From heaven back to earth; from the worship of the Son and glory of the Father back to Philippi with its suffering and threats of disunity. Thus Paul returns to his present concern—obedience expressed through a common mindset, for the sake of Christ and the gospel—by applying what he has just written to the Philippians' situation. But the return is not with a thud; rather, this is the reason for telling the story of Christ in the first place: as the model and means for them to continue to work out [their] salvation for the sake of (not according to) God's good purpose.The application is in three sentences, which together form a single appeal with a threefold concern: (1) that they return to their common cause, partly (2) for the sake of the gospel in the world and partly also (3) for Paul's sake, and thus for their mutual joy. The first sentence (vv. 12-13) speaks generally, urging that they show their "obedience" by getting their corporate act together (work out your salvation). And lest he be misunderstood, Paul adds an encouraging theological word: God has committed himself to effecting their "obedience" for his own good pleasure. The second sentence (vv. 14-16) gives specifics: complaining and arguing must cease, for the sake of the crooked and depraved Philippi in which they shine like stars as they hold fast the word of life. This sentence concludes on the note of Paul's own ministry among them, which leads to the final sentence (vv. 17-18), where he returns to the theme of his suffering, their faith, and his and their mutual joy.
With these final words the appeal begun in 1:27 comes full circle, serving to bracket the section in two ways. The appeal began by urging them to walk worthy of the gospel whether Paul is present or absent. In verses 12-16 Paul now returns on that theme, at the same time responding to the specific concerns expressed in 2:1-4. Second, the opening appeal was put in the context of (his and their) present suffering (1:29-30); the present appeal ends by urging mutual rejoicing in mutual suffering (2:17-18). This leads directly to verses 19-30, in which he goes on to "what's next" regarding his and their circumstances—that he expects to hear further about "their affairs," now in light of the present letter, after they have learned further about "his affairs," and both from the same source, Timothy.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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