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 salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
— PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13 —
S. W. | Asia
This is Paul’s first charge to believers after developing one of the most glorious pictures of the “mind of Christ” in Philippians 2:5–11. In context, the main charge, “work out your salvation,” must be connected to a Christlike humility that Paul has been calling us toward. Here Paul gives three motivations to a Christlike walk of obedience. First, our Christlikeness must be lived out not in the fear of man, but in the fear of God. This is conveyed through, “just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence, but now much more in my absence.” Our reverence and relationship with our Savior enables a faithfulness that goes beyond human or apostolic accountability. Our reverence and relationship with our Savior enables a faithfulness that goes beyond human or apostolic accountability. Second, our Christlikeness is motivated by a sense of our weakness and sinfulness, especially in our tendency toward pride. This is how Paul uses this phrase, “fear and trembling” in other contexts (1 Cor. 2:1–3). Those who know their sinful weakness are driven to depend on their Savior. Third and finally, our Christlikeness is motivated by God’s sovereign faithfulness to us. We only “work out” what He has already “worked in” the more difficult areas of our will, and to do so for His “good pleasure.” His sovereign work in regeneration and sanctification enable us to live for Him and love Him more. What an encouraging charge to us in our daily Christian walk! We will fail even in sanctification apart from Him. We must tune our heart to His pleasure alone, by His strength alone, and all the glory will go to Him alone!