3. Exhortations, 2:1-18

iii] An appeal: Work out your salvation


Following on from the great Christ Hymn, 2:5-11, Paul applies the example of Christ's humility to the Philippian believers. Given Christ's humility - his making himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant, humbling himself by obedience even to death - wJste, "therefore", "as you have always obeyed .... continue in your practical day-to-day living for Christ to apply the salvation you possess in Christ with fear and trembling." By following Christ's example and holding firm to the gospel, the Philippians will shine like lights in a dark world rather than be debilitated by internal disputes. With this knowledge Paul is well able to boast that his missionary work is not in vain. It is true that Paul is at this moment in prison, yet he continues to share in gospel ministry with the Philippians and to this end they should rejoice together with him.


i] Context: See 2:1-4. This exhortation is part of a larger exhortatory section covering 2:1-18. It is held together by the rubric Struggle together for the truth of the gospel, 1:27.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: Christian fidelity:

An exhortation toward self-humbling, v12-13;

in the terms of godly behaviour;

A specific exhortation toward unity, v14-16;

within the Christian fellowship;

Paul's own self-humbling perspective, v17-18;

How "to avoid dissension within the community", O'Brien.


The three parts are indicated by three Greek sentences.


iv] Interpretation:

Is Paul's focus in this passage ethical or soteriological? It is interesting how commentators read Paul's words differently. For example, for Silva the Christ Hymn is "our ethical example", and our passage for study is Paul's ethical application of the hymn. Fee, on the other hand, argues that "at issue is the gospel in Philippi: first of all their own salvation (v12), evidenced by continuing obedience - like that of their Savior (v8) - but as always, second, with an eye toward evangelism, the effect of the gospel in the world (v16). Thus, Paul returns to his present concern - obedience expressed through a common mindset for the sake of Christ and the gospel - by applying to their situation what he has just written in 2:6-11" (the underlying is mine).

It seems likely that Paul's intent is primarily ethical. The troubles faced by the Philippians are the same as those faced by Paul, 1:30 - division within the ranks. To this end, Paul encourages his readers to develop a self-humbling perspective within the life of their Christian community. It is though unclear how a self-humbling perspective applies to "the dogs", the "mutilators of the flesh", given that we are unsure to what degree the nomist heresy is disrupting the unity of the congregation. Of course, there is always an underlying soteriological purpose in God's will, but it remains unclear to what degree being "blameless and pure ... without fault in a warped and crooked generation" is a validation of the gospel. For myself, I am uneasy with the notion that we are to love in order to validate the gospel, but at the same time it is clear that love does, of itself, validate the gospel, cf., Jn.13:35. Well we know that a lack of love invalidates the gospel, as is evident with the public outing of pedophile priests.

So, Paul has returned to the theme of conducting ourselves worthy of the gospel, worthy of our standing in Christ, 1:27, of forging a "unity in the struggle for the faith", Silva, so equipping each other in service to Christ "in a warped and crooked generation." Service to Christ is an end in itself, a being what we are. Of course, being what we are has its consequences: a light to the nations, v15, a standing proud in the day of Christ, v16

Text - 2:12

Christian fidelity, v12-18: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, v12-13. When Paul first visited Philippi, a small group of people responded in obedience to his preaching of the gospel and so found in it salvation, eternal life. They responded positively to Paul's preaching of the gospel back then, and now absent from them, he calls on the Philippian believers to respond eve more positively. Paul calls on them to work out that salvation in their day to day life, allowing God to work his work within them, thus fulfilling his good purpose.

wJste "therefore" - drawing a logical conclusion. Establishing a link between the Christ Hymn and its practical application; "so then."

kaqwV "as" - [beloved of me] as [always you obeyed]. Comparative; "in like manner as you have always obeyed me." "Obeyed" is without an object, but presumably in the sense of obeyed Paul, so Bruce; "you have always obeyed me", Phillips. "Obeyed God" has been proposed, so Michaelis, but this seems unlikely.

wJV "-" - [not] as. Here not a comparative, "like", but expressing a characteristic quality, "as"; "not only as a person living in my presence."

en + dat. "in" - in [the presence of me only]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal; "not only while in my presence." So also "but now much more while in my absence." The NIV treats this temporal construction as a parenthesis connected to "you have always obeyed me", although as Bruce notes the negation mh is properly linked to the imperative "work out" rather than the indicative "obeyed"; "As you have always obeyed me, continue to work out your salvation in fear and trembling, not only in my presence, but much more in my absence." Beare suggests that "presence" and absence" means "during my life" and "after my death."

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

nun adv. "now" - Temporal adverb.

pollw mallon "much more" - much more [in the absence of me]. The comparative adverb mallon, "more", is made emphatic with the addition of the adjective pollw, "much".

katergazesqe (katergazomai) pres. imp. "continue to work out" - work out, bring about, produce, create. The present tense being durative / imperfective, may give the sense "continue to work out", as NIV; "keep on toiling", Barclay.

swthrian (a) "[your] salvation" - The 3rd. pers. gen. reflexive pronoun eJautwn is serving as a 2nd. pers. pro. Presumably "work out your salvation" realizes what is entailed in obeying him. Is this personal salvation, or eschatological salvation, either of the individual members, or the Christian community itself? Is the word just being used in the sense of health, well-being, "the restoration of the health and the spiritual well-being of the community"? TH, ie., in sociological terms, rather than soteriological terms, so J.H. Michael, 1920. Bruce argues that the "salvation" in mind is that which is realized through a faith-response to the gospel, worked out practically in the Christian life and perfected in the day of Christ, and that the church as a whole must pay attention to it for its health and well-being. So also O'Brien who puts it this way: "Work out your salvation is an exhortation to common action, urging the Philippians to show forth the graces of Christ in their lives, to make their eternal salvation fruitful in the here and now as they fulfill their responsibilities to one another as well as to non-Christians."

meta + gen. "with" - with [fear and trembling]. Here the preposition is adverbial, forming a modal phrase expressing manner, as NIV.


With the postpositive gar, introducing a causal clause, Paul explains why the Philippians are able to apply / act out their salvation in their day-to-day living for Christ: because God, out of his good pleasure / grace, works in them through the indwelling impelling Spirit, so enabling them to act.

oJ energwn (energew) pres. part. "who works" - [for god is] the one working [in you]. The participle serves as a substantive, predicate nominative. The present tense, being durative / imperfective, may give the sense "always at work", TEV.

en "in [you]" - Locative, expressing sphere; "in the sphere of your corporate life", ie., "you" = the church, so Fee.

kai .... kai "and" - and .... and. Correlative construction; "both to will and to act."

to qelein (qelw) pres. inf. "to will [and to act]" - The substantive articular infinitives, "to will" and "to act", together serve as the direct object of the participle "working". The accusative is possibly an accusative of respect, as Cassirer below. Barclay offers a dynamic translation "the will to desire and the power to achieve."

uJper + gen. "according to / in order to fulfill" - on behalf of. Possibly expressing representation / advantage, "on behalf of" / "for the sake of", or purpose, as NIV11, or reference / respect, "concerning / with reference to", as if peri, even possibly a moving cause or reason, "for / because of his good purpose", so BDAG. Fee and O'Brien suggest it expresses a standard, "in accordance with / according to", as NIV, contra Hawthorne who argues for purpose / end-view, to "introduce that which one wants to attain", cf., BDF #231,2; "It is God himself who is at work within you, as regards both will and deed, in pursuit of his gracious design", Cassirer.

thV eudokiaV (a) "his good purpose" - the = his good pleasure. The article is usually read as a possessive pronoun, "his", but it could particularize, a particular "good pleasure", namely, the divine good pleasure / grace. Presumably "God's good pleasure", although unstated. Referring to God's innate gracious kindness toward human beings, "his gracious will / loving purpose", "his benevolent purpose", Hawthorne; "the will of God to confer grace on those he has chosen", E. Vogt. The phrase is not suggesting that God is pleased with the goodness evident in our lives, rather he is pleased to act graciously on our behalf - none is good, no not one.


ii] Live as God's blameless children, v14-16. The Gk. sentence consists of all three verses. Presumably "grumbling and disputing" within the Christian fellowship rather than "complaining and arguing" against God, although the allusion to Israel's wilderness generation with the word "grumbling" cannot be overlooked. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, made a direct link between the Corinthian believers and that grumbling generation in the wilderness. God disowned that generation, so beware, cf., 1Cor.10:10. Yet, Paul's addition of the word dialogismoV, "controversies, disputations", indicates that the problem concerns disputes within the congregation. It seems more than likely that the call to negate grumbling and disputing is all about "cleaning up the conversation in the community", Hansen.

panta adj. "[do] everything" - all things [do]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to do"; emphatic by position.

cwriV + gen. "without" - without [grumbling and arguments]. Expressing separation, "apart from" = "without.


To what end does Paul call on the Philippians to clean up their conversation? We are best to follow O'Brien when he argues that the admonition is iJna, "so that", "no one would be able to lay any accusation of blame against them because they were pure and sincere." Paul "wants his readers to be God's perfect children as they live and witness in the midst of the entire unbelieving world", O'Brien.

iJna + subj. "so that [you may become]" - that [you may be blameless and pure]. Here serving to introduce a purpose clause. "Blameless" = "innocent", while "pure" has the sense "unmixed", uninfected by the world, so "sincere", Phillips. "Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Providing people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God", Peterson.

qeou (oV) gen. "[children] of God" - children of god [without fault]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / relational. The adjective "without fault" has sacrificial overtones, of a "spotless / perfect" offering, but the TEV "perfect children", or REB "faultless children" probably goes too far. Phillip's "wholesome" maintains the sacrificial image and is theologically appropriate. Cf., Matt.5:45, "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

meson + gen. "in" - in middle of. Spacial.

diestrammenhV (diastrefw) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "a warped [and crooked generation]" - [a crooked generation and] having been perverted. The participle is adjectival, attributive, standing with the attributive adjective "warped". This language, "perverse and crooked generation", in used in the OT. of faithless Israel, but here Paul uses it of the world. "You live in an age when life is twisted and perverted", Barclay.

en + dat. "[then you will shine] among [them]" - in [whom you shine]. Local, expressing space; in the sense of "among". The antecedent of the plural relative pronoun "whom" is the singular collective "generation"; "among whom you shine as lights in the world", ESV.

wJV "like [stars]" - Comparative. The noun swsthr, "stars", refers to "luminaries" in the LXX, the sun, moon and stars, the heavenly lights. Shining "in the world" is somewhat awkward, so "shine like stars in a dark world", is better than NIV or NIV11. Cf., Dan.12:3.

en + dat. "in [the universe / the sky]" - in [the world]. Local, expressing space.


The Philippians should clean up their conversation iJna, "in order that", they might be "blameless with regard to their observable behavior, so that they might be recognized for what they are, the children of God", Fee. To this Paul adds another purpose, his eternal boast; "Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns", Peterson.

epeconteV (epecw) pres. part. "as you hold firmly to" - holding. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, as NIV, or temporal, "while you hold", although better, as Varner suggests, instrumental, expressing means, "by holding." The sense of the verb is either "to hold forth" = "to offer", or "to hold to" = "to adhere". So, shining like lights is realized by either "offering them the word of life", Barclay, so Bruce, NEB, JB, or "holding firmly to the word of life", Varner, so NAB, NRSV, Moffatt. Proclaiming the word of life is certainly supported by the context, but the primary meaning of the word is "hold firmly" and this is most likely Paul's intended meaning, so Hanson; "the Philippians can fulfill their task of behaving as God's children in the world ..... by holding fast to the gospel, the word that brings life", O'Brien. Yet, as Fee argues, evangelism is still at the forefront of Paul's thinking. This is indicated by word order, "shine like lights in the world by holding firmly to the word of life." Gospel truth both shines in the world against its darkness so separating light from dark, but at the same time it serves to enlighten the world. So a believer is both "distinguishable from, and in opposition to the world around them, while they are also to be God's messengers, bringing the word of life to the dying", Fee. Again we see how difficult it is to identify exactly what Paul has in mind, either ethics or evangelism, or both.

zwhV (h) gen. "[word] of life" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic, "the word / message which brings / leads to life", "the word that brings life", O'Brien = the gospel, possibly epexegetic / appositional, "which is life."

eiV + acc. "then [I] will be able [to boast]" - into [a boast]. The NIV opts for a conditional use of the preposition, a kind of "if you hold firm ... then I will boast ...", cf., TEV, Barclay. The RSV opts for purpose / end view, "for a boast to me" = "that I can boast"; "in order that / so that I may be proud of you on the day of resurrection."

emoi dat. pro. "I" - to me. Dative of interest, advantage, or possession.

eiV + acc. "on" - into. O'Brien suggests a temporal use of the preposition, as NIV.

Cristou (oV) gen. "[the day] of Christ" - [the day] of christ. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic / temporal, "the day when Christ returns."

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of Paul's boast, namely, "I did not minister in vain", or possibly serving to introduce a causal clause, "because it (your shining) will show that I did not run ....." / "for I shall know then that I did not spend my energy in vain", Phillips.

eiV kenon "[labor] in vain" - [i ran not] toward emptiness [nor labored] toward emptiness. The prepositional phrase is likely to be adverbial, so "vainly." "I will be able to proudly claim that I did not run a loser's race, and that all my toil has not gone for nothing", Barclay.


iii] The partnering of Paul's own offering, v17-18. Paul has obliquely referred to the Philippians' life of gospel ministry in the terms of a pure and blameless offering, and now, with more overtly sacrificial language, he speaks of his own libation added to their sacrificial offering, and the joy that this brings to him, and should bring to them as well. Paul's libation is often viewed as his martyrdom, but it is more likely his ministry now exercised in prison.

alla "but" - The NIV has gone with an adversative use, although dropped by many translations, given that an adversative / contrastive meaning doesn't seem to make sense. We probably have another example here of Pauline short-talk. Following on from the statement "I did not run or labor in vain", v16, Silva proposes, "Yes, I have labored hard, but even death cannot take away my joy." Nicely encapsulated by Cassirer's "And indeed, ...."

ei kai "even if" - Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause, although O'Brien argues that the presence of kai makes it concessive in nature, "even though, as is the case .... then ..."; "And indeed, even though my blood is to be poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all", Cassirer. Note how Cassirer, as ESV etc., has assumed that Paul is speaking of a future libation, namely his martyrdom. The NIV rightly gives weight to the present tense "I am poured out", ie., "what is currently happening", Hawthorn. The point is that although Paul finds himself in the same boat as the Philippians, he is glad to be in it with them.

epi + dat. "on" - [although i am poured out as an offering] upon. Spacial.

qusia/ kai leitourgia/ dat. "the sacrifice and service" - Varner suggests we have a hendiadys here, "sacrificial service"; "the sacrificial offering", ESV, ie., their gospel ministry.

thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "coming from [your] faith" - of the faith [of you]. The word is used in the sense of "their life of faith", Bruce = "their Christian profession and life", O'Brien, possibly "their faith in Christ", Hanson. The NIV opts for a subjective genitive, "the sacrificial offering / ministry that springs from your faith", Hawthorne, so also Lightfoot / ablative, source / origin, the faith of the Philippians being "the source of the impulse to make the offering", Beare. Yet ,it is more likely adjectival, epexegetic / appositional; "a sacrificial offering which consists of your faith", so O'Brien. Possibly, but unlikely, an objective genitive where Paul is the one ministering to the faith of the Philippians, "on behalf of your faith / resulting in your faith", see Silva.

uJmin dat. pro. "[all] of you" - [i rejoice and rejoice with] you [all]. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to rejoice with." This clause serves as the apodosis of the conditional clause; "even though ........., then I rejoice and share my joy with you."


However Paul's gospel ministry may turn out in prison, he too like the Philippians is shining God's grace into a dark world, and so he calls on his readers to rejoice in that fact, rejoice together with him.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, a minor step in the argument; singular person to plural.

to ... auto "so" - in the same way. The article to serves as a nominalizer, turning the pronoun auto into a substantive, "the same way." Technically an accusative of reference / respect, which, as Moule notes in his Idiom Book, "is practically adverbial", so "in the same way"; "likewise", ESV.

uJmeiV pro. "you" - Emphatic by use and position.

kai "too" - and = also [rejoice]. Adjunctive; "also".

moi dat. "with me" - [together with] me. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to rejoice together with."


Philippians Introduction

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