Skip to main content
Philippians 2:12-18

Appearing As Lights in a Dark Age

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • September 17, 2023

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Appearing As Lights in a Dark Age

Philippians 2:12-18


Illus. Light pad.


This morning, as we continue in Philippians chapter 2, we will read an important statement from Paul to the church at Philippi that is a statement that also applies to you and I who are in Christ. It has to do with the way the world views them and the fact that they are the light. Specifically, he wrote, “you appear as lights in the world;” other translation read similarly but paint the picture even more clearly, “you will shine among them like the stars in the sky.”

That the church is called the light of the world, is not something that should come as much a surprise to you and I. It is a statement that Jesus Himself made in His day, and it is a truth that we should remain mindful of as we live out our days. The picture Paul illustrates of a dark sky that is lit up only by the stars in it. Those stars shine quite bright in the dark of night, and Paul wants the church to know, that is who you are.

From the very beginning the Bible draws a distinction between darkness and light:

Genesis 1:3-4, God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

As Jesus’ ministry on earth began, Matthew quoted what was foretold of His coming to earth in Isaiah 9:2.

Matthew 4:16, The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.

Jesus as the light of the world is evident throughout His life…

John 9:5, While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.

John 8:12, Then Jesus again spoke to them saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of life.”

Matthew 5:14, You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

With these verses in mind, those in Christ have the Light of life, they appear as light in a dark world. We are a light that is seen, and there is a way that our lights must shine.

From the verses we cover today, I want to look specifically at four important approaches Paul gives for our appearance as light in a dark age. Specifically we will look at four approaches that center on your work, your ways, your walk, and God’s Word.

In context, Paul just got through a powerful section calling the church to humility, and unity as the body of Christ. Then he points to the example of humility, sacrifice and glory seen through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 11, he told the church that every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…Then in verse 12, he uses the word “therefore” as he goes on telling us how to live in the world as those who have already bowed their knee and confessed with their tongue that Jesus is Lord.


  1. Work Out What God Works In


Philippians 2:12-13, So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.


  • Verse 12 begins with the words “so then,” most translations read “therefore,” and it is the third time in this chapter Paul has used the word.


  • Paul had just spoken to Jesus’ work, coming to earth as God incarnate, make the way to salvation for all who would put their faith, trust, and belief in Him.


  • In that section, he also wrote of Jesus’ obedience to the point of death on a cross.


  • Paul continued, “Therefore…just as you have always obeyed.” We should not miss the connection between Jesus humility, obedience to the will of the Father, and the obedience we are called to as Jesus followers.


  • Jesus is our model, we are to follow Him and His ways.


  • Jesus is a model to us of obedience, Paul was there in Philippi and now he was absent. Paul was in prison in Rome. As we discussed in chapter one, he did not know which way things would go for him. Here Paul tells the people to remain obedient to the Lord.


  • Whether I am with you, or away, stay obedient, Jesus is the model you are to look to regardless of who is watching or looking at you.


Illus. When the cat’s away…


Hebrews 5:7-9, During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him. (NIV)


  • Through Christ we have been shown the way to walk out our lives, and through Christ we have also been given salvation.


  • 12(b) – 13, Just as you have always obeyed, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.


  • As Paul continues, he points us to the word work. In those two verses we are told that God is at work in us, and His work in us, causes us to desire and to work for His good pleasure.


  • Other translations read that God’s work in us affects our will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. I like the way NLT reads, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”


  • So when God is at work in our lives, He works some things in. Through Jesus’ work on earth and in our lives, we have been given salvation!


  • This is an important distinction because in verse 12 we read “work out your own salvation…”


  • Some might read this and be tempted to think that they can work their way to salvation, or work for their salvation.


  • Notice Paul does not says, “work to earn your salvation” or “work so you will have salvation,” rather he wrote, “work out your salvation.”


Ephesians 2:8-10, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.


  • Salvation is not the result of works; it is by grace through faith. Still, we are God’s workmanship, and there a good works for us to walk in.


  • In other words, “work out what God works in.”


  • The word “workout” is katergazomai. It is translated committing or carrying something out. It is a word that means to work something to full completion.


Illus. Working out.


Illus. What about him?


  • Then Paul gives us our approach to working out our own salvation… “With fear and trembling.”


  • What is being describes is an awe-filled reverence as we work according to the model shown and the salvation supplied by our master. It is not fear and trembling of a harsh master, but rather, a desire to do the best I can because God has given me His very best. I do not want to fail Him, but rather to please Him.


  • Let’s look back to our approach to our appearance as lights in the world. We should appear as those who are working out what God works and has worked in. He is working in you to provide the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.


  • In verses 14 and 15 Paul gives the church some ways to work out their salvation in light of the world they were in.


Philippians 2:14-15, Do all things without complaining or arguments; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.


  1. Attach Your Ways to What He Says


  • Paul gets to the point in those verses, “you appear as lights in the world, the generation you are in is crooked and perverse, so do all things without complaining or arguments, so that you would prove yourselves to be children of God in the midst of the world you are in.”


  • First, do all things without complaining or arguments. There he speaks to how the church is to “do all things.”


  • In all the things we are doing, there are some things Paul wants us to do without, “complaining and arguments.”


  • The word for complaining is best translated, “grumbling.” It is defined as a secret displeasure, a murmuring or muttering.


  • Next he wrote, without arguments, the word here is disputing. The idea is constant debate, everything is a debate, a point of contention, or a dispute.


Vs. 15, So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach…


  • Being blameless is “free from fault,” innocent carries the idea of being “unmixed” or true like pure metal or wine. We are to be unmixed with sin or evil.


  • New King James translates innocent as “harmless” meaning there are no harmful additives, nothing harmful is mixed in. It seems that mixing these things in would make us look mixed up.


Romans 16:19, Be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil.


  • The church should be free from things that would mix in and weaken it.


  • When a church is filled with murmering and muttering and conflict, it is not a church that gives the appearance of the light in a dark world.


Matthew 10:16, Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (NKJV)


Illus. Stop light.

  • Paul gives us the facts, there is an approach to this world we need to have that is consistent with our lives in Christ. Paul says do these things so that you will prove yourselves children of God.


Philippians 2:15, So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.


  • Paul tells the people what they are to be because in there day historically, they were in a crooked and perverse generation.


  • A generation is defined as a people who are born and living at the same period of time.


  • Interestingly, Moses sung a song in Deuteronomy 32 and in verse 5 of that song, he called the nation, when they had gone astray, “a perverse and crooked” generation.


  • So Paul wrote this 2,000 years ago, Moses wrote it 4,000 years ago, and in our day today, it don’t take too much looking or digging to say “whoa! We are in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”


  • Let’s look at the words Paul wrote specifically.


  • The word for crooked is the word “skolios” (skahl ee osss). It is where we get our word scoliosis from which is a medical condition of the bending of the spine. Specifically a sideway curvature.


  • By using this word, Paul is saying, church, you live in a culture that is sideways, morally bent, it’s crooked.


  • Next is the word, “perverse.” That is a word that means “distorted, corrupt, turned the wrong way and toward the wrong path.”


  • It is a word that Jesus used when He said “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?”


Illus. In the midst.


2 Timothy 3:1-5


2 Timothy 3:13-16, Evil people and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness.


  • We see the crooked ways, of a crooked world that is all bent out of shape, what are we to do? Attach our ways to what the Lord says.


  • Paul tells Timothy, these things are going to be going on, but as for you Timothy, continue in what you have been taught, knowing that all Scripture is there for you in all situations you might go through.


Philippians 2:15, You appear as lights in the world…



III.  Walk as Lights in the World


  • The word for “lights” here depicts something that illuminates.


  • The NIV describes the crooked and perverse generation and then tells us that we shine among this world as the stars in the sky.


  • In other words, the world is more and more crooked, darker and darker, but in this world, you as followers of Christ, appear as light in a very dark world.  


Matthew 5:14, You are the light of the world…


  • When Jesus gave that description, He didn’t say that His followers should consider becoming the light, rather, by the very nature of your being His, He tells you who you are.


  • Let’s break this down because Jesus is making it personal.


  • Jesus says “you,” and the pronoun “you” in the Greek language is emphatic. He is saying “you as my followers are the only light of the world.”


  • “You” is also plural, meaning all of His followers, are the light.


  • Next is the word “are” which is given in the present tense. This means that Jesus is saying that you as my followers are right now the only light of the world.


  • Paul says, you appear as lights in the world. So then, if I don’t make an appearance, the light is not in that place, it is not appearing, it is not being seen.


Illus. Where is the light?


Illus. Don’t let the world get in the way!


  • The last part of our approach to our appearance as lights, is what we hold onto as we walk through this world.


Philippians 2:16-18, Holding firmly the word of life…


  1. Hold Firmly to the Word of Life


  • As we appear as light in a dark age, it should be clear that we are holding firmly to the word of life.


  • We should have a good grip on it. We should know it, study it, review it, and cling to it. It is the message that has given us eternal life, may we never let it but hold it firmly.


  • I close with this question. What is it that you are holding firmly to. And would you let go of anything and everything that has gotten in the way of Jesus in your life?


Illus. Won’t let go.

Philippians 2:12-18
12So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.
14Do all things without complaining or arguments; 15so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding firmly the word of life, so that on the day of Christ I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.


DonateLike this sermon?

If you enjoyed the sermon and would like to financially support our teaching ministry, we thank you in advance for partnering with us in sending forth the word.


We have a service in progress. Would you like to join our live stream? Join The Live Stream No Thanks