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
Paul exhorts the church in Philippi to continue in obedience, even when he’s not there to “watch out” for them. As their spiritual father he feels the need to be ever watchful of their conduct. But also, knowing he must allow them to walk the path set before them, with the Spirit being their guide, he exhorts them to work out their salvation. How? With fear and trembling.
What?? Fear? And trembling?
Yes. Fear. The word for phobias…phobos. It literally means with dread and terror. So much of the time we like to put the word “reverence” in place of the word fear, hoping, I believe, not to sound so “fire and brimstone.” However, in this case we must keep the word as it is meant to be. Fear of our God…”the consuming fire”…the Lion of Judah who is able to crush our bones…the LORD whose longsuffering can be spent…the Rock who will crush civilization at the end of days. Yes…we need to fully understand His character.
And trembling. In case you didn’t catch the word fear, Paul adds another word to make his point…trembling:
1) a trembling or quaking with fear
2) with fear and trembling, used to describe the anxiety of one who
distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but
religiously does his utmost to fulfil his duty
It’s the second meaning which is used in this passage.
One who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfill his duty.
Not trusting in my own ability, yet, working to fulfill my duty.
My duty to whom?
To Him who is able to make my paths straight.
To Him who keeps diligent watch over my soul.
To Him who desires my best good for His glory.
To Him who set me apart as His own possession.
I am not my own. I’ve been bought with a price. The price? His shed blood on the cross to cover my sins.
And yet, the good news…not that I am to strive to make it to heaven…not that I work for my salvation. Salvation is a gift given to me through faith in Him.
Do you see the next part of the verse? He is the one doing the work.
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
He doesn’t leave us to strive on our own, hoping to accomplish all He’s asked of us. No. He is the one who will do the work in us, to bring us to a complete end. He will do all He has set forth to accomplish…why? Because it brings Him pleasure to do this work in us.
It brings Him delight to see His bride dressed in glory.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6
Yes, I have a work to do, but I do not need to be concerned of the outcome. Why? Because He is faithful and will make me to stand in His presence, blameless and with great joy!
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to make you stand in the presence of His glory
Blameless with great joy,
To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
Before all time and now and forever.