At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul calls the Philippian community to unity (v 1-4). He calls them to a unity that seeks to put others above themselves in the same way Christ sought to put our needs before his own (v 5-8). Today's reading continues this theme, calling the Philippian church to be selflessly united.
This passage (particularly v 12-13) is addressed not to an individual but to a community of Jesus’ followers. Every verb used here is plural. Paul isn’t calling them to work out their own personal salvation, but to work it out as a community (within which he is currently not present). They need to both submit humbly to God, to continue to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling” or as some suggest “reverence and respect”, knowing that God is God and he will work to fulfill his good purposes through them. Paul encourages them that as they seek to grow together it is God who works in them to both “will” and to “act” according to his purposes. It is a partnership, as we seek as a community to partner with God in what he is doing in and through us.
As we live like this, without complaining or arguing, but selflessly united in community under Christ, the passage encourages us that our community will “shine like stars”. We will stand out as different from the world around us. If we seek our own desires, to follow our own way, or if we complain or argue as a community, we look no different to the rest of the world. What our world needs to see is a Christian community, selflessly united, not grumbling or arguing, but selflessly submitting to God so that he might work through us to fulfill his good purpose. Join me in spending time reflecting today how we might live this out in all its fullness.