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LESSON 5: HOW CAN THERE BE JOY IN USEFULNESS?
by Dr. Fred Wittman
After they developed as a church and grew in The Lord, the Philippians continued to fellowship and to communicate with the apostle Paul both financially and prayer fully. However, there had come about a difference between two ladies in the congregation, Euodias and Syntyche. No doubt sides were being taken between these two ladies. In any event the Philippian church needed to be molded into harmony and perfect unity again if they were going to be useful to Christ and effective in their outreach and testimony to the perverse generation of people around them. What could Paul write that would effect joy in usefulness in this church which was dear to his heart?
Our church today needs to be more effective in reaching the lost world in our own community as well as to the world. What is hindering that effective outreach? Do the same problems which faced the Philippians exist in our local church? Do we experience fullness of joy in being useful to our Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ by communicating The gospel to the lost? How effective is our testimony in our community? How does our light shine in the world?
After an emphasis upon humility in disposition, illustrated by the humility of Christ in obedience even unto crucifixion death, Paul answered the question. How can there be joy in usefulness?
I. THE REQUIREMENTS FOR USEFULNESS (vs. 12-14).
“So that, my beloved ones, according as you& obeyed all the time, not as in my /coming presence only, but[on the contrary] now much more[rather] in my /absence, continually perform the salvation of yourselves& [in company]with fear and trembling! For The God is the One+ continually effectively working among you& both the process of determinedly willing and the process of effectively working in behalf of His[article as pronoun] delight” (Phil. 2:12,13 APT).
A. A Corporate Effort (vs. 12,13).
There was a need for them to corporately work together. This required obedience on the part of each one of them. But they had demonstrated obedience. Not only did they obey when he preached The Gospel, but they obeyed the teachings that he gave them while he was with them in Philippi. Now he exhorted them in his absence to also keep on persistently obeying and keep on persistently performing their own corporate salvation with fear and trembling. Some have proposed that this is a personal salvation that calls for saints to “work out what God has worked in.” They have gotten this concept from verse 13.
However, personal salvation is what Christ has provided and is not one’s own salvation. “Your own salvation” (AV) or “the salvation of yourselves&” (APT) is not a personal or individual salvation, but a corporate salvation because Paul described it by using the second person plural reflexive pronoun. It belongs and relates to the corporate body—the church at Philippi and pertains to all the saints in that corporate body. Therefore it becomes a corporate problem to keep working out or persistently performing the salvation of ourselves& in the local church.
1. What must be worked out?
The readers are being encouraged to give attention to dealing with their church life. Paul used the word σωτηρία when he encouraged those in the ship, wrecked by the storm who had fasted for fourteen days, “Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you” (Acts 27:34). Interesting enough the Greek word for health is the same word in our text for salvation. Thus actually it could read, “This is for your salvation” as it is translated in A Precise Translation (Acts 27:34).
What then could be the salvation to which Paul is referring for them to work out with fear and trembling? Could it not be the well being (health) of the body of the local church of believers? And is not the well being of the local church of believers in jeopardy by division? Are they not divided by personality conflicts and siding with personalities that have differences between themselves? There definitely was a problem of disunity. Otherwise Paul would not have put so much emphasis upon unity, nor pointed out the difference between Euodias and Syntyche (4:2). There was a need for corporate health, a spiritual health of the local church which had most likely been diseased by strife and hard feelings. Unity must be restored. There must be obedience and yielding to the work of The Holy Spirit. There must be not only humility but corporate effort to work together in unity in order to become useful to Christ and God.
2. How must it be worked out?
Paul encourages them to work out their own salvation of well being with fear and trembling. This concept of fear and trembling is mentioned by the apostle Paul in His Second Epistle to the Corinthians (7:15). Titus remembered with affection the obedience of all the Corinthians, who “with fear and trembling” received him when they did not know what the result of his visit was going to be. Paul exhorted the Ephesians,
“O you& the bondslaves, continually obey the lords of yours& according to 0flesh, [in company]with reverent fear and trembling in singleness[generosity] of the heart of yours& as to The Christ! not according to eye-subservience as human-pleasers, but on the contrary, as 0bondslaves of The Christ, doing the determined will of The God out of soul” (Eph. 6:5 APT).
Singleness of heart unto The Lord is connected with ‘fear and trembling.’ Singleness of heart indicates loyalty and describes true unity. Loyalty is not divided. When there is unity, there will be joy in usefulness through corporate effort.
This unity is dependent upon God, Who keeps on working in the believers in the local church both the willing and the working on behalf of God’s good pleasure. God is The One who keeps on working and He gives to us a will and a desire to persistently work out and to effectively perform His good pleasure. We want His good pleasure and we want to work out those things in our lives which will be useful to Him and will bring to Him good pleasure. Thus usefulness requires corporate effort.
B. Abstinence From Grumbling (v. 14).
“Continually do all things apart from murmurings and reasonings” (Phil. 2:24 APT).
In attempts to illustrate and explain this murmuring, often the commentators refer back to the murmuring of the children of Israel in the wilderness in which they murmured against God. Yet this murmuring is a little different. It is not the murmuring of the people of God against God Himself, but murmuring amongst themselves. These were disputings which in the legal sense are dissensions--outward disputings, discussions which were argumentative. This indicates that the petty rivalry had come to an advanced stage in a desire for vain glory and was a problem to the church: a root of evil springing up among them.
Usefulness requires action without grumbling—doing “without murmurings and disputings.” The word for murmurings is perform. It is an onomatopoeia which means the way it sounds expresses its meaning. The word for ‘disputings’ was used by The Lord Jesus when He appeared to His disciples in the evening after His resurrection. There Jesus asked them, “Why are you& standing disturbed? And because of what are discordant reasonings ascending in your& /hearts? (Lk. 24:38 APT). Thus disputings are thoughts of questionings and doubtings. Not only does usefulness require corporate effort, but usefulness requires abstinence from grumbling, from disputing, and from reasoning.
II. THE REASON FOR SUCH REQUIREMENTS (vs. 15-17).
“in order that you& become blameless and absolutely unmixed[free of foreign substance] ones, children[relational emphasis] of God without rebuke in midst of a crooked and standing distorted generation, among whom you& shine [appear] as luminaries in 0world persistently holding up 0Absolute Life’s Word in order for a basis for jubilating for me in Christ’s Day that, I did not run in vain, neither did I weary in labor in vain. On the contrary, if (and it is true) I also continually pour out myself as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and public ministry of the faith of yours&, I continually rejoice and I keep rejoicing together with you& all” (Phil. 2:15-17 APT).
The reason for corporate effort without grumbling and disputing is so that the saints will become blameless and unadulterated in the midst of a defiled world of perverse people in order to communicate The Gospel to the lost and be useful to The God.
A. Shining As Lights (vs. 15,16).
If we are to shine as lights or luminaries in the world we must become blameless and unadulterated children of The God. We have to become free from censure from without (blameless). Others are not to see something in our lives for which they could blame us as being wrong. Unadulterated children are those who are harmless and unmixed or undefiled (Song of Solomon 5:2; 6:9 LXX) children of The God—without spot, both in reputation and in reality (unblemished).
We live among a crooked and distorted people, morally warped and spiritually perverted, plagued with immorality. We are to shine as luminaries or light-bearers. The word means giving out light as the heavenly bodies reflect the light from the sun. They do not give their own light but they reflect light and shine out of darkness. The Light of the World is The Lord Jesus Christ but as luminaries we are to reflect His light in the world of darkness, as we hold forth, exhibit, or display The Word of Life. We are charged to hold firmly to The Gospel as a torch-bearer grasps the light he bears securely. So usefulness involves shining as lights. The Lord Jesus referred to this in Matthew 5:15,16, where He exhorted them corporately to shine before men. But we cannot give off light properly as a corporate body if there is disunity or disruption among us, or if there is blame and harm, or reason for rebuke. A reflector must be clean and bright to effectively reflect light. So we must be clean (unblemished) and bright if we are to shine and reflect “the illumination of The Gospel of The Glory of The Christ” (2 Cor. 4:3,4 APT). And that glorious light of The Gospel of Christ should shine or be reflected in our lives in such a way that it brings this generation into the knowledge of The Truth, as we “hold forth The Word of Life.”
B. Self-Sacrifice And Service (v. 16).
Paul wanted to glory in the Philippian’s ministry and glory in their lives because they were used of The God. They held forth The Word of Life and communicated that Gospel which gives life to others. He dreaded to labor fruitlessly. The reason Christ saved us is that we be useful in bringing others to Christ. In order to fulfill this purpose, we must be persistently bearing fruit. (Eph. 2:10; John 15:2,8,16).
“For we are His workmanship[product of doing], being created ones in Christ Jesus for beneficially good works, which The God prepared beforehand in order that we walk in them” (Eph. 2:10 APT).
“Every tender flexible branch in Me not continually producing fruit, He carries it off. And everyone~ which is continually producing /fruit, He is continually pruning[to purge] it in order that it continually produce more fruit” (Jn. 15:2 APT).
“In this My /Father is glorified[exalted with majestic radiant splendor], that you& produce much fruit and you& shall become disciples to Me” (Jn. 15:8 APT).
“You& yourselves did not elect Me for yourselves, but[on the contrary] I Myself elected you& for Myself. I ordained you& that you& continually slip[lead under] away and you& repeatedly produce fruit and |that| your& /fruit continually remain[abide] in order that whatever things~ at all you& petition The Father in My /name, He give |them~| to you&” (Jn. 15:16 APT).
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is an example of self-sacrifice and service, resulting in usefulness. We will never be useful if we are not willing to sacrifice ourselves unto The Lord and be willing to serve Him. Paul offered himself or, more literally, poured himself out as a libation or drink offering just as the priest poured wine on the sacrifice offered by an Israelite in The Old Testament. This indicated the extent to which Paul would go to serve The Lord. It indicated that he would suffer a violent death with shedding of his blood to serve The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was willing to pour out his life continually as a libation upon the sacrifice and service of their faith. As their faith resulted in sacrifice and service in order to continue communicating The Gospel, Paul willingly poured out his life over that sacrifice which they offered.
III. THE RESULTS OF USEFULNESS (Phil. 2:16b,17b,18).
Usefulness results in joy and rejoicing. How can there be joy in usefulness when one pours out one’s life? There is a twofold rejoicing.
A. Rejoicing In The Day Of Christ (v. 16b).
When Christ shall come and we stand before The Bema--The Judgment Seat of Christ, Paul will be filled with joy. He will rejoice both at the Philippians’ reward and at those of the defiled world who were saved as a result of their usefulness and communication. Certainly there will be joy on the part of the Philippians as well when they are rewarded for their sacrifice and service.
B. Joy And Rejoicing Today (vs. 17b,18).
“I continually rejoice and I keep rejoicing together with you& all. In fact the same~ also do you& yourselves rejoice and you& keep rejoicing together with me” (Phil. 2:17b,18 APT).
There is constant joy and rejoicing daily here and now in the service of Christ. What great joy there is in seeing lost souls respond to the communication of The Gospel! Yes, there is joy in Heaven (Lk. 15:7,10 ), but also on earth.
“I am saying to you&, ‘Thus joy shall be in /Heaven over one repenting sinner, |more| than over ninety-nine righteous ones, who[whoever] are not having need of repentance.’ . . . So I am saying to you&, Joy is come to pass in the presence of the angels of The God over one repenting sinner” (Lk. 15:7,10 APT).
If we follow the example of the self-sacrifice of Christ Who endured the cross for the joy that was before Him (Heb. l2:2), we shall be filled with His joy.
“. . . by looking[to distinctly behold] away unto Jesus, The Originator and Perfecter of the faith, Who in exchange for the joy being set before Him, patiently endured crucifixion, although despising 0shame, and He sat down at 0right |hand| of the throne of The God” (Heb. 12:2 APT).
God is faithful to reward self-sacrifice with joy, not only in the future, but NOW. When usefulness results in fruit (souls saved) the result is joy (John 15:8,11, see above ). Full joy can be yours. There is joy and rejoicing in usefulness.
How can there be joy in usefulness? If there is to be joy in usefulness, we must meet the requirements for usefulness. There must be corporate effort. The local church must work together and expend every effort to have unity and well-being. The church must work together without fear and trembling. There must be neither grumbling, nor murmuring, nor disputing because these bring division, disunity, and hinder The Gospel. We must be without rebuke, blameless and pure in the midst of a crooked and perverse people. We must shine together as luminaries as we communicate The Gospel to a lost world. We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves and give service to Christ because of our faith. The service of our faith is to reach out to the world with The Gospel.
The results will be joy and rejoicing because we’re working together. Yes, joy and rejoicing because some of those crooked and perverse people in the generation among whom we live will come to Jesus Christ! What joy and rejoicing there is over one soul that comes to Christ!
What part will you play working out corporate salvation and effecting unity in your local church?
What will you do to maintain a pure, blameless and undefiled testimony by your local church in the world today?
What will you do to experience the joy of usefulness and maintain this attitude until The Lord Jesus Christ returns?
Now consider the practical aspects of our lesson..
1. What attitude in relation to communication of The Gospel by the local church is essential for effectively reaching a lost and dying world plagued with immorality?
2. Why is corporate effort in obtaining joy in usefulness necessary?
3. How do grumbling, murmuring, and disputing affect the local church?
4. How do the world luminaries portray the relationship of The God’s people to the world and to Christ?
5. Why is it necessary for the local church members to be pure, blameless, and without rebuke in the midst of the perverse generation in which they live?
6. What can you do to maintain a pure, blameless, and undefiled testimony by your local church?
7. How does the result of faith contribute to joy in usefulness?
8. How will the results of usefulness be realized by every child of God?
9. What can you do to experience the joy of usefulness?
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