I often hear this verse being misappropriated and see it being misapplied. To equate this call with mustering up our own sanctification, summoning up some inner strength to attain some higher spirituality, or cloistering yourself until such a time that you can meet the approval of your religious compatriots, is to sell your birthright for a half empty bowl of soup. It is, after all, God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
The working out of ‘your’ (plural) (the corporate body of Christ’s) salvation, is done through mission, ministry, and service to others. If there’s no mission in your life, you’re not working out your salvation, period! If church leaders are placating a non-mission sentiment, then they’re effectively hamstringing their people’s salvation and killing the mission. Mission is the conduit to personal growth, but it’s only effective when engaged with one another. It is unlikely that the 50+ “One Another” commands in scripture can be effectively worked out within modern-day church structures. They require mission. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we try to invoke God’s presence through various liturgies instead of being God’s presence to others in everyday life.
It is through mission that we make and become disciples of Jesus. (Matthew 28:19,20) It is through mission that we preach and become the good news to all of creation. (Mark 16:15) It is through mission that we testify and become witnesses, are sent and send others, give and gain understanding, and are empowering others and being empowered through the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:44-48) It is through mission that the sedentary religious ‘go and get understand.’ (Matthew 9:9-13) Without these components of mission we’re left to working out our own station, stature, and standing within missionless systems.
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates Philippians 2:12 this way;
“Therefore beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not when I am near to you only, but now when I am far from you, all the more, with awe and with trembling, do the service of your life.”
Simply put, if you’re not on mission, you’re not working out your salvation. If you’re not sending and being sent, you’re not sanctifying. Finally, Philippians 2:12 is not to be used to instill fear in others suggesting they can lose their salvation, to guilt people into putting in extra human effort into measuring up to some man-made religious standard, or to judge someone’s spiritual state. Neither is it suggestive towards a works based salvation. It’s an invitation to mission and the fruit of sanctification that comes with it.
A few questions:
1. Is it true that without mission there’s little or no sanctification?
2. What kinds of mission/ministry can happen within the local church?
3. In your opinion, which is more biblical? “Getting and understanding to go on mission,” or “Going on mission to get an understanding?”