Working out our salvation together

27 Sep 2020 by Richie Dulin in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Call to worship

Come, let us worship God,
who has called us to be a holy people,
and has established an everlasting covenant
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Come, let us open the scriptures,
that God has inspired,
and are useful for teaching the truth,
rebuking error, correcting faults
and giving instruction for right living. 

Come, let us open our hearts to God,
Praying for ourselves and each other,
And looking forward to the day,
That the earth shall be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea!


Prayers of adoration and confession

Heavenly Father,
You are our God, there is no-one before you
We adore you, our everlasting God,
We give all praise and honour to you.

Your glory is revealed in your creation: In the skies, on the earth, in the waters.
You have made all things, and they are wonderfully made.
Your greatness is shown to the ends of the earth. Your glory knows no end.
You are our God, there is no-one before you.
You are our God, we are your people.
We are your people, created in your image.
And even when we strayed from your ways, you met us in your son, Jesus Christ, and brought us back to you.

We praise you and adore you. We give you the glory in all things
You are our God, there is no-one before you.



Lord, we open our hearts to you now in confession.

You are our God, we are your people. But we have failed to live as your people should. We have followed the ways of the world, instead of following your ways. We have failed to keep your commandments and have instead decided for ourselves what is right and wrong.

We have acted greedily and selfishly. We have been proud and stubborn.
We have pushed others down and lifted ourselves up.
We have not been generous with others.
We have not been merciful: we have been judgemental and unjust.
We have not been humble before each other or before you.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves, and most of all, we have not loved you with our whole hearts. 

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
Have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will
and walk humbly with you,
to the glory of your name.


Lord, we lay our burdens before you, at the foot of the cross on which your son died for us and for all people, trusting in your promises of forgiveness, trusting in the power of the death and resurrection of our saviour, Jesus Christ. 

Restore us all, Lord, forgive our sins. Lead us, by your Holy Spirit, in your ways and help us to live always as you would have us live, and to your glory.



Assurance of Forgiveness

God sent the Son into the world,
not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned. 

Hear Christ’s word of grace to us:

Your sins are forgiven

Thanks be to God

Hymn: Be still for the presence of the Lord

Bible readings: Psalm 25:1-9, Philippians 2:1-18

Psalm 25:1-9

In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.

I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Saviour,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.


Philippians 2:1-18

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Working out our salvation together

I don’t know whether you noticed, but in our reading from Philippians, there’s this great line: “Do all things without murmuring and arguing”… in fact it gets even better if you look at the NIV translation “do everything without grumbling or arguing,” or the Good News translation “do everything without complaining or arguing”.

What a useful verse! Church leaders can tell others what to do, and then quote Philippians 2:14, to make sure no one complains!

I think though, that while this verse is be used with generally good intentions, it's often taken out of context in order to get things done, to discourage criticism, to cajole the unenthusiastic and to be able to address particular, practical problems.

So rather than simply focus in on that verse, I want to step back and look at it in the context of not only this passage, but the whole letter to the Philippians and what it means for us to be a church – and to work together as individuals individually gifted by God, as the people of God.

As we do so, the first thing to note, is that this letter is written to an established Christian community - to "all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi" as Paul says in Chapter 1 verse 1. It is written to a whole community - quite likely a collection of what we might call congregations - who collectively, made up the church in Philippi.

And the church in Philippi, from the tone of Paul’s letter, was doing quite well. It wasn’t like the churches which were the subject of Paul’s other letters which were struggling with particular issues, rather than focus on teaching them about what is wrong, Paul encourages the Philippian Christians, and he openly shares his joy and hope with them.

Despite the joy and hope shared in his letter, we need to remember that Paul was in prison in Rome at the time he wrote it. Now it might not have been that bad as 1st century prisons go – and Paul was certainly able to have attendants and send and receive messengers, but he was under arrest, he was deprived of his freedom, and he was in fear for his life. Roman justice may have been a bit flexible at the edges, but it was also very harsh, and while it might have provided privileges, it certainly had no place for mercy or compassion.

So as we turn to our reading today, we need to remember where Paul is, how he regards the church in Philippi – with love and joy –, and the intention of the letter – it’s encourage, not admonish.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul tells the Philippians to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27), and then concludes with “And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—  since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” (1:29-30)

And so, because we have the privilege of being followers of Christ, and we should be living our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel – so that we can be good examples of the good news – because of that, says Paul:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.   (2:1-2)

Paul is asking them to make his own joy complete, and he tells them that they can do this by being in the same mind (having the same goals, the same vision), sharing in the same love, being in one mind.

It’s a great vision for a church isn’t it? A group of people, individuals, but coming together as the body of Christ, using their gifts and sharing their gifts!

It’s a great vision, but it’s also a bit daunting. We are individuals, and it’s natural for groups of people to compete, rather than cooperate. To push others down to push ourselves up. To put ourselves first.

But Paul tells us we need to change that: “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.” (2:3-4)

People sometimes say that there’s Jesus’ teaching on one hand, and Paul’s teaching on the other. I don’t think that’s the case at all, and this passage is a great example of Paul’s teaching reflecting Jesus own teaching. This is sermon on the mount stuff!

Jesus says: Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give to the needy, do not store up treasures, don’t judge others, and Paul continues:  don’t be selfish, put others first.

Paul tells us not to put ourselves first, not to work to make ourselves look good. But instead, be humble, put others first, look after others. Support our sisters and brothers in Christ. And of course, you’ll be supported by them. So our church, instead of being a gathering of individual people with an interest in Jesus, becomes not just an organisation, but the very body of Christ.

Big changes. But we have the example of Jesus: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus:” says Paul,

“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 to the point of death— even death on a cross.”  (2:6-8)

That’s what Jesus did. Jesus – God the Son – humbled himself. He became truly human. He  became a servant. He gave himself up and people killed him. And the result of Jesus humbling himself, becoming a servant, and dying for us is that: Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.. (2:9-11)

And that is the hope that Paul looks forward to, the completion of God’s plan for the world, and Paul urges the Philippians to complete their salvation

And while we often think about salvation as 'being saved when we turn to Christ', and that is a good and correct view, for example we read in Ephesians "... because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved" (Eph 2:4-5)

But as well as this, Paul also talks about salvation as a process – for example in 1 Corinthians he writes "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor 1:18).

So here we have in verse 12, Paul urging the Philippians to complete their salvation.

And what is more that response is something that should be done with ‘fear and trembling’, which is a phrase that can sit uncomfortably with modern listeners. Paul notes in Romans "you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear" (Rom 8:15), so it is not fear in terms of dread or terror that is overwhelming and disabling, instead it is fear and trembling which is what follows when we regard God with appropriate awe and wonder as we come to appreciate God's power and might.

The call to complete our salvation is not an appeal to our own power, but rather to submit to God, to work together as the body of Christ, because as he notes in verse 13  that it is " God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure."  This is the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of us, as believers, as followers of Christ.

I think it's worth taking a moment to reflect on this. If you are a follower of Christ, God works in you; the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. Have you noticed that, recently?

And it's not just in our lives, as individuals, that the Spirit acts, but in the life of the whole church.

We tend to think that God works in miraculous ways, with spectacular effect, seas parted, pillars of fire, manna from heaven, thousands fed… but much of our experience of God's work is through the action of the Holy Spirit - through inspiring and empowering and motivating people – people like you and I. And it's worth taking time to appreciate that action in our own lives and in the life of the church.

So by the time we come to the oft quoted verse ‘Do all things without murmuring and arguing’ , we can see that Paul is explaining how the Philippians should be completing their salvation - to act according to God's purpose.

Paul's exhortation to work out salvation without complaining or arguing links back to the stories of the Israelites in the wilderness after they'd been delivered from slavery in Egypt. They had quite a history of complaining:

In the book of Exodus we read that the people of Israel asked Moses:

"...Why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" (Ex 17:3)

Rather than being like the complaining Israelites, Paul tells the Philippians that they should work out their salvation without murmuring and arguing,  so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world (2:15). 

Paul is reflecting Jesus' preaching in the sermon on the mount "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:14-16)

And from the light imagery, Paul moves on to talking about holding fast to the word of life, the word of life that comes from God.  As Jesus said, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt 4:4).

In these things, in not arguing, being pure and blameless, children of God, shining like the stars and holding out the word of life, the people of God – you and I and all our brothers and sisters in Christ- are being set apart from all the other people of the world.

Paul says that even if he is being poured out as a libation on the sacrifice and the offering coming from the faith of the Philippians, he is glad and rejoices with them.  In the face of his own death he is thinking of the faith of the community in Philippi.

Traditionally, a libation or a drink offering was not simply a sacrifice in itself, but something that completed a larger sacrifice. If Paul's life is poured out like a drink offering, it will complete the faithful service, "the living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12:1) of the Philippian Christians.

And in the face of his own death, Paul is glad and rejoices with the Philippians, and he concludes this section by saying " and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me." (18)

Paul knows the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, and so, even in the face of death, he rejoices.

Paul was prepared to make himself a sacrifice for the broader good of the Church and the spread of the gospel of Jesus.

We so often want to hold on to the comforts we have, but the world is changing. There are pressures on all our congregations.

But whatever we face, we shouldn't be like the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness, complaining even after God had delivered them from slavery. It is human nature to complain, but we can take heart that through the Holy Spirit, God works in us to fulfil his good purpose.

Paul not only encourages the Philippians to complete their salvation without arguing and complaining, but he also models exactly that.

He was in prison. He was in fear of his life. But he was not complaining. The good of the church in Philippi is, to Paul, more important than his own wellbeing.

And in doing this, Paul is glad and rejoices.

And so it is with us: our challenge is to work to be like Paul, to complete our salvation together, with fear and trembling, allowing God to work in us and through us, so that we can be seen by all as the children of God, shining like stars and holding out the word of life to the world.


Hymn: Brother, sister let me serve you 

Prayers of Intercession

Let's pray for others.

I'm sitting right now looking at a spectacularly blue sky, and a vibrant spring morning. I think of all the threats to this beauty, that I've loved and cherished all of my life, and which speaks to me of you, Lord, and which feeds me and nurtures me.

Lord, we know that climate change is a great emergency. Many of the young people are seeing their future compromised - By the shallow politics and business decisions being made, and lack of leadership. We pray against those leaders who hide from their responsibility. We ask that good policies can be enacted in Australia, and in every other part of the world.

Thanking you for those who have taken the initiative, who have taken the risk, and who have experimented with new ways of transport and power.

Help us all Lord, to commit to care for your creation, as you made us to do since Adam and Eve. Help us also to enjoy your creation, even though it's under threat, and to live with enough - with simplicity. Help us Lord to reduce our waste and reduce our use - To take those little steps to change habits, one after the other - To help restore the beauty to the planet. Help us Lord to offset the things that we still can't change - Shoppers to offset with payment, to offset companies who are planting trees and such. So that we with the many millions of others, who were on the climate strike on Friday, can play our part, as people who serve the Creator.

We think also of the people in Sudan who are undergoing tremendous floods at the moment. Great loss of life there and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere!
And those who are affected by COVID, those who are labouring at enormous risk and bravery to be the medical carers. Just so grateful to them, they should get a medal for this!
And as well as those who are suffering, being injured, and who are dying, and their loved ones. Again, Lord, we ask for significantly good leadership, and stopping this political carping that goes on all over the place.

Today, especially we think of our neighbours in Melbourne, who are starting to come clear. We pray against complacency. We pray for vaccine and treatments that will make life safe again. We pray for those particularly, Lord, whose mental health is being damaged, who are really struggling with isolation, and those who are suffering through lack of income. So many, people under hardship! We pray for a compassion between us that's mediated by a good government policy, that will support one another in this time of crisis. And not just support business owners of the big money.

We pray for members of our congregation particularly who are struggling at the moment with that kind of loneliness and isolation those who've got health issues hanging over their head and are trying to come good. And particularly Neil and Bronwyn, but also others who are in aged care, who are very vulnerable at this particular time. Our hearts go out to them.

We just pray for one another, that in these times, we can be a source of encouragement to those around us in the neighbourhood. Just because church services are closed doesn't mean the church is closed. We can be loving our neighbours and taking the initiative and being the ones, Lord, who like you taken initiative to go out of your way to care in all humility for those around us. We pray that we might have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus.

And as the congregation, we look to plan for the future of the congregation we pray that the joint nominating committee and the chair particularly will be well guided to find a way forward to recover our mission. And not just to go back to the way things were, back when we were all young, But the way things need to be so that young people today will feel at home and will feel it's a life they can commit themselves to. Lord please in your mercy move us forward in the selection of our next minister.

In Jesus name, amen.

Hymn: Be thou my vision

Closing Prayers

Offering prayer

Loving God,

Help us to use the gifts you have given us, as individuals, and as your church, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for you are at work in us, and you enable us to do your will and to work for your good pleasure.

Guide us to do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that we may be blameless and innocent, your children without blemish who you shine like stars in the world.

Give us hope, so that even if we are poured out as a libation we will be glad and rejoice each other.


Return to face-to-face worship

As you will have read, Carlingford Uniting Church is reopening for face-to-face worship on the 11th of October. We have a Covid-Safe Plan, and the church council is confident that the risks can be safely managed.

It won’t be worship as it was back in February and early March – there will be social distancing, and there won’t be singing and there won’t be morning tea, but there will be Covid-Safe Holy Communion.

We will be continuing to offer on-line worship in the current form. No one should feel pressured to attend, and of course if you have any Covid like symptoms you should not attend.

Please prayerfully consider whether you should attend or not, and uphold in prayer your church council and all those who will be preparing and conducting face-to-face worship.


As we finish our time of worship together, wherever we are:

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever.


Looking OutGod who walks with the people

Next week (4th October 2020):

Psalm 19 or Psalm 80:7-15
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 or Isaiah 5:1-7
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

For worship
Psalm 19
Philippians 3:4b-14

Theme: “Looking back, looking forward”