[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life …
(Phil. 2:12b – 16a)
Paul exhorted the Christians of the first-century church in the Roman colony at Philippi to cautiously and fearfully endeavor to embrace God’s salvific grace. Paul further encouraged those Philippians to live blamelessly and innocently before God and to shine before their generation of unbelievers. Embedded in the short text of Philippians 2, however, we find Paul tracing the tenets of the “Five Points” of our Reformed theology, the doctrines of grace:
[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling
|Total Depravity||Our depraved will, stuffed with corrupt feelings, hates nothing more than His righteousness.1|
|… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.||Unconditional Love||For the seed of God’s Word takes root and bears fruit only in those whom the LORD has by His eternal election predestined as children and heirs of the kingdom of heaven…2|
|… that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation …||Limited Atonement||F]or all the rest, who were condemned by this same plan of God before the foundation of the world, the utterly clear preaching of truth can be nothing but the stench of death unto death.3|
|… among whom you shine as lights in the world …||Irresistible Grace||Therefore, Christ is enjoyed only by believers, who receive Him sent to them, who do not reject Him given to them, who follow Him calling them.4|
|… holding fast to the word of life …||Perseverance of the Saints||[S]ince this generation is never fulfilled so long as we sojourn in the prison of the mortal body, there must be an unflagging pursuit of repentance even unto death.5|
1 Calvin’s Catechism of 1538, Art. iv.
2 Id., Art. xiii.
4d., Art. xii.5 Id., Art. xviii.
5 Id., Art. xviii.
By Doug Rose