Philippians 2:12-13

In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation. He makes a connection between the obedience Jesus showed in following God’s plan, and what he expected of the Christ Followers at Philippi. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” The Philippian believers had a good track record of walking in obedience with God, but Paul reinforces how important it is that they continue.

Guzik explains “We know that Paul did not mean “work so as to earn your own salvation.” Such a statement would contradict the whole of Paul’s gospel. What Paul did mean is to call the Philippians to put forth real effort into their Christian lives. This is not to work their salvation in the sense of accomplishing it, but to work out their salvation – to see it evident in every area of their lives, to activate this salvation God freely gave them. There is a sense in which our salvation is complete, in the sense that Jesus has done a complete work for us. Still there is also a sense in which our salvation is incomplete, in that it is not yet a complete work in us.” Working out our salvation is not about earning it, but making it complete by activating it.

Spurgeon explained Therefore, “These words, as they stand in the New Testament, contain no exhortation to all men, but are directed to the people of God. They are not intended as an exhortation to the unconverted; they are, as we find them in the epistle, beyond all question addressed to those who are already saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s writing here is to the believers only. And Muller further explains “The believer must finish, must carry to conclusion, must apply to its fullest consequences what is already given by God in principle… He must work out what God in His grace has worked in.” Paul tells us that this is personal – our own salvation – and we need to begin by working it out through caring for our own soul.

Paul gives us the reason why Christians must work out their salvation with fear and trembling – because God is working in them. Since God has done and is doing a work in us as Christians, we have a greater responsibility to work diligently with fear and trembling regarding our own salvation and walk with the Lord. God’s work in us increases our responsibility; it doesn’t lessen it in any way. God’s work in us extends to the transformation of our will, as well as changing our actions. And the motive that should drive us to work salvation out is to please God as it gives Him pleasure – it is pleasing to Him when we are walking in obedience and completing the salvation He freely gave us through Jesus Christ.

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