Philippians 2.12 says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” What does Paul mean by this? He just used Jesus as an example of selflessness, positing him as the ultimate authority. He just told them that they needed to put others above self and correct several issues. So this verse is a warning — if they didn’t work out their problems, they would die spiritually.
Resolving conflict is not just a good idea, it’s unequivocally necessary. Paul wanted Euodia and Syntyche to appreciate how dangerous their feud was for their spiritual health. They were to be so afraid of eternal consequences that they drop everything to fix the issue.
2.14-16 has even more imperatives — do everything without complaining about it so you’ll be blameless in God’s eyes. That’s the second time he’s said this, the first was in his prayer in chapter 1. In 2.16, Paul reminds them of how much he invested in them and hopes that he hasn’t wasted his time.
We’re all familiar with Philippians 3.1, “Rejoice in the lord.” This isn’t a generic, feel-good reminder. This is an imperative! They weren’t finding their purpose in God, so Paul had to demand that they make a change.
Then he uses three more imperatives in a row — keep an eye out for people who try to undermine your faith. This might seem like a typical ADHD tangent for Paul, but this is where he uses himself as an example of sacrifice and selflessness again.
This is the heart of confrontation: 3.12-16 — “I don’t mean that I’m exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me. I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has given me a higher calling through Jesus. All of us who have grown to be spiritually mature should think this way too. And if there is any of this that you don’t agree with, God will make it clear to you. But we should continue following the truth we already have.”
The worst part about confrontation is that our own faults are at the front of our minds. Who are we to correct someone else’s imperfections when we have plenty of our own? Paul addresses that with this section. We’re never going to be perfect, but that shouldn’t keep us from trying. Our own imperfection also shouldn’t keep us from watching out for the spiritual health of our Christian family!