Church of England Diocese of Liverpool Sefton


27th September 2020

Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

Thought for the Day

'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,' writes Paul to the Philippians. And we are immediately in trouble. Does a loving God really want his followers to approach life in a heightened state of anxiety?

What does this mean?

Paul is saying work out your own salvation, perhaps, in the same way that a devoted son works out his lifestyle with a measure of due reverence and love for his good father, learning to live well by imitating him. And Paul holds up Jesus, and his relationship with his Father, as the model which will help and inspire us all:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient ...

Therefore God also highly exalted him …

So here is Jesus, having a human desire, human will, human intelligence, just as we do, whose human self, whose nature, whose character, is being called, or loved into being by devoting himself to the will and the ways of the Father, exactly as the character of a normal physical human son is formed.

Jesus is utterly dependent on the Other who called him into being and yet is utterly one with his Father. Jesus is imitating his Father: "I do everything which I see my Father do", but there is no sense in which Jesus tries to forge his own identity over against that of his Father, there is no grasping in Jesus as his desire to imitate his Father helps him to form himself.

...though he was in the form of God,

[he] did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself...

...he humbled himself

and became obedient ...

The purely gratuitous self-giving of the Father is completely imitated in the life-story of the Son.

This passage contains all we need to know about the attitude we should have in order to go about working out our own salvation: an attitude based on a deep love and devotion to the Father, in which we put our own needy, greedy desires aside and give ourselves to share the desires of the Father, for ourselves and for the world. So now,

Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

And as a good son emerges into maturity through his imitation of his good father, through his desire to follow and to please him, so may we emerge into a maturity of faith and devotion by similarly working on our imitation of Christ and his complete self-giving love for the Father.


Heavenly Father,

Thank You for all that I have received in Christ. Thank You for Your love and the consolation that is brings. Thank You for Your grace and Your compassion and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank you that that I am accepted in Christ and part of that heavenly company that has received life eternal by faith in Christ. I pray that together with my brothers and sisters in Christ we may live in spiritual unity and godly harmony - being of one mind; maintaining the same love; united in spirit and intent on one purpose - which is to be increasingly transformed into the image and likeness of Christ - to His praise and glory Amen.