The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
January 22, 2012


1) Philippians 2:8-13 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 2:8-13
by Tom Edwards

In Philippians 2:8, Paul speaks of Jesus as One who "...humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death...."  Notice from this passage that humility is seen in conjunction with obedience.  We can, therefore, infer from this verse that our learning to obey the Lord fully from the heart is also a way for us to learn to better humble ourselves.  And while we think of humility and obedience going hand in hand, consider also the connection between pride and disobedience.  For it is pride that often hinders people from obeying God.  We can see this exemplified by Pharaoh, shortly prior to the beginning of the Mosaical Age.  Exodus 10:3 states: "Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me."'"  It takes humbleness to truly obey the Lord, which leads to salvation.  But, on the other hand, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling" (Prov. 16:18). 

Think, too, of Naaman.  He was initially angered that the prophet Elisha had sent a servant to him, rather than coming out himself.  He wanted to see Elisha do something spectacular by coming out, standing before him, calling on the Almighty God, waving his hand over the place, which then would all result in a miraculous healing of Naaman's leprosy.  Instead, Naaman had been told by Elisha's servant to dip himself 7 times into the Jordan River.  And that, too, was not to Naaman's liking, since he spoke of Abanah and Pharper, rivers of Damascus that had been far better than all the rivers of Israel.  So Naaman went away in a rage.  Could that have been pride that led to his rage, to his rejection of God's instruction, and to his going away?  Eventually, however, Naaman was convinced by his servants to comply with what God was requiring; and when Naaman did so, he was healed.  So Naaman's change of heart enabled him to humbly submit to what the Lord had instructed.

In the case of Jesus, it wasn't merely humbling Himself by becoming obedient; but, rather, becoming obedient to the point of death; and not just to the point of death, but also to a most terrible and torturous death -- "even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8).  So much humility Christ showed; so much selflessness.  First He gave up His glorified state in heaven.  Then he became a man -- and not merely a man, but also a servant among men.  The Lord's very entrance into this world is seen as being of a truly humble manner (Luke 2:4-17); but though of such a lowly birth, He was still the Christ child and, therefore, glorified and worshiped by the heavenly host as no mere human alone could ever be reverenced.  When He grew older, He had been a carpenter, having the same trade as his earthly father Joseph.  And though Jesus was and is God, He did not live in a mansion, while on earth, with dozens of servants at His beck and call.  Though as God, Jesus made the earth, as well as the entire universe, yet while dwelling on our planet, there is no mention of Him ever owning His own home or property.  And when He was put to death, it was through one of the most humiliating ways --  a way that was accompanied with dishonor and shame and carried out on the worst of criminals.  While agonizing on the cross, Jesus was mocked and railed at to add to His already extreme suffering. But the Lord, however, "endured the cross, despising the shame," due to the "joy set before Him" (Heb. 12:2) and was willing to bear all the torment and all the insults so that His mission would be accomplished.  Galatians 3:13 reads, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.'"

As a result of Jesus' humility, obedience, and death, Paul states, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9).   In this, we see the greatest example of the statement Jesus makes in Luke 14:11, "...he who humbles himself shall be exalted."  For never did any man humble himself as greatly as Jesus did -- nor never has any man been exalted to the same superior degree as Jesus has been exalted to.  

Philippians 2:10,11 goes on to show one of the reasons why such a supremely elevated name was given to the Lord: "so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Jesus is not only "Lord" -- He is also the "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14).  As He declares in Matthew 28:18, "...'All authority [power, KJV] has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."  Christ's exalted position is also seen in the figurative phrase of being "the first-born of all creation" (Col. 1:15).  When used metaphorically like this, the term "first-born" refers to preeminence or supremacy.  This is seen in Psalm 89:27, for example, where the Lord said of David, "I shall also make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth."  In the context of Colossians 1:15, however, in pertaining to Jesus, it is not just an exaltation over all others, but also over "all creation."  For "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything" (Col. 1:15-18).  

Jesus' exalted position can also be seen in Acts 4:12: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."  Jesus is the only way to heaven, according to His own words in John 14:6: "...'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.'"  This world is made up of many religions that do not accept Christ as the only way to heaven; and, as a result, their rejection of Him will keep them from salvation. For the sin of rejecting the Lord is seen in the Bible to be even greater than the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:14,15).  Jesus warns in John 8:24, "...unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins."

So there is coming a time when all will acknowledge Jesus as Lord -- even the most staunch atheist; but, unfortunately, many will make that acknowledgment when it is too late.  We must, therefore, confess Christ as Lord while we live and accept His ways, so that we can continue praising His name throughout eternity in heaven.  

According to 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12, when Christ comes again, it will be a time in which the saints will glorify Him and the believers will marvel; but it will also be a time of wrath for those who had not known God and those who had disobeyed the gospel.  So that indicates there is coming a time when it will be too late for the lost to be redeemed.  When will that time be?   Only God knows.  Therefore, the wisest thing we can do is always be ready for the Lord's return!

Paul then goes on to say in Philippians 2:12, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling[.]"  J. W. Shepherd refers to this as "...the secret of all the joy in this epistle."  Yes, obedience to the Lord is the way of joy.  As we sometimes sing, "Blessed [happy] are they who do His commandments...."  In pertaining to the Philippians, Paul points out that they always obeyed -- and whether Paul was with them or not.  As we saw in Philippians 1:5, the Philippians showed dedication toward spiritual things (specifically, in this verse, in helping Paul with his support), "...from the first day until now."  If, however, the Philippians obeyed only when Paul was present, we would call this "eye service."  It would then also mean that they weren't truly committed to the Lord.  Similarly, if the only time we prayed was when we assembled with the saints then that wouldn't say much about our prayer life or our commitment to God.  

For those in the world today who view salvation as being a passive thing, apart from any necessary obedience, the need to "work out" our "salvation with fear and trembling" stands in stark contrast to their belief.  

The phrase "work out" (Phil. 2:12) actually comes from just one Greek word -- "katergazomai," which Thayer defines as "1) to perform accomplish, achieve  2) to work out, i.e., to do that from which something results. 2a) of things: bring about, result in...."

The necessity to "work out" our salvation is also implied in the word "faithfulness," of which its need is also clearly stressed in the Scriptures.  For the very word itself has been defined as "1. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant.  4. strict or thorough in the performance of duty" (Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus).  Faithfulness, therefore, involves action on our part.  Corresponding to this is the Lord's statement in John 14:15: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."  So, though one becomes a Christian and is saved from past sins when initially obeying the New Testament commands to believe in Jesus, repent of sins, acknowledge faith in Christ, and be baptized in water for the remission of sins, there is also the need to remain faithful for that ultimate future salvation of heaven itself.  Notice, for instance, Paul's admonition to Timothy: "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:16). We can infer from this the need to maintain the right kind of spiritual life, so that heaven will eventually be our destination.  Consider also 2 Peter 1:5-11 and Philippians 3:12-14, in which Paul speaks of his pressing on "toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," in this latter passage, and shows the need to add virtues to our faith in the former to make our "calling and election sure" and gain "entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...."

The passage in Philippians 2 goes on to say in verse 13, "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."  But we must keep in mind that this is preceded with the need for our own faithful cooperation with God, by striving to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."  For notice how those who  benefit from Christ are described in Hebrews 5:9: Jesus "became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation."  And, of course, the contrast of this can be seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, in pertaining to that time when Christ will return -- "dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."  So there is this need for our cooperation in order for the Lord to work within us.  We can liken this to the good instruction and discipline parents use in raising their children.  If the children take heed to that, the parents will truly be able to work within their children for their good.  It will help form them into becoming the type of upright people they should be.  

Many folks today have been so deceived by the misconception of salvation by "faith alone" that they view any type of work as that which would nullify salvation by faith. But what they fail to realize is that faith without works is "dead" and "useless," as James states in James 2:17,20: "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself."  "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?"

Often when the Bible speaks of salvation not being by works, it is referring to the works of the Old Law -- which Jesus annulled by His death at Calvary, and which many Judaizers were still trying to live by.  As Paul shows in Galatians 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."  It's also in this epistle, where Paul tells these Galatians who had gone back to the Law of Moses, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).  

There are other "works," however, that are commanded of  us today that are to be coupled with our faith in order to make it complete and a saving faith.  Consider, for instance, James 2:22-24: "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."  What type of faith (of Abraham) would we be reading about, had he not obeyed God's commands?  It would have then been a dead faith.  The same also holds true to all those great people of faith we read about in Hebrews 11.  All of them were motivated to do something because of their faith -- to obey the Lord -- and without their obedience, they would have fallen short.  For example, "By faith Noah...prepared an ark for the salvation of his household..." (v. 7).  "By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain..." (4). "By faith Abraham...obeyed..." (v. 8).  "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days" (v. 30).  Take away what these people did in their obedience to God, and their faith would have been useless and vain.  It would have availed them nothing.  

The need for faith and obedience, therefore, is seen in both the Old and New Testament times.  It is summed up by saying in Habakkuk 2:4 that "the righteous [just, KJV] will live by faith."  This is also repeated in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11; and note how the Hebrew writer speaks of it in Hebrews 10:38,39: "BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.  But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul."  Since, as this passage shows, faith is to be a way of life, then it necessitates conformity to God's word.  

Belief, repentance, confession of one's faith in Jesus, and water baptism is what begins this new life in Christ, according to Romans 6:3,4 and elsewhere.  So faith, in the sense of only a mere mental agreement toward the deity of Christ is just part of that salvation plan -- and, therefore, cannot save by just itself.  For these other conditions must also be included to make our faith a saving faith.  

Naaman, for instance, was told to dip himself 7 times into the Jordan in order to be healed of his leprosy.  Faith without that obedience would have left him a leper.  The blind man, in John 9, was told to "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam."  He, too, needed to do more than believe that; he needed to also do that.  And Jesus states in Mark 16:16, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved...."  One, therefore, needs to not only believe that; but also do that, in order to be saved from past sins.  For baptism becomes an act of faith, an obedient faith.  By it we not only show our trust in God, but also indicate by our actions that there is no human plan of salvation by which we can be saved, that we must, therefore, accept only God's way.  

So may we each continue to accept God's way throughout our lives and through His Son Jesus Christ.  For as we have seen in today's article, God the Father has exalted His Son Jesus and given Him a name above all other names that all will bow before Him and acknowledge Him as Lord.  This was because Jesus had humbled Himself by becoming obedient even unto an agonizing death on a cross to make an atonement for all lost souls.  We, therefore, need to do our part in working out our salvation that we will benefit from Christ's sacrifice and enable God "to will and to work for His good pleasure" within us.


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Jean Calloway who has recently been admitted to the hospital, due to serve pain in her back and leg.  There also appeared to be swelling and infection in her knee, which she was treated for.  We are waiting to hear the test results. 

* Mike Dubose who is suffering from cancer and receiving continual treatment for it.

* Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who is healing from wrist surgery. 

* Clifton Trimble who has not been well.

* Geneva Wilson who is very weak physically and housebound.

* Shirley Young who continually suffers from fibromyalgia.

* Cheryl Crews who has been having chronic ailments.

Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson who are seeking employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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