November 27, 2022 | Duane Roberts
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In this study guide, we’ll discuss key thoughts and practical ideas from Philippians 2:12–30. Learn what it means to work out your salvation, discuss the keys to sanctification, and how you can make people a priority in your everyday life!
Ice Breaker: What fictional world or place would you like to visit?
Memory Verse: “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 in order to fulfill his good purpose.”—Philippians 2:12–13 (NIV)
In Philippians 2, Paul shows us that grace and works are not mutually exclusive. You see, the word for work out is katergazomai, which means to carry out to its full perfection. Now, please note Paul doesn’t say work for your salvation. The work of Jesus has saved believers. Our salvation is secure. We can do nothing to add to it or improve it. That’s not what Paul is saying. What he said was to work out your salvation. He’s describing sanctification.
What is sanctification? It’s the ongoing process through which a believer is transformed and conformed into Christ’s image, where one becomes holy and Christ-like, fit for the holy purposes of God. What does this look like? In the same way becoming physically fit involves the consistent practice of certain habits and disciplines, becoming healthy and spiritually fit involves spiritual disciplines—the life-giving habits of studying Scripture, prayer, worship, fasting, silence and solitude, fellowship, service, generosity, and evangelism! These disciplines are to your spiritual health and vitality what exercise and diet are to your physical health.
Paul instructs us to dedicate ourselves to this process with “fear and trembling.” Some have translated this to say, “with a holy care to do all acceptably; implying earnest surrender, deep humility, and complete submission with a sense of awe towards God.” The trembling comes from the idea of being separated from the Lord by disobedience, rebellion, laziness, or apathy. Basically, not being in a close relationship and abiding in the Lord due to disobedience should scare us and spur us to live with devotion and discipline.
As you hear this, you may feel carrying your sanctification out to its full perfection is not only difficult but impossible. Verse 13 offers good news: It’s not you who carries it out! This is one of the most amusing and inspiring paradoxes in the Bible. A few words before, Paul instructs us to work, only to tell us that God provides the Spirit who instills the desire to accomplish this and the power to carry it out. Our part in this process is simply to seek Him, abide in Him, have intimacy in relationship with Him, and strive to know Him a little more each day through spiritual disciplines. As you “work out your salvation” by spending time with Him, as you grow to know Him deeply through devotion to the disciplines, He will work in you to change you, to renew your mind and heart, and to accomplish His will and good purposes for you, in you, and in the world!
As you jump into your discussions, consider how you’ve seen the Lord work in your life as you’ve grown in relationship with Him!
Discussion Question 1: What words or phrases of today’s Scripture stand out to you the most, and why?
Discussion Question 2: What does this passage teach you about Jesus? What does it teach you about yourself?
Discussion Question 3: In Philippians 2:12–13, Paul instructs us to work out our salvation. Why are spiritual disciplines so vital to the overall health of our relationship with the Lord? How does God work and accomplish His will through our devotion to relationship and engagement in spiritual disciplines?
Discussion Question 4: How does doing “everything without grumbling or arguing” validate your witness for Christ and enable you to “hold firmly to the word of life”?
Discussion Question 5: What does it look like to make people a priority in your life?
Discussion Question 6: How can you apply the principles of Philippians 2:12–30 into your life right now?
Do some research on key spiritual disciplines. You can find multiple lists that dive deeper into their specific practices of them. After reading through these resources, spend time looking at your schedule and praying about how to prioritize these practices that draw you into a deeper relationship with Jesus and enable you to become more like Christ.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.