Working Out By Not Grumbling
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world. – Philippians 2:12-15
How to Work out your Salvation
Verses 14-16 doesn’t have any conjunction or connector that would tell us how to relate this passage logically from the preceding verses. The immediate context seems to imply that this is an inference from or at least a way of working out your salvation.
For the following reasons:
- The intended result of doing all things without grumbling and arguing is to become blameless, pure and without blemish. Take note of the word “so that” plus the subjunctive “may be”. This is a ἵνα clause functioning as the intended result or purpose of the imperative in the main clause.There’s a similar idea in Philippians 1:9-11. The idea given is that when we abound in love with all knowledge and discernment we will be able to approve what is excellent(i.e. grumbling and arguing free life) and so(ἵνα) be(subjunctive mood of the verb to be) pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
- Which seems to suggest the climax of our sanctification at the coming of Christ Jesus, namely perfection.(The salvation being referred to in verse 12) This is not just an appearance of blamelessness and purity but a real conformity to Christ. We know that this is the case because the phrases “at the coming of Christ” and “on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” are associated with the transformation of our lowly bodies, resurrection from the dead, the coming of the perfect, presenting of the Church without blemish and glorification. These are still yet to come.(Philippians 1:9-11, 2:14-17, 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 1:8, Ephesians 5:24-30, Colossians 1:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:23)
- The meaning of “all things”, at least in the immediate context, is referring to the commands he gave earlier; look to the interest of others, count others as more significant than yourselves, with humility obey even to the point of death as demonstrated by Christ(verse 3-8). We are motivated to do all of these because of a promised future reward(verse 9-11) and present empowering(verse 12-13).
- These others oriented and self denying attitude is a means to a grumble free life. We will not grumble and argue against God and others if we are not looking to our own interest but to the interest of others. We murmur because we think that we are more significant than others and so demand better treatment.(Philippians 4:10-13, 17, Matthew 5:11-16 ,Matthew 5:43-48)
Now how does “not grumbling” would result to blamelessness?
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish
If you can control your tongue and not stumble from it, then you can control and bridle your whole body and not stumble from it(James 3:1-2). It means you’re already perfect. Sin of grumbling is the most hard to overcome, because it flows from the dissatisfaction of the heart. Scripture says “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. If we treasure in our hearts earthly things that will never give us lasting satisfaction, our hearts will just abound with complaints hence grumble against God. Therefore if we don’t grumble anymore, that only means we’re perfectly satisfied in God.
Do we really need to strive to attain perfection? Am I being a legalist if I pursue that?
Yes and No. Yes, we need to strive because Paul did and we are to imitate him as he imitate Christ. No, we are not being legalist nor perfectionist. Paul strived to make it his own because he already belongs to Christ(Philippians 3:7-21)
Therefore the way to work out is by doing all things without grumbling until the completion of our salvation, namely the attainment of blamelessness at the coming of Christ. And the grounds for this command is that God is working in us both the willingness and ability to look for the interest of others which is a means to a murmur free life.