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Working Out Your Salvation in Fellowship

Philippians 2:1-30

Jim Davis

I would like to ask you a question: Why were you saved? You might say, "I was saved so that I can go to heaven when I die." That is certainly one aspect of salvation, but my question is, "What does God want to accomplish with your life?"

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (NIV)

In these verses Paul tells why we are saved. You are saved so that God might work "in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Salvation is accepting God’s will and purpose for our lives. God is at work in our hearts and minds so that we might act--or should we say live--according to his good purpose. It is true that God finished his redemptive work on the cross. We have accepted salvation through faith in Christ, but God is not finished with us. When we were baptized with Christ we were making a commitment to bury our lives in Christ in order to be saved. However, baptism was also a commitment to live our lives in accordance to God’s will and purpose.

God has a work he wants to carry on in and through us until Christ comes. It is the work of sanctification. God's ongoing sanctifying work of redemption is to bring us to maturity that we might attain the full measure of the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). God's bringing each of us to maturity in Christ is how he plans to continue his redeeming work in salvaging the lost. God is at work in us, but he also wants us to work with him that he might complete his redemptive work in the world.

We are saved so that we can turn from the enslavement of sin to serve the living and true God. Salvation, simply put, results in obedient service to God's will and purposes.

1 Thessalonians 1:7-10
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia-- your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead-- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (NIV)

The world had taken note that the Thessalonians had turned from idols to serve the living God. Today the world is taking note of God’s redemptive work within his people, or is it taking note of the lack of it? Do they see a church striving to live for the true God as she waits for her final redemption in Christ?

It Begins Within the Fellowship of Saints

Failing to worship and fellowship with the saints is a sure indication that we don't understand God's purpose in saving us. Too many of our baptisms today result in the baptized not seeing the need of Christian fellowship. I don't know how anyone can be saved apart from Christian fellowship. Christ may have saved us, but our ongoing salvation is vital part of church fellowship. I say that because I believe that it is through Christian fellowship that we discover the heart and mind of Christ. I don't know of anything more crucial to our salvation.

Some think that they can live according to God’s good purposes without the fellowship of Christians. Over the years I have seen many boldly proclaim that they don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. I have seen others take pride in the fact that their faith has lifted them above the need of Christian fellowship.

One good thing about egotists is they never talk about others; it is because they never see the needs of others. It was said of one person, "He's never been known to say a mean thing about anyone, but that's only because he never talks about anyone but himself."

True fellowship allows us to see the needs of others. A young boy was overheard asking his playmate, "Wouldn't you hate to wear glasses all the time?" "No," came the answer, "not if I had some like my grandma's. She always sees when people are tired or sad, and she knows just what to do to make them feel better. One day I asked her how she could see that way all the time. She told me it was the way she learned to look at things as she grew older." After thinking for a minute, the first boy concluded, "Yeah, I guess you're right; it must be her glasses."

The vast majority of the New Testament is about how Christians are to conduct their lives in relationship to each other as they come together as a community of believers in worship. This is especially true with the book of Philippians. Paul emphasizes how the Philippians are to conduct themselves within the fellowship of the saints.

Philippians 2:1-4
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (NIV)

Fellowshipping with the saints is the surest way for us to let others know that we are looking out for their interests. Paul writes, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Of course Paul is speaking of how the Philippians are to conduct themselves in the fellowship of the saints. However, isn't it selfish and vain for us to think that we don't need the fellowship of the saints? Isn't it the height of selfishness to think that the saints don't need our fellowship?

The church must be one in spirit and purpose if we wish to be in fellowship with the Spirit of God. Paul writes, "If you have . . .any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Fellowship with God's Spirit results in fellowship of his people. How can your spirit blend with the spirits of other saints without being present in worship? Where does your fellowship with other Christians begin, if it doesn't begin in the church assembly? Where can your fellowship in spirit and purpose begin with the church other than the worship?

Fellowship was a crucial aspect of Christian living in the first century. Fellowship incorporates the idea of participation, communion and sharing. It involves participating in Christ. Paul says, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV).

Colossians 3:16-17
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)

Worship Begins with the Mind of Christ

Through worship and fellowship of the saints we are provided the opportunity to develop the mind of Christ. The fellowship of the saints tests our willingness to develop the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:5-11
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

Christ considered it important to enter into the human race to become one with us. When Christ came to this world he took upon himself our very nature. Christ abandoned himself for our sakes. We enter into his fellowship with fellow Christians to take upon ourselves his nature that is expressed to each other in our relationships. Can it be any less important for us to abandon ourselves for each other?

We work out our salvation as we enter into a tender and compassionate fellowship with fellow Christians. Tenderness and compassion is shown as we strive to be likeminded toward each other. These characteristics are shown as we humbly seek the interest of fellow Christians. It is through the mutual worship and fellowship of Christians that we show an interest in one another.

Today so much of our worship is built around what I get out of it. There may be too much emphasizes on style rather than substance. Paul writes, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4 NIV). Paul is encouraging us to seek the interest of others in our fellowship. What I get out of worship and fellowship may not be near as important as what I do to help others get something out of it.

Our mutual faith is the crucial thing that spurs us, and others, on to a life of sacrifice and service. Paul abandoned himself as he made crucial sacrifices for the Philippians. Paul writes, "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." (Philippians 2:17-18 NIV) Paul indicates that his sacrifice, in part, is coming from the faith of the Philippians. Their faith in Christ is encouraging him to make the sacrifice. He was rejoicing because of the sacrifice he was making on their behalf. His sacrifice for them was also a means to their joy.

Paul speaks of the encouragement we find in fellowship (2:1). The Greek word for encouragement is variously translated through the New Testament. It is translated "consolation," "comfort," "exhortation," and "incentive." The sense is that there is to be a strong, upholding support that is derived from Christian fellowship. It was this support that gave Paul the strength and courage to make the necessary sacrifices.

2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. NIV

When our personal faith is challenged we need the mutual faith of Christians to support us in difficult times. It is the mutual faith of Christians that enable each of us to make greater sacrifices for Christ. Christian fellowship provides us an opportunity to see how our sacrifice encourages others. This brings us joy. Seeing others encouraged gives all the more reasons to make greater sacrifices and to receive a greater joy.

The Hebrews were failing in this aspect of Christian fellowship. In the context of the book of Hebrews, Christians were forsaking Christ because of persecution. Their giving up was signaled by their failure to fellowship with the saints. They were giving up the most crucial aspect of their Christian life. For it was in worship that they would find the encouragement to keep on keeping on.

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)

Today as sin is running rampant through out our communities, is fellowship any less crucial?

One day a large department store had a sale on ladies' hosiery. A dignified, middle-aged gentleman decided to get his wife a pair. Soon he found himself being pushed and shoved by frantic women. He took as much as he could. Then he plowed through the crowd, trying to make his way to the aisle.

"Hey, you," demanded a frustrated shopper, "can't you act like a gentleman?"

"What do you mean?" the gentleman replied. "I've been acting like a gentleman for half an hour. From now on, I'm going to act like a lady!"

The world can have this kind of influence upon each of us. If we are not careful our association with the world will turn us from Christ to a worldly way of living.

Christian fellowship provides the greatest encouragement to live differently. The psalmist writes, "I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly." (Psalms 40:9-10 NIV)

It Is Hard Work

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (NIV)

It takes courage to make a commitment to Christian fellowship. It is done in fear and trembling. The fear and trembling doesn’t come from the fear of hell, but rather from the desire to be like Christ in your obedience. Have you ever wanted to accomplish an important task so bad that you just tremble as you make painstaking efforts to do it? Physically speaking you become down right shaky. Many of us approached our years in college with this kind of fear and trembling, as we desired to succeed. It takes courage when you have to approach a task with fear and trembling. Have you ever become down right shaky as you tried to develop the mind of Christ toward another?

Working out our salvation through Christian fellowship provides a testimony to the world. When we, as children of God come to gather for fellowship in a crooked and depraved generation, we hold out the word of life and shine like stars in a dark depraved world.

Philippians 2:14-17
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (NIV)

As I look at these verses, I understand that Christian fellowship is not always easy. Sometimes we may feel like the secretary whose boss was sick. One time he was sick at home for a week, and his secretary sent a sympathy card--to his wife.

A church had a man in the choir who couldn't sing. Several people hinted to him that he could serve in other places, but he continued to come to the choir. The choir director became desperate and went to the preacher.

"You've got to get that man out of the choir," he said. "If you don't, I'm going to resign. The choir members are going to quit too. Please do something."

So the preacher went to the man and suggested, "Perhaps you should leave the choir."

"Why should I get out of the choir?" he asked.

"Well, five or six people have told me you can't sing."

"That's nothing," the man snorted. "Fifty people have told me that you can't preach!"

The encouragement received in Christian fellowship builds courage in others. You can see feel the result of the love and mutual encouragement received in fellowship as you read the last verses of this chapter. They exemplify the kind of sacrifices mutual fellowship encourages.

Philippians 2:19-30
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. (NIV)

Conclusion:

You need the fellowship of Christians because they need your fellowship.

Years ago people seemed to have a greater sense of community responsibility than they have today. They carefully guarded the rights of others because they cherished their own. They realized what many of us have forgotten--we do not live unto ourselves. As John Donne said, "No man is an island."

You need the mutual encouragement received in worship.

Failing to allow God to work out his purposes with your life will lead you to be lost.

 

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