Paul begins the second chapter of Philippians by holding up Jesus the Christ as the pattern for all Christians to follow. At verse 2, he urged these saints to each have the same love and the same “mind;” this would allow them to act in agreement (“of one accord”) in all things. Since they are also to avoid being motivated by selfishness or ego (vs. 3), this opens the door to humility and the willingness to care more for others’ needs than for self (vs. 4). All these admonitions lead to the instruction in verse 5, to “have the mind of Christ in you!” These words encourage and instruct us to be in our “right minds,” by following the example of Jesus in our own lives. Note in verses 5-10 that the “mind of Christ” is a mind of…
…sacrifice, verse 6;
…service, verse 7; and,
…submission (i.e., obedience), verse 8.
It is because of these qualities that Jesus is highly exalted by the Father (vv. 9-11), and the implication follows that, if we (as Christians) faithfully follow His steps in these things, we too can share in His glory.
At verse 12, Paul presents an explicit commandment; “work out your own salvation.” It is crucial to point out here that he is not instructing Christians to “decide how” WE think God should save us (or how we “want” to be saved!). Neither is he saying that we can “design” or “legislate” the means of our salvation! Paul is simply urging Christians to “accomplish” – to “successfully complete,” through obedience to God’s instructions – the salvation He offers us in Christ! The “working” (activity) of God in us (vs. 13) is accomplished according to the teaching He has given us.
The rest of Philippians 2 consists of practical instructions (vv. 14-18) and information about Timothy and Epaphroditus. Notice that Paul does not simply tell us “don’t complain” (vs. 14), but gives sensible reasons why it is not appropriate for Christians to gripe; because we are like our Father when we are pure from the world’s contamination, and when we are single-minded (cf. James 1:8) amid a world filled with distortions and dishonesty (vs. 15). By continuing in this pattern, we become “standout lights” in the world, brilliant reflectors of God’s light and glory amid the darkness (verse 15b, cf. Matthew 5:16). In verse 16, the “key” to success in this effort is for us to “hold forth” or consistently cling to, God’s word.
The mention of Epaphroditus in verses 25-30 is significant in light of modern-day claims of miraculous healing; this brother suffered an illness that brought him near death while he was still with Paul (vs. 27), yet it seems that Paul did not exercise his ability to heal Epaphroditus with a miracle! Those who assert that Christians should be able to perform miracles today miss the fact that such wonders were given to be used as signs that confirmed the word/message/gospel (Mark 16:20), rather than simply as benevolent actions. (Otherwise, why are today’s “faith”/fake not busy emptying out all the hospitals?)