Friday, October 17, 2008

Bringing About Salvation

Immediately after the amazing Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul says an interesting thing about salvation. As Jesus gave ear to (obeyed) death in 2:8, so Paul tells the Philippians to give ear to (obey) his admonition about salvation. He asks them to bring about their own salvation. Some translate the word as work out, produce, or maybe even create their own salvation.

It is an interesting concept because we normally think of salvation as something that has already been completed. It happened as I became part of "The Way." At some point in the past I was saved. While this is certainly true, Paul forces us to reconsider the nature of salvation in his comment. Salvation, for Paul, seems to be a commitment that must receive constant attention. You can certainly grow up in your salvation (cf. 1 Peter 2:2).

The context confirms this idea as we learn how to bring about salvation among us more often. Other people are definitely involved in bringing about salvation. We must think about them as Jesus did. Do everything without grumbling and complaining, Paul admonishes. This negative attitude, unlike the Christ-attitude we see in the previous hymn, does not promote salvation among the group of which you are a part.

Bringing about salvation also holds onto (or holds up) Christ's living message among the group (2:16). Living is all about considering others better than yourselves (2:3-4). Living is actually what Paul talks about in only one other location in Philippians. He says, "For me, this business of living is Christ and this business of dying is gain" (1:21). Living is all about Jesus; dying is all about advancement.

If there was a group that took these words seriously, they would certainly be compelled toward the others people, just like Jesus. This group would be totally transformed into the realm of salvation. They would be delivered from the horrible negative attitudes that do not advance the gospel, a key idea for Paul in Philippians (see 1:6, 12, 25; 2:13).

In the end, I have a couple of questions for myself (and you). Do you take instruction well and give ear to (obey) others, even those "below" you? How are you bringing about salvation among the group? Are you holding out the message about living in how you think about others?

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