by gratitude for all that God has done for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The key to subduing the downward drag of sin in our lives is to know the impulse of gratitude that follows the experience of forgiveness and reconciliation. Law-keeping out of love is the true path of holiness.