Philippians | 1:1-18 | 1:19-30 | 2:1-11 | 2:12-30 | 3:1-11 | 3:12-21 | 4:1-9 | 4:10-23 | PDF |

This Philippians 2:12-30 Bible study contains commentary, outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group studies.

Philippians 2:12-30 Bible Study Commentary And Questions – Lights in the World


I. Christian Living Applications (12-18)
II. Paul’s plans to send Timothy and Epaphroditus (19-30)

I. Christian Living Applications (12-18)

Discussion Questions

  •  What does it show about the Philippians that they obeyed whether Paul was there or not?
  •  What does it mean to work out your salvation?
  •  Why with fear and trembling?
  •  What is the relationship of this instruction to the previous passage?
  •  How does verse 13 relate to verse 12?
  •  How can it help believers knowing that God is also at work in us?
  •  Why does God do this work?
  •  Share an example of a situation that tempts you to grumble or complain.
  •  Explain the phrase “prove yourselves” from verse 15. Prove to whom?
  •  How can you shine as a light in the world? Share an example of a way to shine the light.
  •  What is the word of life? How can you “hold fast” to it?
  •  What does Paul’s running/toiling refer to? Why were these not in vain? What kind of life is in vain?
  •  What is the world toiling after? What about you?


John 14:15 – If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Lamentations 3:40 – Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!

James 5:9 – Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Matthew 5:14-16 – 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 a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. The Philippians obeyed – In verse 12, Paul gives quite the compliment to the Philippians. He says that they “have always obeyed.” And they have obeyed whether or not Paul was physically present with them. That is the mark of true obedience. Many children may act obedient when their parent or teacher is present, but then when they are alone, their behavior may be markedly different. A person who is truly obedient to God obeys regardless of who is or isn’t watching.

Application: Is your behavior different when others are around compared to when you are alone? If the answer is “yes,” then you also need to evaluate why that is the case. If you act one way in front of one group and another way in front of a different group or by yourself, then most likely, your motivation is wrong. It could be that you are motivated by a desire to please others or look good instead of wanting to please God.

2. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling – The command here to “work out your salvation” goes back to verses 10-11. In those verses, we saw that every person will one day bow the knee to Jesus and confess He is Lord. This will either happen voluntarily now or, if people refuse to bow themselves, then one day God will force them to. If a person is not saved, judgment in hell will follow their forced acknowledgment of Christ. And that is why Paul says to “work out your salvation.” In other words, “make sure you are saved!”

Application: Every believer should periodically perform self-examination. Do not rely on a decision that you made when you were a child or when you raised your hand during an altar call. I do not mean that those decisions are invalid. Once a person is saved, he is always saved (John 10:27-30). However, many people are not saved but think they are (Matthew 7:21). Some people are living sinful and selfish lifestyles while saying, “I am safe. I prayed the salvation prayer.”

Jesus said that “every good tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18.) If you are saved, there should be fruit in your life. Do you have a love for God? Do you have a lifestyle of obedience? Do you have a passion for the lost? Is your life typified by hatred of sin and a desire for holiness? Are you repentant when you sin? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when you examine your spiritual condition.

The most vital question you can ever ask yourself is, “Am I saved?”

There is a test that we can give ourselves in 1 John 3:9, “No one born of God practices sinning.” So, the test is, “Am I practicing sin?”

We should use this test to examine our own lives to see where we fall short. Examine to see if our heart truly belongs to God. If we find that we are practicing sin, we must fall on our knees before God, repent, and STOP practicing sin. We could title this verse, “give yourself a spiritual self-exam.”

So, I would ask, have you given yourself the self-exam? Have you really looked hard at these Scriptures and evaluated your actions by them?

Often, when people go for checkups, the doctor will tell them they are unhealthy. They are overweight. They are not eating well. They are not exercising well. The patient says, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” Then on the way home, he buys a couple of Monster burgers, an order of French fries, and a large soda. He arrives home, plumps himself down on the couch, and flips on the TV. He continues on in the exact same lifestyle until what happens? He has a heart attack. I hope none of you will be like this patient. Perform this self-exam and then change your lifestyle accordingly. If none of us make any applications from this, we have wasted our time studying this chapter.

3. For it is God who works in you – Although we are supposed to examine ourselves and make sure we are saved, Paul does not say to “work hard for salvation.” Salvation is always given as a gift of God through faith by grace. Salvation is God’s work on our behalf. Jesus accomplished it through His death and resurrection. If you try to work to earn God’s merit, whatever you do will never be enough.

In these two verses, we see once again the dual truths of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty taught side by side. God gives salvation, but we should ensure that we have truly received it through genuine faith.

4. Do all things without grumbling or disputing – Sometimes verses contain profound theological truth that is difficult to understand and requires much thought and study. Other times it is a simple application. This verse falls into the latter category. Every person can read this verse and know what it means (hint: it means that we should not grumble or argue). But doing it is another thing.

I can think over my life and remember certain things that have “set me off” and caused me to complain. Here are a few examples:

  •  Not being able to find something I need where I thought I put it (for example, a tool or document).
  •  Things breaking, like computers, phones, or door-knobs. I like things to go smoothly and don’t enjoy fixing things.
  •  People who are annoying, divisive, or demanding.
  •  Just missing the bus or the train.
  •  Inept and sinful governments.

I could go on. What is something that happens that tempts you to complain?

God’s word is clear here. God does not want us to complain. Ever! About anything! It says to do “all things” without grumbling. Our sinful natures mean we have a bias toward complaining. It is much more natural for us to complain than it is for us to be thankful. Words of complaint flow far easier out of our mouths than words of appreciation.

Application: How can we better control what we say to make sure we don’t complain? What is something that you sometimes complain about that you can thank God for now? How can we train ourselves so that gratitude will flow more easily than words of complaint?

5. Among whom you shine as lights in the world –