SO THEN MY BELOVED JUST AS YOU
HAVE ALWAYS OBEYED NOT IN MY PRESENCE ONLY BUT NOW MUCH MORE IN MY
ABSENCE: hoste agapetoi mou kathos pantote hupkousate (2PAAI) mê
hôs en têi parousiâi monon alla nun pollo mallon en te apousia mou:
1Cor 4:14; 1Pet 2:11-note)
(obeyed Php 1:5-note,
TO PRACTICAL IMPLICATION
Having dealt with
the voluntary humiliation of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul went on to
apply this truth in a practical way in the remainder of this chapter.
The respected expositor J Ligon
Duncan makes a strong statement with which I heartily concur that
Php 2:12,13 "is one of the most important
passages in all of the Bible about
sanctification." (See his sermon on
Philippians 2:12-13 Live Life in
Light of the Exaltation of Christ)
Henry Alford - After this glorious example (of
Christ's obedience to His Father in Php 3:5-11) he exhorts them to
earnestness after Christian perfection (not an attainment but a goal
at which we should aim) (Philippians
2:13 Commentary - The NT for English Readers)
rightly says that "True worship of Christ inspires our
work; singing the praise of Christ motivates us to build the community
in Christ. (Pillar
New Testament Commentary The Letter to the Philippians).
2:12-13 Paul presents two opposite and yet completely harmonious sides
of the Christian life, the first emphasizing man's responsibility
based on the truths just presented and the second emphasizing God's sovereign
enablement which allows man to fulfill his solemn responsibility. Although God's part
follows in Philippians 2:13, clearly man's part in Philippians 2:12
would be impossible without God's empowerment!
Lloyd Jones explains the so then (therefore) - We also saw that the
Apostle's object in writing the words was not to give a disquisition on
theology, but rather to make a practical appeal. Yet, as is his custom,
he cannot make a practical appeal without putting it in terms of
doctrine. That is where the New Testament way of life differs from a
merely ethical system. Any appeal to the world to live a Christian life
before it has become Christian, is, as we have seen, a negation of
Christian teaching. We have here a perfect illustration of the Apostle's
method. But it is true also of all the New Testament writers; it is the
characteristic way of making an appeal for conduct and Christian
behaviour. We are not put under a law but an appeal is made to us. There
is a great law of life in the New Testament, but it is what the New
Testament calls 'the perfect law of liberty' (James 1:25). This does not
mean that the Christian is living a lawless life, but that he has a
higher kind of liberty. The New Testament always lays down its doctrine
first, and then, having done so, says, 'If you believe that, cannot you
see that this is inevitable?' It is an appeal to equity, to fair play.
It does not confront us with a way of life, and say, 'Go and live it.'
It first of all tells us of certain things that have been done for us,
and then says, 'Now then ...'As you make the transition from
doctrine to practice in the epistles, there is always a 'wherefore'
or a 'therefore', and I am at pains to point out that the
essential approach is to be found in such a connecting word. Without
that, there is no appeal, but because of that, there is a very definite
appeal to reason and to commonsense. (Philippians 2:12-13 Working Out Our Own
So then (5620)
(hoste) is used to draw a conclusion from a preceding statement, introducing "an
inferential lesson (1Co 3:21, 4:5, 10:12; 1Th 4:18, etc.)" (Eadie).
In short, so then is a
term of conclusion
which should always prompt you
to pause to ponder "What, when, why, who, where, how"
which usually will force you to examine the previous
In the present case Paul draws our attention back to Philippians 2:5, 6,
Php 2:8-note to the Lord's example of humility,
submission and obedience to guide us and His exaltation to encourage us.
Paul had just described Christ's obedience to the will of His Father.
Based on Christ's example of obedience and the Philippians' obedience
when Paul was present, they were to allow the obedience of their Lord to
motivate and enable their ongoing obedience (under grace not law) when
Paul was not present.
D A Carson
on so then (therefore) - In other words, Paul is now drawing
logical connections from the hymn of praise he has just offered up to
Christ. There are at least two logical links in the connections he
draws. First, every knee shall bow (Phil 2:10): therefore we do well to
live in the light of the fact that we shall all bow before Christ on the
last day and give an account to Him. Second and more importantly, Christ
Jesus, after terrible suffering, was finally vindicated. So shall we be.
He obeyed and endured to the end and was finally vindicated. “Therefore
. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling . . .”
J Ligon Duncan
on so then (therefore in some translations) - "So
here we see — and it’s not surprising, is it, because he’s just shown
you Jesus’ obedience — and then he’s said therefore, and
then he says to you what? “Continue to obey.” So he is
calling believers to obey. There is no idea in the Apostle Paul’s
teaching that obedience is not an essential part of the Christian life.
There are many, many well-meaning Christians who don’t believe – or who
actively teach – that obedience is not a part of the Christian life. And
the Apostle Paul is telling us here, ‘No, no, no! Obedience is vital to
the Christian life, so continue to obey." (Philippians 2:12-13 Live Life in
Light of the Exaltation of Christ)
adds that "When Christ is proposed to us as an
Example (as in the preceding context), the inference (of "so then") is, that we should
uphold ("work out") the salvation He has procured for us." (Philippians
2:12 Commentary - Critical English Testament)
captures the spirit of the apostle's thought of so
then paraphrasing it "As you have the Example of Christ's humiliation (Ed:
And I would add "His obedience") to guide you and His
exaltation to encourage you, so continue.
Marvin Vincent on so then
- The point of connection through hoste
with the preceding passage is hupekoos (obedient) in Php 2:8. As Christ
obtained exaltation and heavenly glory through perfect obedience to God,
therefore do you, with like subjection to Him (Ed: And
with continual yielding to and dependence on the supernatural enabling
power of the Holy Spirit of Christ Who indwells all believers!), carry out your own
salvation. The spirit of obedience is to be shown in their godly fear,
in the avoidance of murmuring and skeptical criticism (Php 2:14-note),
and in their holy lives and their bold proclamation of the gospel in the
midst of ungodly men (Php 2:15-note).
For a similar use of hoste, comp. Php 4:1 ; Ro 7:12 ; 1Co 14:39, 15:58-note.
Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians)
writes that the so then (wherefore) "goes back to Php 1:27-note where Paul’s
presence and absence are referred to as in this verse. In Php 1:27 we
have Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian saints to conduct themselves
as citizens of heaven should. Then the apostle singles out one of the
obligations of a citizen of heaven, that of living in harmony and unity
with his fellow-saints. In Php 2:1-4, he gives four reasons which in
themselves are enablements, why they should live in unity together, and
further develops the theme of Christian unity....Now, in Php 2:12, 13, the
apostle exhorts these saints to make the humility and
self-abnegation (self surrender, self denial, self renunciation)
exhibited by the Lord Jesus, a fact in their own lives. (Philippians
Commentary - Verse by Verse)
Here is a summary
of some of the previous statements that call for the saints at Philippi
to work out their salvation...
continually) yourselves in a manner worthy of the (a supernatural
conduct which is in keeping with the supernatural power of the ) gospel
of Christ (Php 1:27-note)
Don't delay. Do this now and do it effectively) by being of the same
mind (Php 2:2-note)
(Literally) Nothing from selfishness (Php 2:3a-note) ("Do" added)
Let each of you regard (present
continually) one another as more important than himself (Php 2:3b-note)
Do not merely look out for (present
tense = continually) your own personal interests. (Php 2:4-note)
Have this attitude
continually) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. (Php 2:5-note)
Christ has set the
example (compare Jn 13:15 with Php 2:3, 4-note)
for us to work out, to walk in His steps (1Pe 2:21-note)
and show love for Him (Jn 14:15). Shall we hesitate to follow?
I pray not and may we learn to trust in the enabling power of His
Spirit. The essence of what Paul is saying is that in view of the fact
that Christ exhibited a servant's heart (Mk 10:45, Mt 20:28, Jn 13:4, 5)
and an obedient, selfless spirit, so should we.
As John Eadie
says "Will it not endear itself to your
imitation as you look upon it (Christ's example of perfect obedience)." (The
Epistle to the Philippians)
Martyn Lloyd Jones
emphasizes this close tie between the previous Christological doctrine
and the believer's earnest duty (behavior)
asking "is there anything that so
thoroughly tests our whole profession of the Christian faith as our
reaction to it when it calls upon us to live a certain kind of life? I
put it like that for this good reason: do we not all know something in
our experience about this unnatural and artificial dichotomy? We may
like to hear the gospel with its grand good news and all that it has
to offer, but we do not always feel quite so pleased when it goes on
to call us to live in a particular way. There are people who say, 'But
it is so narrow.' When it outlines a 'straight and narrow way', they
say, 'Narrowness again!' Because of the 'wherefore', because of this
indissoluble connection between doctrine and practice, because, too,
of this inevitable logical sequence from doctrine to behaviour, our
attitude towards the appeal tells us a great deal about our ultimate
attitude to the doctrine. The New Testament says that these things are
really inevitable, they are linked together, so if I object to doing
them, it surely implies that there is at any rate something wrong with
my view of the doctrine. There is, then, no better test of my whole
position, than my reaction when I am confronted with this amazing call
of the New Testament to deny myself and take up the cross and follow
Christ, to mortify my 'flesh', 'the deeds of the body', and 'my
members which are upon the earth' and all those other New Testament
ways of putting it. (Philippians 2:12-13 Working Out Our Own
adds the important note that...
One of the greatest realities of the
Incarnation was the fact that what Jesus did He did in the Spirit’s
power (Lk 4:1, 14, 18; 5:17; Ac 10:38; cf Mt 12:18, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32). The
essence of living the Christian life is being obedient like Him: “The
one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same
manner as He walked” (1Jn 2:6). (MacArthur,
J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Comment: MacArthur gives us an
important reminder when we consider "imitating" Christ's example in our
life. Even as He Himself conducted His earthly life in full surrender and dependence on the Holy
Spirit, so too must we as believers learn to daily, moment by moment
yield to the the control of the Spirit, a process which we must carry
out the remainder of our time on earth. In other words, there is no
saint, no matter how sanctified, how Christ-like or how godly, who will
ever achieve a level of spiritual growth in which they can say that they
have "arrived." Lifelong humble dependence on the blessed Holy Spirit is
to be our continual state and praise God that the Spirit is His
continual provision! We all experience some periods when we are walking
wonderfully in step with the Spirit, but we also experience days of
disappointing defeat and failure to trust and obey. But don't let the
"cloudy days" discourage you. Confess and turn from your sins and lean
hard on His everlasting arms. As William Cowper wrote...
Judge not the Lord by feeble
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
comments on the phrase "just as" - As is by no means superfluous, but
gives the sense not as if (it were a matter to be done) in my presence
only, but now (as things are at present) much more (with more
earnestness) in my absence (because spiritual help from me is withdrawn
from you), carry out (bring to an accomplishment) your own (emphasis on
your own, perhaps as directing attention to the example of Christ which
has preceded -- as He obeyed and won His exaltation, so do you obey and
carry our your own salvation) salvation (which is begun with
justification by faith, but must be carried out, brought to an issue, by
sanctification of the Spirit -- a life of holy obedience and advance to
Christian perfection (Ed: Not sinlessness). (The
New Testament for English Readers)
= to love and
= love) refers to the saints at Philippi who Paul loved
dearly with an agape quality of love which is that
unconditional, sacrificial love which flows from the throne of grace, is part of the very essence of God
and which is produced in the yielded saint's heart by the Holy Spirit.
This is a quality of love which calls for one to sacrifice of self for
the sake of the recipient of that love. Paul in using this word agapetos
is indicating to the Philippians that he has a heavenly, divine love for
them, even commending them for their past obedience. His soul is bound up in these
precious saints, who were the among the first Gentile converts in Europe
(read about the Macedonian Vision, God opening Lydia's heart and the
converted jailer at Philippi beginning in Acts 16:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,
61x in 60v in NAS - Mt 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mk 1:11; 9:7; 12:6; Lk
3:22; 20:13; Acts 15:25; Rom 1:7; 11:28; 12:19; 16:5, 8f, 12; 1 Cor
4:14, 17; 10:14; 15:58; 2 Cor 7:1; 12:19; Eph 5:1; 6:21; Php 2:12; 4:1;
Col 1:7; 4:7, 9, 14; 1Th 2:8; 1Ti 6:2; 2Ti 1:2; Philemon 1:1,
16; Heb 6:9; Jas 1:16, 19; 2:5; 1Pet 2:11; 4:12; 2 Pet 1:17; 3:1, 8,
14f, 17; 1Jn 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11; 3Jn 1:1f, 5, 11; Jude 1:3,
conveys a tenderness and affection which lend force to the injunctions
which follow while providing a clear word of comfort and encouragement.
This tender, affectionate greeting would serve to temper any note of
harshness in his exhortation/ Paul uses beloved
twice in Phil 4:1 writing...
Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I
long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
While this verse
is actually Paul's first use of beloved in Philippians it does recall
his earlier declaration of love for them...
God is my
witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Php
explains that "Christ’s obedience established the
ultimate moral standard of obedience for followers of Christ. Paul does
not set up this standard in an accusing way but in an affirming way. He
embraces his readers by calling them my dear friends, literally, “my
beloved.” This strong expression of love for his friends continues
the theme of friendship in this letter." (Pillar
New Testament Commentary The Letter to the Philippians).
How different the
tone is here from books like Galatians, where Paul is dealing with the
danger of legalism and works (Gal 2:4, 5:1, 2).
Just as you have
always obeyed - The idea is "Recall the times when you were filled with
the Spirit and walked in obedience, disciplining yourselves for
godliness, etc." And so first Paul
encourages then with a reminder of their past conduct...they had
obeyed. He uses this encouragement to gently prod them onward to a
lifestyle of further obedience. Memory is a good thing when it remembers
is used by Paul to motivate present and future conduct. How different
from his question to the saints in Galatia...
You were running
well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Gal 5:7)
You = The
command is to the entire church at Philippi (and all believers) since
the word you is plural.
is "spot on" commenting that "We should not miss the connection
between the obedience Jesus showed (Php 2:8-note)
and the obedience Paul expects of the Philippians (Php 2:12)." (Philippians 2 Commentary)
from hupó = agency or means, under
+ akoúo = physical hearing, gives us English word "acoustics") literally means to "hear under"
and has the basic meaning of listening to or of placing oneself under what is heard and
therefore submitting and obeying what is heard. Hupakouo implies
the idea of voluntary submission.
Another meaning of
hupakouo in Acts 12:13 presents an informative picture, Luke
And when he knocked at the door of
the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer (hupakouo -
of a doorkeeper who hearkens or answers a knock and opens the door). (Acts 12:13)
21 times in the NT - Mt. 8:27; Mk 1:27; 4:41; Lk 8:25; 17:6; Acts 6:7;
Acts 12:13 ; Ro 6:12-note (believers no longer have to obey the strong desires
of the old fallen sin nature! Don't say you can't stop that sin
believer. Be honest and say "I won't"! You have a power outside of
and inside of you -
the Spirit, the transforming grace of God - which enables supernatural victory over sin
~ progressive sanctification.),
(notice where obedience comes from - not the head, but the heart - in
the New Covenant God gives us a new heart [Ezek 36:26, 27, 11:19, 20, Ro
Ga 6:15, 2Co 5:17-note, Je 31:31, 32, 33, 34, 32:39, 40] that now has a
desire to obey Him - no, not perfectly but as the general rule and
direction of one's
in Christ); Ro 10:16-note
(Don't miss what Paul is explaining - only belief saves, but genuine
belief obeys. If someone says they believe and continually disobey and
have no evidence of a changed life and new power over sin, they could be deceived -
Let us all apply the test given in Paul's solemn admonition 2Co 13:5-note);
Php 2:12; Col 3:20-note,
2Th 1:8 (Context 2Th 1:7 - Who will be punished? Note how this truth parallels Ro 10:16.
Do not be deceived!); 2Th 3:14; He 5:9-note
(What is the associated with eternal salvation? How important is this
point in modern day evangelicalism where there are those who claim salvation
but have no demonstrable change in their lifestyle?);
(Again with what is obedience connected by the writer? See Ro 1:5-note
for discussion of the phrase "obedience of faith");
Acts 6:7 And the word of God kept on
spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly
in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient
to the faith (the faith here refer not to the act of believing but to
the substance of what is believed, and in that sense is synonymous with
the gospel - see
52 uses in the non-apocryphal
Septuagint (LXX)- Ge 16:2; 22:18; 26:5; 27:13; 39:10; 41:40;
Lev. 26:14, 18, 21, 27; Deut. 17:12; 20:12; 21:18, 20; 26:14, 17; 30:2;
Jdg. 2:17; 1 Sam. 30:24; 2 Sam. 22:42; Est. 3:4; Job 5:1; 9:3, 14, 16;
13:22; 14:15; 19:16; 38:34; Ps. 18:44; Prov. 1:24; 2:2; 8:1; 15:23;
17:4; 22:21; 28:17; 29:12, 19; Cant. 3:1; 5:6; Isa. 11:14; 29:24; 50:2;
65:12; 66:4; Jer. 3:13, 25; 13:10; 16:12; Dan. 3:12; 7:27
The word "answer"
is our word hupakouo and in context meant to hear and to answer
as a result of hearing. In secular Greek hupakouo was used of the
doorkeeper whose duty is was to listen for the signals of those who wish
to enter and to admit them if they are entitled to do so. Is the word of
God "knocking" on the door of your mind and heart in any area of your
life? Are you "opening the door" and letting the truth in? Are you
responding to the truth you've let in or have you sequestered it in a
back room of your heart so it won't disturb you?
conveys the idea of subordinating one’s self to the person or thing
heard and hence “to obey”. Paul had used the adjective form
in Philippians 2:8 (see
note) describing Jesus Who "humbled Himself by becoming
obedient (hupekoos) to the point of death, even death on a cross".
Christ is their example of perfect obedience and the Philippian saints
have a good record of obedience in his presence. They had "hearkened" or
given respectful attention to and surrendered to the truth of God's
word as shown by their subsequent behavior. Little wonder that Paul as
the "spiritual father" of these "beloved"
saints had such affection for them for as John writes
I have no
greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in (in the sphere
of or the "atmosphere" of, breathing in) the truth (the Word of God =
not how much the saints at Philippi knew but how well they obeyed.
He knew that when God measures the character of a man or woman, He puts
the tape not around their head but around their heart! Your
conduct does matter! So Paul appeals to the example of Christ's perfect
obedience and their past obedience to continue to exhibit consistent
obedience. Paul knows that ongoing obedience is essential to
sanctification, which cannot occur without it.
Are you a hearer of the word on
Sunday and a "forgetter" on Monday? Are you growing in Christ-likeness
(sanctification) or are you just growing older (and more hardened)
because you hear but don't obey? Beloved brethren, "do
not be deceived, God is not
mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
for a discussion of the phrase "obedience of faith"
which emphasizes the important relationship between belief and
Commentary note asks...
What should be the result of
Christ’s example? I. Obedience. 1. Christ became obedient
even unto death. The Philippians have hitherto been obedient; they were
obedient when the apostle called them to faith and repentance; let them
be obedient now. 2. That obedience is due to God who seeth the heart. We
must not depend too much on human teachers, whether present or absent;
we must look to the unseen Saviour who is ever present, and work out,
each one for himself, our own salvation. (The
makes the point that...
Obedience is defined not in legal
terms but in relational terms as knowing Christ, being like him, and
serving him....When the path of obedience to Christ becomes steep and
dangerous, pleasure seekers look for an easier way. Religious tourists
hunting for sensational entertainment, instantaneous enlightenment, and
emotional excitement will jump on the newest rides and take quick
shortcuts, but they will not be found with pilgrims on the long, hard
road following in the footsteps of Christ, who was obedient to
death—even death on a cross. Paul’s call to unflagging, Christ-like
obedience will not be popular in a world that so highly values going
fast and having fun and so quickly rejects enduring pain and submitting
to authority. But the essential characteristic of the wise who build
their community on Christ is their consistent obedience to Him. (Pillar
New Testament Commentary The Letter to the Philippians).
makes a point that should convict every pastor or teacher of the Word...
The measure of our effectiveness in
ministry is greatly determined by how people live in our absence. We
have accomplished nothing if our disciples only live for God when we're
around and then go back to disobedience or complacency when we leave.
They must learn to feel responsible to God, not to us. (Philippians)
- Integrity in the faith is something
that is revealed in the hidden times more than in the public times. Bill Hybels had a great title for one of his books, "Who You are When No One
is Looking". It is the reminder that who we are when no one is looking
is who we really are. We can all maintain a certain image when we are in
church. But the real test of faith is when we are outside of the church.
The goal of the Christian is to live consistently. Will Rogers perhaps
summed it up well, "Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to
sell your parrot to the town gossip." (Sermon
on Philippians 2:12-13)
comments that Paul's "absence did not make the
obligation (to obey) less imperative, but it demanded more earnestness
and vigilance from them in the discharge of the duty. His voice and
person were a guide and stimulant, his addresses and conversations
reproved their languor, and excited them to assiduous labour, so that
His presence among them wrought like a charm. And now that he was not
with them, and they were left to themselves, they were so much the more
to double their diligence, and work out salvation." (The
Epistle to the Philippians - online -
scholarly but excellent)
that "Their fulfillment of his exhortation
("work out your salvation") was not to be dependent on his being with
them. On the contrary, there was a stronger reason for their carrying it
out when he was absent, as they would realize the more their dependence
on Christ. The power of faith that depends upon the power of the unseen
but personally present Christ is sufficient for the accomplishment of
His will. (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
It is interesting
to see association of obedience linked as in the present verse with
"fear and trembling" in Paul's letter to the Corinthians where he wrote
that the affection of Titus...
abounds all the more toward you,
as he remembers the
of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. (2Co
Now much more in my absence -
This reminds one of Paul's instruction to slaves in Eph 6:6 not to
obey "by way of eyeservice (in the context of Php 2:13, not only when
Paul is present), as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the
will of God from the heart (in the present passage obeying the command
to work out their salvation)".
ESV Study Bible - They cannot
be content with past glories but need to demonstrate their faith day by
day as they nurture their relationship with God.
Pulpit Commentary - They were to make their future, as
they had made their past. They were not to make their obedience to the
gospel dependent on his presence with them. An obedience as in his
presence would have meant negligence in his absence. Nay, they were to
make his absence a stimulus to greater exertion. When they had not his
help they were to feel the greater need of rousing themselves to action.
(Ed: A a greater need on God their ultimate source of spiritual
Paul Apple writes that "the degree of obedience of the child is not determined by what the child
does when the parent is present, but by what he does when the parent is
Apple - Philippians)
John MacArthur comments that
Paul's "point is that there is never a
time when a true believer is not responsible to obey the Lord. Believers
must never be primarily dependent on their pastor, teacher, Christian
fellowship, or anyone else for their spiritual strength and growth.
Their supreme example is the Lord Jesus Christ, and their true power
comes from the Holy Spirit. Believers, gratefully, are never without
Christ’s example and never without the Spirit’s power."
J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Beet adds that "the absence of the teacher’s help
(Paul) making their own care more needful. (Joseph
A Beet - Philippians 2:12 Commentary)
Dwight Pentecost comments that
the example of Christ in the previous verse should be sufficient
motivation for them to obey explaining that "In Paul's mind, if his presence would
put pressure upon them, the example of the loving suffering of the Lord
Jesus Christ ought to put even greater pressure on them. It was Paul's
greatest desire to please a person. That was the motive in his personal
life, and it was not necessary for that Person to be present.
Harry A. Ironside has an
interesting introductory note on this next section applying the truth
more to the entire body of believers rather than to individual
believers writing that...
Philippians 2:12 has often perplexed
those who thought they saw clearly from Scripture the simplicity of
salvation by grace, apart from works. Here, in seeming contrast to that
doctrine, the apostle told the saints to work out their own salvation
with fear and trembling, as though there were a possibility that
salvation might be forfeited because of failure to work it out properly.
Notice first, however, that the apostle did not speak of working
for salvation. He spoke of working it out, which
is very different. I am reminded of a little girl who listened to a
legalistic sermon preached on this text. The minister insisted that no
one could be saved by grace alone; each person must work out his own
salvation. At the close of the service she innocently asked, "Mother, how can you work it out if
you haven't got it in?"
If salvation of the individual were
being contemplated here, it might be enough of an explanation to say, "It is your own; therefore manifest
it—work it out."
But more than individual salvation is
being contemplated. Taken in context, verse 12 refers to assembly
salvation. That is, Paul was giving direction to an assembly of
Christians. They were exposed to difficulties from without and from
within; they were passing through a world totally opposed to the
testimony committed to them. Paul was showing them how to continue in
fellowship together in spite of the fact that each individual had within
him a corrupt nature that could surface—to the detriment of the whole
church—if given the opportunity.
We have already noticed that there
was some difficulty in the Philippian assembly between two sisters of
prominence, Euodias and Syntyche. This disagreement could easily cause
distressing quarrels and even division if not judged in the presence of
the Lord. Similar misunderstandings could arise from time to time and
would need to be carefully watched for. When the apostle himself was
with the Philippians, they could refer all such matters to him and he
would, so to speak, work out their salvation from these perplexities. He
would advise and guide as needed. But at the time he was writing to
them, he was far away. He was a prisoner for the gospel's sake and could
not personally give the help he wanted to provide. Since he was absent,
he directed them as obedient children to work out their own salvation in
godly fear and with exercise of soul, so that they would not depart from
the right path or stray out of the will of God.
How beneficial Paul's words have been
for generations of Christians! Sooner or later, all assemblies of saints
on earth will probably have internal differences, and the advice or
command the apostle gave to the Philippians will apply in all such
cases. It is God's way that churches should be put right from within, by
self-judgment in His presence and submission to His Word. (H. A.
Ironside. Philippian Commentary)
SALVATION: ten heauton soterian katergazesthe (2PPMM):
Torrey's excellent topic "Salvation")
Pr 10:16; 13:4; Mt 11:12,29; Lk 13:23,24; Jn 6:27, 28, 29; Ro 2:7-note;
1Co 9:24, 25, 26, 27; 15:58; Gal 6:7, 8, 9; 1Th 1:3-note;
2Pe 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10-note;
1Co 9:20, 21, 22, 23; 2Ti 2:10-note)
THE KEY TO PROGRESSIVE
A LIFE CHANGING
Jonathan Edwards by most
measures the greatest theologian in American history attests to the
importance of a proper understanding of Philippians 2:12-13 writing that
"From St. Paul a sentence hit me when
I was about twenty-two that has shaped my theology ever since,
"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works
in you to will and to do his good pleasure"
D A Carson - It is vitally
important to grasp the connection between God’s sovereignty and
our responsibility in Phil 2:12 and Phil 2:13. The text does not say, “Work
to acquire your salvation, for God has done his bit and now it is all up
to you.” Nor does it say, “You may already have your salvation, but now
perseverance in it depends entirely on you.” Still less does it say,
“Let go and let God. Just relax. The Spirit will carry you.” Rather,
Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling,
precisely because God is working in us both to will and to act according
to his good purpose (Phil 2:12–13). Nor is God working merely to
strengthen us in our willing and acting. Paul’s language is stronger
than that. God Himself is working in us both to will and to act: he
works in us at the level of our wills and at the level of our doing. But
far from this being a disincentive to press on, Paul insists that this
is an incentive. Assured as we are that God works in this way in His
people, we should be all the more strongly resolved to will and to act
in ways that please our Master. (Basics for Believers: An Exposition of
Philippians) (Ed Note: It is very surprising that Carson makes no
mention at all regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in his exposition
of this passage!)
W A Criswell emphasizes that
Philippians 2:12-13 "must be read together for a proper
understanding. “Work out your own salvation” means to “work out,” not
“work for.” A “works salvation” is not being taught. The idea is to
progress to the finish or completion in spiritual growth and maturity.
This process is what the Bible calls “sanctification.” It should be
noted that Phil 2:12 makes it clear we are to be active, not passive, in
this process. However, though we are active, we are not alone. Phil 2:13
reminds us again that the entire salvation process is the work of a
sovereign God and the result of His grace.
W A. Believer's Study Bible: New King James Version. 1991. Thomas Nelson)
The compound verb
expresses the idea of carrying out, or making perfect...The verb
describes not the spirit in which the work is done, but the aim and
issue—“carry through” (Ibid)
Joseph Beet writes that
katergazomai "denotes effective effort, and
implies that deliverance day by day is a result of persistent work: cp.
Ep 6:13-note. While using all means to strengthen our spiritual life, we
are bringing about our present and final deliverance. So sailors have
often toiled to save their ship from the rocks and themselves from a
watery grave. (Joseph
A Beet - Philippians 2:12 Commentary)
Thomas Watson - Life is a day for labor. The day is
the time for working, Psalm 104:23. The sun rises and man goes forth to
his work. Death is a sleeping time for the body. Life is a working time.
A Christian has no time to lie fallow. Philippians 2:12, "Work out your
salvation with fear and trembling." John 9:4, "Work while it is day."
Still there is some work to do—either some sin to mortify or some grace
to exercise. (Until
My Change Comes)
emphasizes that "Our responsibility regarding our
wills is to guard our minds and emotions, being aware of what influences
our minds and stimulates our desires. As we do our part, we will see the
Spirit of God do His part in making us more holy. (The
Pursuit of Holiness)
OUR RESPONSIBILITY -
GOD'S SOVEREIGN ENABLEMENT - Phil 2:13
Work out (2716) (katergazomai
from katá = intensifies meaning of verb + ergazomai
= labor, work or engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure
of effort) means to work out fully and thoroughly, to accomplish or
achieve an end (implying thoroughness), to finish or carry something to its conclusion. To work so as to bring
something to fulfillment or successful completion and implies doing
something with thoroughness. It means to do that from which something
results. This verb always means to complete the effort and the work
Working out their
salvation is the way to keep obeying as they had been obeying.
As discussed below
work out is in the present imperative which is a reminder that we
can't even obey this without the Spirit's enabling power! This truth
should help keep us humble! As Rod Mattoon says " The life of the
Christian is not a series of up's and down's,
but in's and out's. God (God's Spirit
continually) works in us and we work
out what He has done within us." In short, we are
commanded to work out what He works in!
was used by secular Roman writers (Strabo - 60BC) to describe the
working of a silver mine with the goal of extracting all of the precious
ore. By analogy, we are commanded to "mine out" of our lives all the
richness of salvation God has so graciously deposited in us. By
sustained Spirit enabled effort and diligence we are to work out and
perfect in daily conduct the precious "ore" God has placed within us
when He blessed us with "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly
places" in Christ (Eph 1:3) and "granted us everything necessary for
life and godliness through a true knowledge of" Jesus our Lord. (2Peter
was also used to describe working in a field with the reaping of a big
harvest! I love that picture -- Lord, let each of us "reap a bountiful
harvest" in the glorious Gospel field known as sanctification! Amen
katergazomai was used to describe one working on a math problem and
deriving the correct answer. So applied to Paul's command the idea is to
"work out” as one does when referring to the working out of a problem in
mathematics, carrying it to its ultimate goal or conclusion.
renders Phil 2:12 as "Work out what God has worked in when
you were born again. Bring the whole purpose of your salvation to
completion. Don’t stop short of seeing the fulfillment of your very
Paul uses the
present imperative which is a command calling for the
make it their lifelong work to obey this command, bring their salvation to the goal
(the goal of Christ likeness, "conformed to the image of His Son" Ro
cf Col 1:28-note
"every man complete in Christ."). Thus
this is not an optional exercise.
In addition note Paul's use of the
pictures the subject as the one who initiates the
action and then participates in the results/effects of that action.
The point is that believers have a responsibility to put forth real effort in their
Christian lives and it is not just "let go and let God."
(aka "quietism" the opposite extreme being "pietism" -
click for more discussion of these two
extremes - Dr. John MacArthur) I rather prefer to say we are
to "Let God and let's go!" Paul is commanding a continuous,
sustained effort in this verse (balanced by a description of the
continual, sufficient provision of divine desire and power in Php 2:13).
Thus the clause could be rendered more fully as "You yourself keep on bringing your salvation fully to its intended goal."
The point is do
not go half-way in your salvation. Do not take bits and pieces when there is
a whole parcel of glorious Gospel land to be claimed by faith
(obedience). Trust and obey there's no other way to be blessed in Jesus,
then to trust and obey! God has given us new life in Christ, but His
desire is for us to experience this life abundantly in His Son (Jn
10:10). He desires that we possess our possessions so to speak (cf Eph
1:3). Even as Joshua (and Israel) had been given the land of Canaan,
they were still commanded to exert effort to possess their possessions.
And so we read that God instructed them "Every place on which the sole
of your foot treads (NOTE: They were to "tread" - Man's Responsibility),
I have given it to you (God's Provision/Promise), just as I spoke to
Moses." (Joshua 1:3) We must not be satisfied with just a little when we can have
an abundance! Go on, keeping growing until your salvation is completed (2Pe
3:18-note), confident that He Who
began that good work will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus (Php
Notice that this
verse implies that the believer has both freedom and responsibility. The
responsibility of man in this verse as noted is balanced by the divine
sovereignty in the next verse (Phil 2:13-note).
Stated another way we are 100% responsible and 100% dependent (on the
Spirit's enabling power - Phil 2:13).
to continually be perfecting Christ likeness, that
glorious supernatural life which commenced at our
Dearly beloved, is this your
ongoing experience - increasing Christ likeness? (You can use Gal
5:19-21 versus Gal 5:22-23 as a "checklist" to see if the former sins
are are decreasing and the latter fruit is increasing. Don't place
yourself under guilt or the law -- sanctification is about direction not
perfection. But if you are not going in the "right direction," it begs
the question of "Why not?" Beloved, we will
have no excuse at the Judgment Seat of Christ
"seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to
life and godliness, through the
of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."
Note that the "provision" is not nebulous or out of our reach but is
rooted in true knowledge which in turn implies that you must daily be
in the Word of Truth (cp Jn 17:17), not so much that you might
know, but that you would grow!
How's your time in the Word?
While reading through the Bible in a year is great, it is far better to
daily "ingest" a small portion of "filet mignon" (Mt 4:4, Job 23:12-note)
and "chew" it well (See
Meditation) so that you might "digest" it fully
and it might be "assimilated" completely into your innermost being,
resulting in real, tangible growth in Christ likeness, as you live out
that truth in Spirit energized obedience (cp 1Pe 2:2-note,
Micah 6:8, Jn 7:17, Ep 4:15-note,
2Th 1:3, Ps 92:12-note).
The power that
comes from the Spirit who indwells us.
places the command to work out our salvation in proper perspective
writing that "We have still in our ears the
celestial music, infinitely sweet and full, of the great paragraph of
the incarnation, the journey of our Lord of love from glory to glory by
the way of the awful cross...the immediate sequel is—that we are to be
holy. We are to act in the light and wonder of so vast an act of love,
in the wealth and resource of ‘so great salvation.’ We are to set
spiritually to work."
As C H Spurgeon
wisely advised "Hurried reading is of little benefit. To sit down
awhile and meditate is very profitable (cf Mary in Lk 10:39, 42)."
Jones writes that working out what God has worked in "is the practical exhortation of the
New Testament Gospel to us today. I must now perfect (Ed: bring
to final form so as to leave nothing wanting = speaks of our continual
direction toward this goal) this thing which
has been given to me. The seed has been planted; I have been given it in
embryo. My business is to allow and to encourage this gift to grow and
develop, until it comes to its final perfection and full maturity. I
have got the gift: I need not be worried lest God is not present and not
with me. God is working in me and I must develop it all I can. (Philippians 2:12-13 Working Out Our Own
The KJV Bible
Commentary notes that "Our salvation is worked in by the
Holy Spirit in answer to faith in God’s promises and it is worked out by
the Holy Spirit by our obedience to God’s precepts. It is always a
matter of trust and obey...No one can live the Christian life until he
has Christ. It is not a matter of the imitation of Christ but the
manifestation of Christ, the Holy Spirit reproducing the life of Christ
in and through the believer (cf 2Cor 3:18). (Dobson,
E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV
Bible Commentary: Nelson)
says that katergazomai "always has the idea of bringing to completion. It is as if Paul says:
“Don’t stop halfway; go on until the work of salvation is fully wrought
out in you.” No Christian should be satisfied with anything less than
the total benefits of the gospel." And so he translates this as "carry
to its perfect conclusion". (Philippians 2 Commentary)
that katergazomai is. "found from the time of Sophocles, means
a. “to bear down to the ground,” “to overcome,” maintaining the older
local sense of kata; b. “to work at,” “make.” Refined by constant use,
it gradually takes on the sense of the simple, so that the verb
signifies working at, and finally accomplishing a task." (Kittel,
G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the
describes not the spirit in which the work is done, but the aim and
issue—"carry through" and so it represents the full and final bringing
of an enterprise to a successful conclusion.
Paul's point is that by working out our salvation, believers bring
the whole purpose of salvation to completion. In a sense then we are to
daily "mine out" of our
lives all the richness of the great a salvation which God has so graciously
"deposited" within each believer.
Remember that in chapter 1
Paul said believers had been "filled with the fruit of righteousness"
tense which describes a completed, permanent state) and here using katergazomai
Paul is saying "work the field" and bear the fruit of righteousness in
your daily Christian walk.
D R Jenkins
offers an analogy to help explain how God works in (Php 2:13) and we
work out "How does God work? (1) In the tree by
air, light, heat, rain, and dew, and the tree works out in wood, leaves,
and fragrant blossoms. (2) In man by means of His truth, Spirit, and
grace, and we work them out in love, joy, etc. (Galatians 5:22, 23)." (Biblical
Illustrator - online)
J C Ryle
reminds us "If there is anything which a man
ought to do thoroughly, authentically, truly, honestly, and with all of
his heart, it is the business of his soul. If there is any work which he
ought never to slight, and do in a careless fashion, it is the great
work of "working out his own salvation" (Philippians 2:12). Believer in
Christ, remember this! Whatever you do in religion, do it well. Be
authentic. Be thorough. Be honest. Be true." (Authentic
A W Pink - As Matthew Henry (1662-1714) pointed
out, "Many are more inquisitive respecting who shall be saved, and who
not—than respecting what they shall do to be saved." "Work out your own
salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) is a word which
many need to attend unto. (Ed: Pink is not saying we work for our
salvation as we could earn it but we do carry out the daily business of
working out our growth in Christ likeness.) (Curiosity
writes that "Happiness is not attainable, but in
the use of means. Now, the use of means implies practice. Salvation must
not only be sought out by knowledge, but wrought out by practice, "work
out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2:12. There
can be no crown without running, no recompense without diligence." (The
William Dyer notes why it is
so important to work out our salvation "Until you attain to firm
salvation--you will never be free from great temptation."
C H Spurgeon
rightly notes that...
What is to be worked out must first
be worked in. An unconverted man can work nothing out, for there is
nothing in. You have faith; work it out then; act like a believer; trust
God in daily life. Be you Christlike, inasmuch as the Spirit of Christ
dwells in you.
Salvation is to be worked out.
Holiness is salvation. We are not to work out our salvation from the
guilt of sin; Christ has done that, but from the power of sin. God has
in effect worked that in; He has broken the yoke of sin; it lives and
struggles, but it is dethroned, and our life is to keep it down. A man
may be saved from the guilt of sin, and yet not saved from the power of
pride or bad temper. Your salvation is not complete till you are saved
from these. You must fight them till you conquer.
The model to be worked to. Every
artist requires some idea in his mind to which he is to work. The
apostle’s model is exhibited in the context. (1) Unanimity (Php 2:2);
(2) humiliation (Php 2:3); (3) mutual love; (4) in a word, the mind of
Christ (Php 2:5).
J R Miller writes that...
People sometimes think that salvation
imparts . . . godly virtues, fine qualities of Christian character,
lovely traits of disposition, and elements of spiritual beauty—without
any cost or effort to the believer himself!
Christ's followers are transformed—old things pass away, and all things
become new. Those who believe in Him—are fashioned into His image. But
these blessings do not come easily. The heavenly graces are not put into
our life—as one might hang up lovely pictures on the walls to adorn a
home! They must be wrought into our life in a sense, by our own hands.
We must work out our own salvation, although it is God who works in us,
both to will and to work.
For example, patience is not put into anyone's life—as one brings in a
piece of new furniture. You cannot merely receive patience as a gift
from God. Patience is a lesson to be learned—through long and watchful
self-discipline. Christ is the teacher—but you are the student, and it
is the student who must learn the lesson! Not even Christ will learn it
for you—to spare you the effort. Nor can it be made an easy lesson for
you. It costs to grow patient, and you must pay the price yourself!
The same is true of all the elements of a godly and worthy character.
We are always at school
in this world.
God is teaching us the things we need
to learn. The lessons are not easy—sometimes they are very hard! But the
hardest lessons are the best—for they bring out in us the finest
qualities, if only we learn them well.
Those, therefore, who find themselves in what may seem adverse
conditions, compelled to face hardship, endure opposition, and pass
through struggle—should quietly accept the responsibility; and, trusting
in Christ for guidance and strength, go firmly and courageously forward,
conscious that they have now an opportunity to grow strong, and develop
in themselves the qualities of worthy and noble character!
C H Spurgeon - Man’s work an evidence of his
salvation: — William Wickham being appointed by King Edward to build a
stately church, wrote in the windows, “This work made William Wickham.”
When charged by the king for assuming the honour of that work to
himself as the author, whereas he was only the overseer, he answered
that he meant not that he made the work, but that the work made him,
having before been very poor, and then in great credit. Lord, when we
read in thy Word that we must work out our own salvation, thy meaning
is not that our salvation should be the effect of our work, but our
work the evidence of our salvation. (Biblical
If depraved men go to such great lengths to work out their indecent acts (same Gk verb translated "committing"
in Ro 1:27-note),
how much more should we who are children (Jn 1:12, Ro 8:14-note)
of the Most High God burn in our desire to be pleasing unto Him and by
the enabling grace He supplies and the empowering of His Spirit, work
out our salvation...day by day...decision by decision!
Note that this verse is not teaching that an unsaved person can do
good works to earn salvation. Why not? For one thing, those he addressed
were already saved and secondly because the Bible is clear in its
teaching that God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we
have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of
regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out upon us
richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (see note
Hastings phrases it "We are not to work for
life, but, as it were, from life, as being those who
already have it and who are resolved, by Divine grace, to experience all
that life implies....we in the sphere of Christ Jesus, in Whom
potentially we have all things, (are) to work Christ out with fear and
trembling into the actual being, thought and character of our souls.
Below are the
of Katergazomai. The NAS translates
katergazomai as: accomplished, 1; brings about, 2;
carried, 1; committed, 1; committing, 1; does, 1; doing, 4; done, 1;
effecting, 1; performed, 1; prepared, 1; produced, 2; produces, 2;
producing, 2; work, 1.
and in the same way
also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and
burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing
indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul
of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the
for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law,
neither is there violation.
And not only this, but we also exult in our
tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment,
produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the
Law sin is dead.
Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for
me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be
shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is
good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not
practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing
So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which
Romans 7:18-note For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my
flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of
the good is not.
Romans 7:20-note But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer
the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
For I will not
presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished
through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and
1Corinthians 5:3 For I, on
my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already
judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.
momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight
of glory far beyond all comparison,
2Corinthians 5:5 Now He who
prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the
Spirit as a pledge.
2Corinthians 7:10 For the
sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance
without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world
2Corinthians 7:11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow,
has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what
indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of
wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in
2Corinthians 9:11 you will
be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is
producing thanksgiving to God.
2Corinthians 12:12 The
signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all
perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.
take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in
the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Philippians 2:12 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;
knowing that the
testing of your faith produces endurance.
1Peter 4:3-note For the time
already past is sufficient for you to have carried
out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of
sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and
Muller wrote that
"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
- As you yield to the Lord, He works in
and you work out; in this way, you fulfill His plan for your life (Eph.
God cannot shine through you until He works in you, so let Him have His
way. You are a light in a dark world, a runner holding forth the living
Word to a dead world (Php 2:14-15-note).
(Wiersbe, W. W.
With the Word : The
Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook
Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
reminds us Paul is not teaching “self-help” salvation (sanctification). This
verse teaches "because you are already saved, because God has already entered your
life in the person of the Holy Spirit, because you, therefore, have His
power at work within you—because of these things you are now to strive
to express this salvation in your conduct.....“The verse does not say,
‘work for your salvation’ or ‘work toward your salvation’
or ‘work at your salvation.’ It says ‘work out
your salvation.’ And no one can work out his salvation out unless
God has already worked it in.
Here is another illustration to
help understand what Paul is calling believers to carry out ---
When a musician has a fine composition placed before her, that music is
not the musician's masterpiece; it is the composer's gift to the
musician. But it then becomes the task of the musician to work it out,
to give it sound and expression and beauty as she applies his skills to
the composition. When she does, the composition reaches its completed
purpose and thrills the hearts of her listeners. (Charles R. Swindoll,
Laugh Again, p97)
BELIEVERS HAVE SIGNED A
DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE!
A H Strong
- Our first and most important
religious act is the signing of a declaration of dependence. We need to
recognize our relation to God, to see that He is the source of all good,
and that without Him we can do nothing. But we are not to be mystics,
folding our hands and leaving everything to God. He has made us
reasoning and voluntary beings, and when He works in us, He only puts us
in more complete possession of our powers of intellect and will. Our
declaration of dependence needs to be followed by a declaration of
independence. We must see to it that we become co-workers with God and
not mere puppets moved by the Divine fingers. The true Christian is more
of a man than he ever was before, and while God works in him, he is also
to work out his own salvation. (Philippians 2:12-13 Work
Out Your Own Salvation - in
J Cameron Lees
- A little seed, says a German fable,
began suddenly to give signs of life, and it shot up through the hard
crust of the earth, and it spread forth its roots, rejoicing in the
pleasant sunshine, crying aloud in its joy, “Am I not a tree?” But a
voice came floating by which said, “The wind shall rock thee, and great
storms tear thy very roots, and the winter’s frost shall bite thee, and
many winters and summers pass over thee as the years roll along, ere
thou canst call thyself a tree.” It is a fable not without application.
It is not enough that we feel called to a higher and a better life, and
that we perhaps suddenly burst the bonds that hold us to the past, and
rejoice in the inherent and everlasting love of God. There must be
patient growth and development of character—working out our own
salvation. (Philippians 2:12-13 Work
Out Your Own Salvation - in
Let no man think that sudden in a
All is accomplished and the work is done;—
Though with thine earliest dawn thou shouldst begin it
Scarce were it ended in thy setting sun.
Oh the regret, the struggle and the failing!
Oh the days desolate and useless years!
Vows in the night, so fierce and unavailing!
Stings of my shame and passion of my tears!
--F. W. H. Myers
Dwight Pentecost explains
that working out "has in it the idea to
“translate.” Translate what you know into action. This is not working to
attain something. Rather, because you have attained the riches of God in
Christ, you are to let those riches work themselves out in your life.
The life that pleases God is the life through which the salvation of God
works itself out. It is a life that conforms to the salvation God gave
us, and the salvation God gave us depended on the humiliation of Christ.
The life that honors God is a life that is patterned after the
humiliation of Christ, that seeks not its own good but the good of
others....There is a great disparity between our knowledge and our
practice. Most people do not face a problem of knowledge for they have
been taught the Word of God. The problem is translating what is known
into daily conduct. While we might score high on what we know, we may
not score very high on how we translate what we know into action.
Work out the salvation that God has given you in a life that is in
perfect harmony with that salvation.
J. D. The Joy of Living: A study of Philippians. Kregel Publications)
F. B. Meyer
once said "I used to think that God’s gifts were
on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian
character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s
gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question
of growing taller but of stooping lower."
Does God work in you? Have you a work of the Holy Spirit in your soul?
If so, you are saved. (Your
writes on the paradox of working out our salvation "Demands effort" but
"It is not of works" and "Yet it must be worked out." What a divine
paradox! It is mysterious - Not depending on self-effort but depending
on Spirit energization!
Your (own) (1438)
heautoun) is a reflexive pronoun which
means not to work out someone else's salvation but
your own. It is placed first in the clause to emphasis the
importance of each one taking personal responsibility. Growth in
holiness is not something someone else can do for us. Each Christian should make
it their own business to work out
their own salvation. If we do not do it, it will not be done. But as Php
2:13NLT explains we can only do it successfully as God gives us the desire
and power. Mystery of mysteries for on one hand Jesus declared "apart
from Me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5), but Paul balances Jesus'
words with the truth
that we "can do (Our part) all things through Christ Who strengthens
(God's part)" us (Php 4:13)
notes that "Salvation must be personal for the all-important reason that
sin is personal."
Spurgeon - Your own salvation.
Charity must begin at home. You ought to spread the truth, but you must
first understand it. Ploughing another man’s field, don’t neglect your
own; indicating to another the mote in his eye, do not permit a beam to
blind your own.
has a good word on the mystery of man's responsibility to work out his
salvation and God's provision to enable him to work it out writing “All
too often Christians try to distinguish between ‘our work’ and ‘God’s
work,’ as though they can be neatly isolated and compartmentalized. In
my opinion, this is like trying to distinguish between our Lord’s
humanity and His deity. Since the incarnation, He is the God-man, and I
don’t think we do well to try to distinguish between our Lord’s deity
and His humanity.” (“Fleshing Out Your Faith” Phil 2:12–18).
commenting on your own writes "In this respect, indeed, let each
look to his own affairs; comp. Php 2:4. He says, your own: because I
cannot be with you, be on that account more careful of yourselves."
In his introduction to his sermon entitled "Your
Own Salvation" Spurgeon says "I ask you all, as reasonable men who
would not injure or neglect yourselves, to lend me your most serious
attention. Chase away the swarming vanities which buzz around you, and
let each man think for himself upon his "own salvation." O may the
Spirit of God set each one of you apart in a mental solitude, and
constrain you each one, singly, to face the truth concerning his own
state! Each man apart, each woman apart; the father apart, and the child
apart: may you now come before the Lord in solemn thought, and may
nothing occupy your attention but this: your own salvation.
Kenneth Wuest writes in
regard to "your own salvation" that...
When Paul was with them, his teaching
instructed them, his example inspired them, his encouragement urged them
on in their growth in grace. Now in his absence they were thrown upon
their own initiative. They must learn to paddle their
own canoe. Thus Paul sets before them their human responsibility in
their growth in grace, for sanctification is in the apostle’s mind. They
have their justification. Their glorification will be theirs in
eternity (Ed note: see
Three Tenses of Salvation). Their growth in Christ-likeness is the salvation concerning
which Paul is speaking. Thus, the saints are exhorted to carry their
growth in grace to its ultimate goal, Christ-likeness. 1Jn 3:2-note speaks
of the saint’s future conformation to the image of Christ, and (1Jn
3:3-note) says, “And every man that hath this hope set on him purifies
himself even as he is pure."
The salvation spoken of in verse twelve is
defined for us in verse thirteen, namely, the definite act of willing to
do God’s good pleasure and the doing of it. That is the saint’s
responsibility from the human standpoint. But the saint is not left
without resources with which to do both, for God the Holy Spirit
indwelling him produces in him both the willingness and the power to do
His will. The saint avails himself of both of these by fulfilling the
requirements laid down by our Lord in Jn 7:37, 38 , namely, a THIRST or
desire for the fullness of the Spirit, and a TRUST in the Lord Jesus for
The literal translation is as follows: “Wherefore, my
beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now
much more in my absence, carry to its ultimate goal your own salvation
with fear and trembling, for God is the One who is constantly supplying
you the impulse, giving you both the power to resolve and the strength
to perform his good pleasure.” In verse twelve we have human
responsibility, and in verse thirteen, divine enablement.
Commentary - Verse by Verse) (bolding and capitalization added)
sozo = save) describes the
rescue or deliverance from danger, destruction and peril. For believers
we have been delivered from slavery to sin and from the penalty (eternal
death ~ separation from God) of sin. The ideas inherent in soteria
include rescue, healing, wholeness, restoration, preservation and
in this verse does not refer to the beginning of our salvation
experience, the moment in the past in which we were justified (declared
righteous) by grace through faith. Justification refers to a one time event
and is often
referred to as past tense salvation (See discussion of the Three Tenses of Salvation
- I have been saved, I am being saved daily, I will be saved one
glorious day in the future). In the
present context Paul is referring to present tense salvation (we are "being saved"
- eg, 1Cor 1:18)
or progressive sanctification, which is the process God begins the day
we are justified (See Puritan writer
Thomas Watson on "Sanctification").
Soteria - 45x
in NT - Lk. 1:69, 71, 77; 19:9; Jn 4:22; Ac 4:12; 7:25; 13:26, 47;
16:17; 27:34; Ro 1:16; 10:1, 10; 11:11; 13:11; 2Co 1:6; 6:2; 7:10;
Ep 1:13; Php 1:19, 28; 2:12; 1Th 5:8,9; 2Th 2:13; 2Ti
2:10; 3:15; He 1:14; 2:3, 10; 5:9; 6:9; 9:28; 11:7; 1Pe 1:5, 9, 10;
2:2; 2Pe 3:15; Jude 1:3; Re 7:10; 12:10; 19:1
It is interesting
to note that salvation (soteria) is used with a different meaning
in in the first chapter where Paul writes that...
I know that this
shall turn out for my deliverance (soteria) through your
prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Php 1:19-note)
In this passage soteria refers to deliverance from prison which could
have been accomplished either by release or by death, in either way
resulting in freedom.
In sum, the
meaning of salvation as determined by
(which is always vital when one is doing word studies, lest one arrive
at the wrong "definition" for that specific verse) is not salvation of the soul (justification) but
deliverance from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil which
would hinder the believer from doing the will of God. Present tense
salvation or sanctification is a life long event in which grow in
Christ-likeness as we are delivered from evil.
The last words of the Buddha, as he was dying, are said to be...
And now, O priests, I take my leave of you; all the constituents of
being are transitory; work out your salvation with diligence.
As John Noss, the
noted religion scholar explains,
(founder of Jainism), the Buddha showed each disciple how to rely for
salvation upon himself, on his own powers, focused upon redemption by
spiritual self-discipline. Here was the strictest sort of humanism in
Buddha, his way of salvation missed the truth that it is God at work in
us to will and work for His good pleasure. Buddha had it half right but
salvation is not a game of horseshoes. And so Buddha was eternally
In summary, does
this sound like the Christian life is going to be real work? Without a
doubt! As Kistemaker says the Christian life is one of
"continuous, sustained, strenuous effort" (New
Testament Commentary: Baker Book House)
At times you will
walk through a valley that casts a "shadow of death", but as the next
verse teaches, you will never walk through it alone. Is the strenuous
effort to work out our salvation worth the reward? Without a doubt! For
one day we will each cross the "finish line" into glory where at least
one reward will be to hear "Well done, my good and faithful servant." So
beloved, make every effort to work out your salvation one day at a
time... one decision at a time... one choice at a time... and do it all
for the glory of the Lord.
conveys a similar idea to Timothy warning him to...
have nothing to do with worldly
fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself
for the purpose of godliness for bodily discipline is only of little
profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds
promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Timothy
the salvation which is in
view in this passage is not salvation from the guilt of sin. This is
accomplished once and for all when a sinner receives Jesus Christ by
faith as the One who bore his sins in His own body on the cross. In this
sense, salvation is accomplished once and for all. Many times in
Scripture, however, salvation is presented as a process which is not
completed until the redeemed saint stands perfect in glory. The
salvation that is in view in this passage, therefore, is deliverance
from the power of sin, and the experience and manifestation of the new
life in Christ. Like all other forms of salvation, it is a work of God
but involving to a larger degree the element of individual experience
and participation. It is therefore described as a human work in the
expression: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
the Name of Jesus Every Knee Should Bow)
Salvation is not a stepladder
which reaches from earth to heaven which is climbed by self-effort. It
is rather that the salvation, which by its nature is complete and is
God’s provision for us, needs to be applied to the daily experience of
the believer in Christ...Salvation is not a stepladder which reaches
from earth to heaven which is climbed by self-effort. It is rather that
the salvation, which by its nature is complete and is God’s provision
for us, needs to be applied to the daily experience of the believer in
Walvoord, J. F. (1971). Philippians: Triumph in Christ (62). Chicago,
IL: Moody Press.
WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING: meta phobou kai
tromou: (Ezra 10:3; Ps 2:11-note;
Isa 66:2,5; Acts 9:6; 16:29; 1Co 2:3; 2Co 7:15; Eph 6:5-note;
(Phobos and Tromos often occur together in LXX -- e.g., Ge
9:2; Ex 15:16; Is 19:16.)
The Union of
a Right Fear
with a Right Walk
Why "fear and trembling"? What is the immediate
context? Paul had just declared that
one day in the future "at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE
SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the
earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (See note
Observe also that
in the Greek fear and trembling precede the verb work out
which signifies that Paul was emphasizing the attitude with which they
were to fulfill the command. Mattoon says "The idea behind this phrase
is a passion to please the Lord. It involves humility and vigilance."
Spurgeon comments on why a
believer should fear
With fear to offend so good a God of
which we read, Blessed is the man who fears always. (cp Ps 25:12,
Ps 112:1, Ps 115:13, Ps 128:1, 4, Ps 147:11, Pr 13:13, Pr 14:2, Pr
28:14, Ec 7:18)
Spurgeon on Ps 128:1: The
fear of God is the corner stone of all blessedness. We must
reverence the ever blessed God before we can be blessed ourselves. Some
think that this life is an evil, an infliction, a thing upon which rests
a curse; but it is not so; the God fearing man has a present blessing
resting upon him. It is not true that it would be to him "something
better not to be." He is happy (blessed) now, for he is the child of the
happy (blessed) God, the ever living Jehovah; and he is even here a
joint heir with Jesus Christ, whose heritage is not misery, but joy.
This is true of every one of the God fearing, of all conditions, in all
ages: each one and every one is blessed. Their blessedness may not
always be seen by carnal reason, but it is always a fact, for God
himself declares that it is so; and we know that those whom He blesses
are blessed indeed. Let us cultivate that holy filial fear of Jehovah
which is the essence of all true religion; --
the fear of reverence,
of dread to offend,
of anxiety to please,
and of entire submission and obedience.
This fear of the Lord is the fit
fountain of holy living: we look in vain for holiness apart from it:
none but those who fear the Lord will ever walk in his ways.
N. M'Michael on Ps 128:1:The
fear of the Lord is the internal principle; but unless there be a
corresponding expression in the outward life, what reason is there to
suppose that it has any existence at all? Observe also, that there is no
walking in the ways of the Lord, until his fear be established in the
heart. There can be no genuine morality apart from the fear of God. How
can a man obey God while his affections are alienated from him?
Fear and trembling - The first words in the Greek sentence
are phobos and tromos (fear and trembling) signify this
attitude is being emphasized. It's as if Paul
is saying first have a proper heart and mind attitude and
then carry out the the action of working out your salvation
thoroughly and to completion. How we think about God will always
influence how we act before Him.
With fear and trembling: with
anxious care as in a matter serious and difficult: a Pauline phrase; see
1Co 2:3; 2Co 7:15; Ep 6:5. It suggests the real peril to which
Christians are exposed, and especially the great peril of selfishness. (Joseph
A Beet - Philippians 2:12 Commentary)
While believers have been delivered
from fear of the wrath of God (1Jn 4:18), we have not been delivered
from the discipline of God. Thus sin in a believer can still bring
discipline from God because of the sinful conduct, and in this
sense the believer still fears (or should fear) God (cp similar fear in
describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet
all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfill his duty.
Both fear and trembling are proper reactions to the awareness of
one’s own spiritual weakness and the power of temptation. Together these
words speak of a healthy fear of offending or displeasing our Father and a proper anxiety to
do what is right in His eyes. It is certainly not a fear of eternal doom but a
reverential awe that motivates a person to righteousness, living life "Coram
Deo", before the face of God, fully aware that He is cognizant of
not only our outward actions but even our inward motives (cp 2Chr 16:9).
FEAR IN WORKING OUT
DISTRUST OF SELF
DISCARDING OF CARNAL CONFIDENCE!
James Hastings notes that...
This fear does not mean
mistrust or doubt, which would keep the mind in a continual apprehension
of falling short of salvation, but a distrust of ourselves from a
consciousness of our own weakness, and of the obstacles in the way,
which produces an anxious solicitude to use all the means necessary to
And trembling here denotes
self-abasement in the Divine presence, a holy reverence of God,
originating in the conviction of our absolute dependence upon Him
for that grace which works out salvation.
The one is a warning against carnal
confidence, which, if indulged, would lead to the disuse of the means of
salvation; and the other an admonition against vain presumption, which
would lead to dependence upon self-Endeavour for salvation. What is here
recommended is assurance without spiritual security, and labour without
spiritual pride; and this meets the case both of those who undervalue
and of those who overvalue human agency in the work of salvation.
John Walvoord cautions that "No foes of spiritual life are more
obvious than self-complacency and pride. Spiritual growth comes when we
realize our need for it. No doubt the small problems that existed in the
Philippian church were fostered by spiritual pride and
self-congratulation. The remedy was to recognize their need and the
great danger of falling short of full realization of spiritual power and
victory. Fear and trembling are proper reactions as we realize our own
weakness and inadequacy. The remedy is to realize the divine sufficiency
of God’s power. (Walvoord,
J. F. Philippians: Triumph in Christ. Chicago, IL: Moody Press)
This kind of fear is fear of sinning,
distrust of one’s own strength in the face of temptation, horror at the
thought of dishonoring God. It is a sense of foreboding that comes with
understanding "the deceitfulness of sin" (see Heb 3:13-note)
The Deceitfulness of Sin)
and the unreliability of one’s own heart (see Jer 17:9). It is terror at
the thought of a moral breakdown; a loathing of the disqualification
such sin might cause and the kind of circumspection Paul enjoined when
he reminded the early church of the failures of the Israelites (see 1Cor
10:6, 11). It is a moral revulsion at anything that would grieve or
cause affront to a thrice-holy God. Isaiah 66:2 speaks of righteous
fear: “To this one I will look, To him who
is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
Isaiah 66:5 says, “Hear the word of the Lord, you who
tremble at His word.”
When the Lord speaks in this context
of a trembler at His Word, He is, in effect, using that expression as a
title for the true believer. Every believer should live in such awe of
God’s majesty and holiness that he shuns sin lest it grieve his Lord,
violate his testimony to an unbelieving world, or negate his usefulness
for ministry in the body of Christ and bring divine chastening. Working
out our salvation is not easy. It takes hard, consistent effort and
discipline. It involves a lifelong pursuit of holiness that requires
following the example of Christ, understanding the love of God,
cultivating obedience to the Word of God, appropriating your spiritual
resources, and appreciating the serious consequences of sin. Paul said
it called for beating our bodies into submission (1Co 9:27) and
cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting
holiness in the fear of God (2Co 7:1-note). A high calling like that will
mean all will fail at times. But a healthy fear of God will restrain
such failure, because it motivates us to pursue godliness above all
J., F., Jr. Our Sufficiency in Christ Crossway. 1998)
KJV Bible Commentary has a
practical discussion of fear in this passage - This is not
slavish fear, but wholesome, serious caution. It is the constant
apprehension of the deceitfulness of the heart (Jer 17:9), taking heed
lest we fall (1 Cor 10:12); or stop short of the final goal (2 Pet
1:1–10, 11). It is that desirable distrust of our own self-sufficiency
and the consciousness that all depends on the grace of God. It is not
fear of being lost, but fear of the failure of not walking in lowliness
of mind, in true humility, and in unfailing obedience (cf Php 2:8). It
is fear of all that would rob us of our spiritual vitality and spiritual
victory and of shrinking from all carelessness in matters of faith and
(phobos from the verb phébomai = to flee from
or to be startled) refers
first to flight, to alarm, to fright or to terror (of the shaking type) (cf. Mt 14:26;
Lk 21:26; 1Co 2:3). This type of fear is connected with fear of the
unknown, fear of the future, and fear of authorities. It speaks of the
terror which seizes one when danger appears.
On the other hand
phobos in some contexts
refers to reverence, respect and honor, describing the attitude we
should have toward a holy God (cf. Acts 2:43; 9:31; 2Co 5:11; 7:1).
In some uses phobos includes the idea of astonishment and/or amazement
(eg, Mt 28:8; Mk 4:41; Lk 1:65; 5:26; 7:16).
A third meaning of
phobos pictures due respect for people and their position. Paul
urged the Roman saints in regard to government authorities to...
Render to all what is due them: tax
to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear;
honor to whom honor. (Ro 13:7-note)
A Biblical fear
of God includes elements of (1) awe of His greatness and glory and
elements of (2) dread of the results of violating His holy nature
causing Him displeasure and incurring His hand of discipline (He 12:6-note,
He 12:11-note). The OT points out that those who fear God show
their awareness of Who He is by their moral choices (obedience - cp 1Sa
15:22, 23) as well as by their
worship. In short reverential fear marked the Old
Testament believer. Israel was commanded to reverence Jehovah. Moses was
instructed to take off his sandals, when he was in the presence of God
on Mount Horeb (Ex 3:5). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
(and thus it is a good thing to fear God!) (Ps
Fear of God - 10 occurrences of
this phrase in ESV - Ge 20:11; 2Sa 23:3; 2Chr 20:29; 26:5; Ne 5:15; Job 4:6;
15:4; Ps 36:1; Ro 3:18; 2Co 7:1.
If you are like many
saints in the modern evangelical church, the chances are good that you have
little understanding of the true meaning of Biblical fear. If that is you
dear saint, let me encourage you to take a few hours and listen to the
excellent five part Mp3
series by Jerry Bridges on the "Fear of God"
. I can assure you that you will be amply rewarded for God Himself says the
fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Pr 1:7) and wisdom (Pr 9:10,
Job 28:28, Ps 110:10) or wise living (cp Ec 12:13, 14) in an increasingly
unwise living world!
The late professor John Murray said,
“The fear of God is the soul of godliness.” Yet the fear of God is a
concept that seems old-fashioned and antiquated to many modern-day
Christians. There was a time when an earnest believer might have been
known as a “God-fearing man.” Today we would probably be embarrassed by
such language. Some seem to think the fear of God is strictly an Old
Testament concept that passed away with the revelation of God’s love in
Christ. After all, doesn’t perfect love drive out fear, as John declares
in 1John 4:18? Although it is true that the concept of the fear of God
is treated more extensively in the Old Testament, it would be a mistake
to assume that it is not important in the New Testament. One of the
blessings of the new covenant is the implanting in believers’ hearts of
the fear of the Lord. In Jeremiah 32:40 God said, “I will make an
everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them,
and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away
“Nothing could be more significant,”
observed John Murray, “than that the fear of the Lord should be coupled
with the comfort of the Holy Spirit as the characteristics of the New
Testament church: ‘So the church … walking in the fear of the Lord and
in the comfort of the Holy Spirit was multiplied’ (Acts 9:31).” Paul
and Peter both use the fear of the Lord as a motive to holy and
righteous living. The example of the Lord Jesus Himself, of whom
Isaiah said, “and he will delight in the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11:3),
should put the question beyond all doubt. If Jesus in His humanity
delighted in the fear of God, surely we need to give serious thought to
cultivating this attitude in our lives. (The
Practice of Godliness)
In sum, phobos
includes both a negative emotion and a positive attitude. Christians are
not to fear people or persecution or even Satan. They are, however, to
show proper fear or reverence toward God and respect to other people.
Phobos - 47x NAS
- Mt 14:26; 28:4, 8; Mk 4:41; Lk 1:12, 65;
2:9; 5:26; 7:16; 8:37; 21:26; Jn 7:13; 19:38; 20:19; Ac 2:43; 5:5,
11; 9:31; 19:17; Ro 3:18; 8:15; 13:3, 7; 1Co 2:3; 2Co 5:11; 7:1,
5, 11, 15; Ep 5:21; 6:5; Php 2:12; 1Ti 5:20; He 2:15; 1Pe
1:17; 2:18; 3:2, 14, 16; 1Jn 4:18; Jude 1:23; Re 11:11; 18:10, 15.
NAS = cause of fear, 1; fear, 37; fearful, 1; fears, 1;
intimidation, 1; respect, 1; respectful, 1; reverence, 1; sense of awe,
In classical Greek
phobos meant panic or flight ('Panic-stricken flight' = Homer)
It conveyed the idea of running away, of fleeing panic-stricken from
battle. (2) More generally phobos means fear in the widest sense means
'awe' or 'reverence' for some exalted ruler and especially for some
divinity or some god. It is the feeling which a man experiences in the
presence of someone who is infinitely his superior.
In the Gospels
phobos is used of the reaction when the disciples saw Jesus walking
on the water (Mt 14.26), when they saw Him stilled the storm (Mk 4.41),
of the people after the healing of the paralyzed man (Lk 5.26), after
the raising of the widow's son at Nain (Lk 7.16), after the healing of
the Gadarene demoniac (Lk 8.37), of the feeling of Zacharias when he
saw the angel of the Lord beside the altar (Lk 1.12), of the spectators
when Zacharias recovered his speech (Lk 1.65), of the shepherds when
they heard the song of the angels (Lk 2.9), of the guards at the tomb
when the angel rolled the stone away (Mt 28.4), of the women as they
went home after seeing the empty tomb (Mt 28.8) and of the feelings of
men in the midst of the devastating events of the last days (Lk 21.26),
of multitudes of Jews not speaking openly of Jesus because of fear of
the Jews (Jewish authorities) (= fear of man) (Jn 7:13), of Joseph
of Arimathea a secret disciple of Jesus because of fear of the Jews
(Jewish authorities) (Jn 19:38), of the disciples hiding after
Jesus' resurrection because of the fear of the Jews (Jewish authorities)
Luke records that...
everyone kept feeling a sense of
awe (phobos); and many wonders and signs were taking place
through the apostles. (Comment: Phobos here refers to fear or
holy terror related to the sense of divine presence, to the attitude of
reverence. Phobos is this sense describes the feeling produced
when one realizes God is at hand.) (Acts 2:43)
So the church throughout all Judea
and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in
the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it
continued to increase. (Acts 9:31)
Elsewhere in Acts
Luke uses phobos to describe the reaction to the deaths of
Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 11) and the reaction of the citizens of
Ephesus to the attack on some Jewish exorcists by a demon possessed man.
Corinthians Paul writes...
Therefore (in view of the truth that
every believer must stand before the judgment seat of Christ and have
their whole life exposed and evaluated - this very thought excites a
"holy" fear in Paul) knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade
men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made
manifest also in your consciences. (2Cor 5:11) (Comment: the
"fear" about which Paul speaks could also be the awesomeness of God's
judgment for unbelievers, but whether believers or unbelievers, the
message is the same. The "fear of the Lord" is one of the strongest
motivations for disciples to become involved in evangelism.)
Therefore (based on the holiness of
God, His call to be separate and His promise to dwell in our midst),
having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all
defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear
of God. (2Cor 7:1-note) (Comment: The truth of this passage is similar
to that here in Phil 2:12, both calling the saint to pursue
exhorts believers and specifically those filled with the Spirit (see Eph
be subject to one another in the
fear of Christ. (Eph 5:21-note)
Comment: Mutual submission based
upon shared reverence for Christ as Lord is one evidence
of the Spirit-filled life (Ep 5:18). Conversely a husband and wife who are not
controlled by the Spirit will have difficult reverencing the Lord and
submitting to one another.
Peter exhorts slaves
Slaves (believing slaves), be
obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with
fear (phobos) and trembling (tromos), in the sincerity of your
heart, as to Christ. (Eph 6:5-note, cf similar use of phobos
Peter shows that a
proper fear of God is a strong motivator for godly conduct,
especially when coupled with a realization that our time on earth is
If you address as Father the One who
impartially judges according to each man's work,
imperative = Do this now! Do it effectively! It is urgent!) yourselves in
fear during the time of your stay upon earth" (1Pe 1:17-note)
The NET Bible
translation note comments that...
The translation awe and reverence
was chosen to portray the attitude the believer should have toward God
as they consider their behavior in light of God working through Jesus
Christ (Phil 2:6, 7-note,
Php 2:8, 9-note,
Php 2:10, 11-note)
and in the believer’s life (Phil 2:13-note)
to accomplish their salvation. (NETBible
Philippians 2:12) (Bolding added)
A T Robertson
comments on fear and trembling...
“A nervous and trembling anxiety to
do right” (Lightfoot). Paul has no sympathy with a cold and dead
orthodoxy or formalism that knows nothing of struggle and growth. He
exhorts as if he were an
Arminian in addressing men. He
prays as if he were a
Calvinist in addressing God and
feels no inconsistency in the two attitudes. Paul makes no attempt to
reconcile divine sovereignty and human free agency, but
boldly proclaims both. (Word
Pictures in the New Testament - Verse 12)
notes that "this is not the fear and
trembling of the slave cringing before his master; nor fear
and trembling at the prospect of punishment. It comes from
two things. It comes, first, from a sense of our own creatureliness and
our own powerlessness to deal with life triumphantly. That is to say, it
is not the fear and trembling which drives us to hide from God,
but rather the fear and trembling which drives us to seek God, in
the certainty that without His help we cannot effectively face life. It
comes, second, from a horror of grieving God. When we really love a
person, we are not afraid of what he may do to us; we are afraid of what
we may do to him.
(Philippians 2 Commentary)
explains why we need to continually have an attitude of fear and
trembling as we work out our salvation - We have 3 untiring adversaries
and they are focused on trying to make us sin - "1.The Weakness of the
flesh. 2. The Ways of this world. 3. The Wiles of the Devil. We need to
fear the flesh since it is weak. The world criticizes our failures and
Satan desires that we yield to temptation."
Fear of God
therefore is a healthy attitude as we on one side have an awe of God's
greatness and glory and on the other side have a deep and reverential
sense of accountability to God or Christ and also a dread of the results
of violating His holy nature. Such fear involves self-distrust, a
sensitive conscience, and being on guard against temptation. Believers
should have a serious dread of sin and yearning for what is right before
God. Aware of their weakness and the power of temptation, they should
fear falling into sin and thereby grieving the Lord. This solemn,
reverential fear springs from deep adoration and love. It acknowledges
that every sin is an offense against holy God and produces a sincere
desire not to offend and grieve Him, but to obey, honor, please, and
glorify Him in all things.
Quoting Ps 36:1 Paul summed up rebellious mankind's
attitude toward God's revelation of His holy character as
THERE IS NO FEAR
OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES
Spurgeon (commenting on the
original passage in Ps 36:1): His daring and wanton sin; his breaking
the bounds of law and justice. Saith within my heart, that there is no
fear of God before his eyes.
Men's sins have a voice to godly
They are the outer index of an inner evil.
It is clear that men who dare to sin
constantly and presumptuously cannot respect the great Judge of all.
Despite the professions of unrighteous men, when we see their unhallowed
actions our heart is driven to the conclusion that they have no religion
Unholiness is clear evidence of
Wickedness is the fruit of an atheistic root.
This may be made clear to the candid
head by cogent reasoning, but it is clear already and intuitively to the
pious heart. If God be everywhere, and I fear Him, how can I dare to
break His laws in His very presence? He must be a desperate traitor who
will rebel in the monarch's own halls. Whatever theoretical opinions bad
men may avow, they can only be classed with atheists, since they are
such practically. Those eyes which have no fear of God before them
now, shall have the terrors of hell before them forever. (Psalm
36:1 - Treasury of David)
Unfortunately believers are not immune
to a gradual drift away from reverential fear
of the Lord. There seems to be a trend in modern day evangelicalism (as
manifest in many of the choruses and even the new Bible translations)
away from a sense of God's holiness, a trend I personally believe
derives in part from a general lack of familiarity with the character of
God as taught especially in the Old Testament. For example, have you
heard any sermon series recently on Leviticus which emphasizes the
holiness of God and those who are to be His holy ambassadors? In short, there is a
definite drift from a proper fear of God. In
one of my classes, a saint who is quite knowledgeable in the Scriptures
ask why were we studying the "fear of God" because it was an Old Testament
concept not found in the
New Testament since we are under grace? Yes we are under grace (but so
were the Old Testament saints, eg Noah found grace with God, see Genesis
6:8) and clearly Philippians
2:12 teaches us about the importance of the fear of the Lord.
A. Raleigh - Salvation to be worked out with
fear and trembling: — The face of the helmsman in coming down the
rapids of the St. Lawrence in the great vessel is a sight to see. He
takes in, as it were, all the conditions of the case, in one
inevitable glance — the bank; the bend; the shallowing or deepening
bed; the amount of way on the vessel; the hurry of the waters; the
calm spread of the deep river lying like a peaceful haven yonder in
distance! There he stands — fearful, yet firm — distrustful, yet
confident — until the danger is past. With a similar feeling — not
slavishly afraid — but intent, earnest, bending all the powers in
concentrated effort towards the ultimate object — so “work out your
salvation.” (Philippians 2
- Biblical Illustrator)
has an excellent note reminding us that phobos, fear, is
“Not slavish terror, but wholesome, serious caution. This
is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance
against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposes to
high-mindedness in the admonition, ‘be not high-minded but
It is taking heed lest we fall; it is a constant apprehension of the
deceitfulness of the heart, and of the insidiousness and power of inward
corruption. It is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks
from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Saviour” And these
the child of God will feel and exercise the more he rises above the
enfeebling, disheartening, distressing influence of the fear which hath
torment. Well might Solomon say of such fear -How blessed is the man who fears
always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
In summary, "fear" is
the attitude with which Christians are to pursue sanctification.
As much as fear of
people and events is to be disdained, so reverential fear of God is to
be cultivated C. Neil Strait writing of this reverential fear "Not all fears are bad. Many of them
are wholesome, indeed, very necessary for life. The fear of God, the
fear of fire, the fear of electricity, are lifesaving fears that, if
heeded, bring a new knowledge to life."
Flavel said that "By the fear of the Lord men depart
from evil; but by the fear of man they run themselves into evil."
Gurnall wrote that God is the Conqueror of all fear explaining that "Our help is in the name of the Lord,
but our fears are in the name of man."
F. B. Meyer wrote
that "God incarnate is the end of fear,
and the heart that realizes that He is in the midst, that takes heed to
the assurance of His loving presence, will be quiet in the midst of
Many people have
faced frightening experiences, and sometimes nations have passed through
times of terror. One such nightmare of human history was the frequent
bombing of London and other English cities by Germany during World War
H. Many Christians testified that those nighttime attacks were times of
great peace because the Lord was with them. In this vein,
During WWII in the
midst of frightening nighttime air raids one London church posted the
following sign "If your knees knock, kneel on them."
fear and trembling - With fear to offend so good a God of
which we read, Blessed is the man who feareth always. With
trembling. Before the Lord we do not tremble with affright, but with
holy awe, lest we should sin and grieve the Spirit. (Working
Out What is Worked In)
trembling are proper reactions when we consider our own spiritual
weakness and the power of our fallen flesh to tempt us (James 1:14). The
Amplified Bible "amplifies" the meaning of fear and trembling
with a very vivid description "self-distrust, with serious caution,
tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly
shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of
like the idea of "self-distrust" because my flesh is so crafty and
subtle that it can make me think I am in good spiritual condition which
is clearly a form of pride which comes before my fall! I think we might
all benefit from the prayer by King Asa (before he became prideful -
2Chr 16:7ff) - "Then (see context = 2Chr 14:9-10) Asa called to the LORD
his God, and said, "LORD, there is no one besides Thee to help in the
battle between the powerful and those who have no strength (That's us
beloved when we try to win the battles with the world, flesh and devil
in our own strength!). So help ('azar)
us, O LORD our God, for we trust in Thee, and in Thy name have come
against this multitude. O LORD, Thou art our God; let not man prevail
against Thee." (2Chr 14:11) We need to confess our lack of strength and
our tendency of self-reliance. Notice that while God provides the power,
they are still have a responsibility ("have come against this
multitude"). I love how Alexander Maclaren put it "Profound
self-distrust is wisdom" which of course sounds like foolishness to the
world, but it is in weakness that we are made strong even as the saints
of faith in Hebrews 11:34 (cp 2Cor 12:9).
The world of
course scoffs at the premise that self-distrust could have any
meritorious effect, crying out that a lack of confidence in oneself is
to be avoided at all costs. The world says be confident, be bold. Just
do it. While this attitude may have some merit in the material world, it
has no merit in the spiritual world and is of no value in our walk of
sanctification. Confidence in the Lord, yes, but not confidence in my
flesh. In fact, distrust of my flesh! There is a huge difference.
goes on to add that "The consciousness of weakness may unnerve a man;
and that is why people in the world are always patting each other on the
back and saying ‘Be of good cheer, and rely upon yourself.’ But
the self-distrust that turns to God becomes the parent of a far
more reliable self-reliance than that which trusts to men. My
consciousness of need is my opening the door for God to come in.
Just as you always find the lakes in the hollows, so you will always
find the grace of God coming into men’s hearts to strengthen them and
make them victorious, when there has been the preparation of the lowered
estimate of one’s self. Hollow out your heart by self-distrust,
and God will fill it with the flashing waters of His strength bestowed.
The more I feel myself weak, the more I am meant not to fold my hands
and say, ‘I never can do that thing; it is of no use my trying to
attempt it, I may as well give it up’; but to say, ‘Lord there is none
beside Thee that can set the balance right between the mighty and him
that hath no strength.’ ‘Help me, O Lord my God!’ Just as those little
hermit-crabs that you see upon the seashore, with soft bodies
unprotected, make for the first empty shell they can find, and house in
that and make it their fortress, our exposed natures, our unarmored
characters, our sense of weakness, ought to drive us to Him (Ed:
Continually!). As the unarmed population of a land invaded by the enemy
pack their goods and hurry to the nearest fortified place, so when I say
to myself I have no strength, let me say, ‘Thou art my Rock, my
Strength, my Fortress, and my Deliverer. My God, in whom I trust, my
Buckler, and the Horn of my Salvation, and my high Tower.’ Now, there is
one more word about this matter, and that is, the way by which we summon
God into the field. Asa prays, ‘Help us, O Lord our God! for we rest on
Thee’; and the word that he employs for ‘rest’ is not a very frequent
one. It carries with it a very striking picture. Let me illustrate it by
a reference to another case where it is employed. It is used in that
tragical story of the death of Saul, when the man that saw the last of
him came to David and drew in a sentence the pathetic picture of the
wearied, wounded, broken-hearted, discrowned, desperate monarch, leaning
on his spear. You can understand how hard he leaned, with what a grip he
held it, and how heavily his whole languid, powerless weight pressed
upon it. And that is the word that is used here. ‘We lean on Thee’ as
the wounded Saul leaned upon his spear. Is that a picture of your faith,
my friend? Do you lean upon God like that, laying your hand upon Him
till every vein on your hand stands out with the force and tension of
the grasp? Or do you lean lightly, as a man that does not feel much the
need of a support? Lean hard if you wish God to come quickly. ‘We rest
on Thee; help us, O Lord!’ (Read
Maclaren's Exposition of Asa's Prayer
in 2Chronicles 14:11)
The last line in a
Puritan prayer in the
VALLEY OF VISION
reads "Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on Thyself,
mortification, crucifixion, prayer." That's the prayer of a mature
saint! It is a good pattern to emulate!
well said "Beware of no man more than of yourself: we carry our worst
enemies within us! Distrust yourself, dear friend, for you accurately
gauge your own judgment when you do that. The well-instructed believer
is very much afraid of himself; he dares not go into temptation, for he
feels that a man who carries a bomb-shell within him ought to mind that
he keeps away from sparks, and that he who has a powder-magazine in his
heart ought not to play with fire. When I hear my Master say, “One of
you shall betray me,” I may have a shrewd suspicion that he refers to
Judas, but it will be wiser for me to say, “Lord, is it I?” rather than
to ask, “Lord, is it Judas?”
In Isa 66:2
Jehovah says that trembling is a good attitude for saints to
possess - “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came
into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who
is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
A W Tozer
on self-distrust - It is important that we understand how
dangerous it is to trust our good habits and virtues. Only God can bring
us to the point of understanding that our strength is indeed our
weakness. Anything that we rely on or trust can be our undoing. We do
not realize how weak we are until the Holy Spirit begins exposing these
things to us.
includes self-distrust among several which reflect the blessed
state of those who are "poor in spirit." (Mt 5:3, cf Php 3:3)
F B Meyer -
The resolutions of the evening are not strong enough to carry us
victoriously through the morning conflict. We must learn to watch and
pray, to lie low in humility and self-distrust, and to be strong in the
grace which awaits all tempted ones in God.
on with fear and trembling. - Beware of the treachery of the
heart. The number who have fallen; the immense stake at issue; the frown
Morgan commenting on Pr 25:9 - There is no safer condition of soul,
than that self-distrust, that knowledge of ignorance,
which drives us persistently to seek for the wisdom which cometh from
Maclaren - If we keep ourselves in Christ's love, we may blend
self-distrust and absolute security, and we shall have the
security only if we cherish the distrust.
Maclaren commenting on miracle of loaves and fishes - Preparation of
the disciples for this work. Looking at their own resources, they felt
utterly inadequate to the work. Humility and self-distrust are
necessary if God is to work with and in us. He works with bruised reeds,
and out of them makes polished shafts, pillars in His house. In His
hands our feeble resources are enough.
Maclaren commenting on Luke 22:61 - Be sure, dear friend, that the
same long-suffering, patient love is looking down upon each of us, and
that if we will, like Peter, let the look melt us into penitent
self-distrust and heart-sorrow for our clinging sins, then Jesus will do
for us as He did for that penitent denier on the Resurrection morning.
He will take us away by ourselves and speak healing words of forgiveness
and reconciliation so that we, like him, will dare in spite of our
faithlessness to fall at His feet and say, "Lord, You know all things;
You know that I, earlier faithless and treacherous, love You; and all
the more because You have forgiven the denial and restored the denier."
Maclaren - Love, which destroys fear, heightens reverence, and
deepens self-distrust....Love destroys fear, and perfects
self-distrust. (Sermon on 1John 4:18)
- There is abundant reason for caution, self-distrust, modesty, and
humility, since so many have fallen, so many Peters denied their Lord,
so many Demases forsaken Him. “Be not high minded, but fear.”
The old Scottish
preacher Wardlaw says "This fear (in Php 2:12) is
self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance
against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposes to
high-mindedness in the admonition 'be not high-minded but fear.' It is
taking heed lest we fall (1Cor 10:12); it is a constant apprehension of
the deceitfulness of the heart (Jer 17:9), and of the insidiousness and
power of inward corruption [in the unsanctified]. It is the caution and
circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and
dishonor God and the Savior (Ps 19:13)."
Morgan noted the paradox that God's "grace keeps the soul in the
dust of self-distrust; but lifts it to the height of confidence
wrote "The secret of perfect trust is perfect self-distrust.
And there is nothing which helps more to a realization of one’s
unworthiness than the contemplation of the just judgment of God as He
reveals it in Holy Writ."
writes "To walk in humility, self-distrust, and holy fear is wisdom."
commenting on the apostle Peter wrote "Under divine training Peter
came to learn that the secret of victorious strength in service for
Christ is self-distrust, "When I am weak, then am I strong."
Through his pride, through his overweening self-confidence, Peter fell,
but there is one verse in his first epistle, addressed especially to
those who are self-reliant, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your
adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he
may devour." From Jesus, Peter learned the lesson of self-abnegation
(denial). The Master died to self before He died for sin. "Reviled, he
reviled not again." This was the example which Peter the braggart came
to follow (1Peter 2:21-24). Along a hard road he came to experience that
"God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1Pet. 5:5)."
Brigstocke writes that "Self-confidence is the mark of the natural
man. Self-distrust is the mark of the genuine disciple of
says "We are safe in Humility, we are secured by self-distrust;
for then we cry mightily with the tenderness of prayer, "Hold thou me up
and I shall be safe!"
also prayed "Teach us our ignorance. May we begin at the point of
self-distrust, and gradually move onward by the guidance of the Holy
Ghost to perfect faith in the Son of God. We would live the faith-life:
we would live, and move, and have our being in the Spirit."
J J Goadby
- The spirit in which this great work (of working out our salvation) is
to be pursued. - "What will come of any work we undertake largely
depends on the “spirit” in which we undertake it. We may enter upon it
half-heartedly, or as something merely secondary. But our salvation is
to be the principal thing to us; and working it out is to be thorough.
Wise cautiousness. “Fear and trembling.” This is not nervous dread, nor
timorous quaking, but a keen and ceaseless outlook considering foes and
temptations; a self-distrust that sharpens vigilance; a recognition of
danger and preparedness to meet it.
A Word of
Caution - Self-distrust becomes perilous sentimentality in some
forms of sectarian religious life. It is exaggeration of sentiment to
assume that, in the matter of redemption, or in the ordering of the
godly life, God must do everything and man can do nothing. So long as
self-distrust holds itself ready to respond to what comes of its
reliance on God, it is healthy. When self-distrust is fostered by
introspection, by examination of variable feelings, or by attempting to
match feeling with impossible human standards, it is unhealthy, and
utterly weakening to the moral fibre. Self-distrust that makes a man
miserable and idle is, by its influence, stamped as bad. Self-distrust
that inspires trust, self-distrust that persists in keeping on doing
active duty, is healthy and good, honouring to God, and every way
hopeful for man. (Pulpit Commentary)
on fear and trembling - This text is often misused to instill
fear into people, warning them that it means that they can lose
salvation. What does it mean to work out our salvation with fear and
trembling? Paul can hardly be encouraging believers to live in a
continuous condition of nervousness and anxiety. That would contradict
his many other exhortations to peace of mind, courage, and confidence in
the God who authors our salvation. (What
does it mean to work out salvation with fear and trembling Philippians
(5156) (tromos from trémo = tremble,
gives us our English word "tremor") quaking with
fear or quivering often with the implication of fear and/or
consternation (Mk 16:8). Tremor in the present context expresses
profound reverence and respect (1Co 2:3, 2Co 7:15).
Paul's use of tromos
in his description of slaves closely approximates the sense of the use
here in Php 2:12 - "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters
according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of
your heart, as to Christ." (Eph 6:5)
dictionary defines trembling as an involuntary shaking,
quivering, or shivering as with fear, cold or weakness.
Tromos - 5x in 5v in NAS -Mk 16:8; 1Co 2:3; 2Co 7:15; Ep 6:5; Php 2:12.
Always translated as "trembling".
Tromos - 20x
Septuagint (LXX) -Ge 9:2;
Ex 15:15f; Deut 2:25; 11:25; Job 4:14; 38:34; Ps 2:11; 48:6; 55:5; Isa
19:16; 33:14; 54:14; 64:1, 3; Jer 15:8; 49:24; Da 4:1, 19; Hab 3:16. Is
is most often translated by the English words (in NAS) terror or dread.
Tromos and phobos
are also found in the
Septuagint (LXX) translation of Psalm 2
which calls for us to "Worship (LXX
translates it with douleuo = serve, Hebrew is more literally "serve")
Jehovah with reverence (phobos),
and rejoice with trembling (tromos). (Psalm 2:11-note)
The Lord seeks such an attitude from those who would worship Him in
spirit and in truth, the psalmist writing "Worship the LORD with reverence
(phobos) and rejoice with trembling (tromos). (Psalm 2:11-note)
comments on fear and trembling means "lest you should fail of its
accomplishment at the last. The Expression indicates a state of anxiety
and self-distrust. And the stress of the exhortation is on these words
-- considering the immense sacrifice which Christ made for you, and the
lofty eminence to which God hath now raised Him, be ye more than ever
earnest that you miss not your own share in such salvation. The thought
before the Apostle's mind is much the same as that in Heb 2:3-note.
NT for English Readers - Online).
- Our Attitude must be that of a Humble
Servant -- striving to please his master "with fear and trembling"
possibly an idiomatic expression of the times 1Co 2:3; 2Co 7:15; Ep 6:5
cf. hostess wanting to make sure everything is just right for a
distinguished guest opposite of being high-minded and proud and arrogant
and self-confident (Paul
Apple - Philippians)
fear and trembling - He uses it where he would express a
state of mind in which willing reverence is joined with a certain
sensitive anxiety to escape dangerous mistakes and to perform duty well.
F F Bruce
writes that "fear and trembling" refers to "an attitude of due reverence and awe
in the presence of God, a sensitivity to His will, an awareness of
responsibility in view of the account to be rendered before the tribunal
of Christ (see
bema seat of Christ).
Maclaren comments on fear and trembling - You may say, “Perfect love casts
out fear.” (1Jn 4:18) So it does: the fear that hath torment. But
there is another fear and trembling which is but another shape of
confidence and calm hope. Scripture does tell us that the believing
man’s salvation is certain since he believes. And your faith can be
worth nothing unless it have trembling distrust of your own power, which
is the companion of all thankful and faithful reception of God’s mercy.
Let, then, all fear and trembling be yours as a man; let all confidence
and calm trust be yours as a child of God. Turn your confidence and your
fears alike into prayer.
writes that "If you know God—really know God—for
Who He is in the greatness of His holiness and justice and wrath and
grace, you will tremble in His presence. And this is not
something you will grow out of. In fact, the immature must grow into it.
Present Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God)
The very thought
of one of the most monumental events in time and eternity should cause
every individual, saved and unsaved, to carefully weigh their every
thought, word and deed, and chose the way of obedience and
sanctification for none of know when that day will come like a thief.
And so with utmost resolve and dependence on God (verse 13), we should
daily seek to as
"little children (to)
imperative) in Him,
so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from
Him in shame at His coming" (1John 2:28) and "everyone who has this hope" (of His appearing
and being like Him) "purifies ("decontaminates", frees from
all that defiles heart and mind =
present tense) himself, just as He is pure (without moral defect or
comments that fear and trembling "describes that state of mind which
ought ever to characterize believers—distrust of themselves—earnest
solicitude in every duty—humble reliance on divine aid, with the abiding
consciousness that after all they do come far short of meeting
obligation...“Work out with fear and trembling,
for God it is that worketh in you. Engage in the duty, for God prompts
and enables you; engage in it with fear and trembling—emotions which the
nature of the work and such a consciousness of the Divine presence and
co-operation ought always to produce.” If the impulse sprang from
themselves, and drew around it the ability to obey, there might be
“strife and vainglory;” but surely if the motive and the strength came
alike from God, then only in reliance on Him, and with special humility
and self-subduing timidity, could they proceed, in reference to their
own salvation, or in offering one another spiritual service." (Philippians 2 Commentary)
Lloyd-Jones writes that "fear and trembling" are
manifest by "a holy vigilance and circumspection.
It means that as I work out my salvation, I should realize the
tremendous seriousness of what I am doing." (The Life of Joy and Peace,
Lloyd-Jones p. 178)....He does not mean that we must do it
in fear of losing our salvation. You will find that in the New Testament
these words never carry that implication. When Paul wrote to the
Corinthians 'I was with you ... in fear, and in much trembling' (1Cor
2:3), he did not mean that he was afraid that he would lose his soul.
Neither is it a kind of craven fear, one of self torment. It means
humility and a holy reverence, or, if you like, a holy vigilance and
circumspection. It means that as I work out my salvation, I should
realize the tremendous seriousness of what I am doing. (Working Out Our Own
A W Pink - It is "with fear and trembling"
(Philippians 2:12) that God bids us to work out our own salvation. While
we are left here below, we are in the Adversary's territory, for "the
whole world lies in wickedness" (1Jn 5:19). Moreover, sin indwells us,
and our corruptions are ever seeking to dominate us. God has faithfully
warned us in His Word against our perils, and it is the part of wisdom
to lay those warnings to heart. Only the presumptuous fool will
disregard them, only the silly trifler will raise quibbles and make
objections against them. If God has issued cautions, it is because we
stand in real need of such. (Brethren
Pentecost explains that the idea behind fear and trembling "is of a passion to please. We
might render the phrase this way: You work out your own salvation with a
deep passion and trembling desire to do the right."
J. D. The Joy of Living: A study of Philippians. Kregel Publications)
As alluded to above, Phil 2:12, 13 must not be taken out of
which is critical for accurate
out" does not mean
"work for" one's salvation as most of the cults teach.
Paul is not teaching "works salvation". The idea as discussed
more fully in the next section is to progress to the finish or
completion in spiritual growth and maturity. Peter would phrase it a bit
differently but gives essentially the same exhortation writing "applying
all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence..." (2Pe 1:5,
2Pe 1:8, 9-note,
2Pe 1:10, 11-note),
concluding his epistle with the exhortation (command) to "grow
(continually) in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ" (2Pe 3:18-note)
This process is called "sanctification." Verse 12 makes it
clear we are to be active, not passive, in this
process. But praise God although we are active, we are not alone for the
next verse reminds us again that the entire salvation process is a work
of grace by our sovereign God. "For it is God Who is at work in you"
is the firm and ultimate foundation for our past, present and future
salvation. Our salvation is "by grace...through faith; and that
not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not as a result of works" (Eph
Works can no more retain salvation for us than they can
achieve it in the first place, but works are the visible
evidence of salvation and so we will do good works (see discussion
Good Deeds) if we are truly saved "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph
The next verse
assures us that God is now working in us, through His indwelling Holy
Spirit, to enable us to do these good works. This is good news.
John MacArthur explains that "there are two equal and opposite
errors into which Christians may fall concerning the doctrine of
sanctification. On the one hand, quietists stress God’s role in
sanctification, to the virtual exclusion of any human effort.
Pietists, in contrast, emphasize self-effort at the expense of
reliance on God’s power. In Philippians 2:12, 13, the apostle Paul avoids
both of those unbiblical extremes, and presents the true balanced view
of sanctification. (MacArthur,
J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press)
Martyn Lloyd Jones in his pithy, pragmatic style explain how
salvation is to be worked out writing that...
Well, first of all I must submit
myself entirely to God. The Apostle puts it here in terms of the amazing
account that he gives us of the earthly life of our Lord in Phil 2:5-11
Now that, says Paul, is the very thing that God is demanding of you. He
wants you to manifest that same obedience which was to be seen in our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ an utter and absolute submission to the
will of God. Though he came as a man, our Lord went even further, even
to the death of the cross. Whatever God asked Him to do, He did it; and
that is the first part of the working out of our own salvation. It is to
see that in view of this amazing gift that God has given us, He has the
right to demand of us this utter submission of our wills. Before I begin
to do anything, I must say to myself, 'In view of what God has done for
me, in this world I must desire to please him in all things. I must make
my will, His. My one concern must be to live to His honour and His
glory.' I do not think that that needs any proof. If I believe that God
has done this astounding thing for me, is it not inevitable?
Clearly the next step is that I must avoid everything that is opposed to
God, what the New Testament calls 'the world': 'Love not the world,
neither the things that are in the world' (1John 2:15). The New
Testament tells us that man cannot love God and the world at the same
time. It puts this to our common sense and reason. It is perfectly
evident that the outlook of life and organization in this world is
opposed to God. We have only to read our newspapers. The world is
godless, ready to make fun of God and religion. It is not interested in
God; it panders to the flesh, and ridicules everything that is connected
with God. But the New Testament says that working out my salvation means
avoidance of everything that is opposed to God.
There is no limit to that. I must in
no way be concerned with those things, or be interested in them, or
allow them to appeal to me or to attract me. I must avoid everything
that is opposed to my own best interests. If I believe that this world
is a very dangerous place to me, that temptation and sin are all round
and about me, and that the whole world is doing its utmost to drag me
down, if I see that it leads me to hell and destruction, but that God
has delivered me from it, am I not being contradictory if I go on doing
worldly things and enjoy doing them? It is an appeal to commonsense. It
is surely ridiculous to say, 'I want to go to God and I thank God I have
been delivered', and yet to work in the opposite direction. 'Work out
your own salvation'; perfect it. God has delivered you by this amazing
act of self sacrifice; you have been given a new start and nature,
salvation is set before you. Turn your back upon the other once and for
ever. If we really believe that, there is no need to argue; it is
We can summarise it like this. The
best way is to consult the textbook on this subject. Here it is
perfectly clear: the more I read the Bible and see the picture of the
Christian man, the more I understand the nature of sin and life in this
world, and what God has done for me in Christ, then the more I shall
desire the things of God and hate the other. So I suggest that the best
practical step is to read God's word, and to be thoroughly soaked in it.
There is a very simple, practical test that one can apply at this point.
I wonder what the result would be if we all kept a chart for one week
and put down on paper the amount of time which we spent in reading God's
word and things which help us to understand it, and the time we spent
reading newspapers and novels or watching films? Now I am just asking
the question. We say we believe in salvation. We believe God has given
us this gift, so then, I ask, what are the relative amounts of time that
we give to these things? Working out our own salvation means that we do
everything we can to feed this life, to stimulate it, to enable it to
extend and develop and grow.
And the other thing, clearly, is prayer: prayer for an increasing
knowledge of God, for a greater measure of the Holy Spirit and for a
greater understanding of this word; prayer for guidance, for leading and
for understanding. If I believe in God and that he has done this for me,
why do I spend so little time with Him? Why do I not long for Him more
and more? That is how we work it out and I must follow and obey every
prompting and leading that I am conscious of in this direction. The
fathers used to regard the Christian life as a whole time occupation.
They used to spend their time with it and, I feel, it is one of the
greatest condemnations of us today that we are guilty of not working out
this amazing salvation that God has given to us.
But, then, what is the manner in which we do this? The Apostle says that
we are to do it 'with fear and trembling'. Here again we must
define our terms. He does not mean that we must do it in fear of losing
our salvation. You will find that in the New Testament these words never
carry that implication. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians 'I was with
you ... in fear, and in much trembling' (1 Cor 2:3), he did not mean
that he was afraid that he would lose his soul. Neither is it a kind of
craven fear, one of self torment. It means humility and a holy
reverence, or, if you like, a holy vigilance and circumspection. It
means that as I work out my salvation, I should realise the tremendous
seriousness of what I am doing.
I wonder whether this is not the thing which needs to be emphasised most
at the present time, not least in the ranks of evangelical people? I
wonder why it is that the whole idea of the godly man has somehow
or other got lost amongst us? Why is it that Christian people are not
described as 'God fearing' people? Why is it that there is such a
difference between us and the Christian of a hundred or two hundred
years ago, or the Puritan of the seventeenth century? They were truly
Christian. 'Methodist', too, was a kind of nickname given to people
because of their methodical life. I wonder why it is that somehow or
other we have lost this particular sense of the Christian life? I have
no doubt but that the explanation is that it is an overreaction on our
part from the pure legalism that was so common at the turn of the
century when many people had lost the true spirit of the New Testament.
They imposed a certain kind of life upon themselves and upon their
children; they laid down rules and regulations; and people then reacted
and said, 'That is pure legalism, not Christianity.' But now we are so
much like everybody else because we have forgotten this about 'fear
and trembling', vigilance and circumspection. Sometimes I am afraid
we have been so anxious not to give the impression that to be Christian
means being miserable, that we have imagined that we must be smiling and
laughing all the time and we have believed in this so called 'muscular'
Now I suggest that that is somewhat of a denial of what is taught here.
The Christian must of necessity be a serious and sober man. 'With
fear and trembling' means a holy reverence and awe of God. I must
realize that the God with whom I am concerned is 'the Father of lights,
with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning' (Jas 1:17-note),
that 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all' (1John 1:5). If he
is in the light, I must walk in the light (1John 1:7). Also, I should
have a fear of the world in the sense that I realize that the
world is opposed to me, that it is there to drag me down and away from
God. I should have a healthy respect for it.
I should also fear myself. A man who knows his own heart is a man
who cannot be light and carefree and flippant. He knows that in his
flesh there 'dwelleth no good thing' (Ro 7:18-note).
The Christian is one who works out his own salvation with fear and
trembling; fear lest he should fail or falter, lest he should not
discern the subtlety of the world, the power of sin and his own
weakness, and the holiness of God. So he walks with gravity lest he
should be unworthy of this great salvation.
So, then, we have seen what it means to work out our own salvation, and
how we are to do it, and now, lastly, why should we do it?
First of all,
as we saw earlier, we should do this because it is exactly and precisely
what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ did. He submitted himself to God;
he said, 'For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the
will of him that sent me' (John 6:38). Is there anything higher for us
than to imitate and emulate his example?
The second reason is because of what He has done for us; we believe that
Christ shed His blood and allowed His body to be broken that we might be
delivered. As Paul wrote to Titus,
'Who gave Himself for us, that He
might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar [a
special] people, zealous of good works' (see note
It was the reason
why he came and went to the death of the cross. It was in order that we
might do this.
Then I must work out my own salvation because of his honour and his
glory. The world judges Him by His people. In that sense His glory and
His honour are in my hands. I am dishonouring Christ if I fail.
reason is that there are others who are watching me. Even the world
itself is doing so, and I must so live that I attract them to Christ,
warning them of their sinful and terrible condition and trying my utmost
to bring them to know him.
And then there is another, powerful reason: if I really believe that I
am going to heaven, that I am a citizen of the kingdom of God and that
when I come to die I enter this amazing inheritance, then,
that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure' (1
God is absolutely pure and perfect, and if I say I am going
on to him, have I then a moment to waste? I must prepare myself, there
is not a second to lose.
And, lastly, I must work out my salvation with fear and trembling, for
this good reason: the New Testament teaches me that if I fail to do so
myself, then I must not be surprised if God begins to do certain things
to me. Do you remember the teaching of Hebrews 12:6-note?
'Whom the Lord loveth
he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.' (cp He 12:5-note)
It is put
still more strikingly in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul says that there
were many in the church at Corinth who were sick, and there were even
some, he said, who were dead, and he tells us that the reason for that
was that they had not examined themselves before partaking of the Lord's
Supper, and were partaking unworthily. Such a man, Paul said,
and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body' (1Co 11:29).
The doctrine of the New Testament can be put into this form: if God has
called you and given you his salvation, he destines you for salvation
and he is going to perfect you. His method is to put promptings within
us. He energizes our mind and whole outlook, but if we fail to practise
these things, then God, in His very love to us, is going to chasten us a
sickness, an illness, a disappointment, a loss, a sorrow. These are ways
which God uses because of our failure and our recalcitrance.
'It is a fearful thing to fall into
the hands of the living God' (Heb 10:31-note).
The love of God is as great as that. The Christian man who is not doing
his utmost to live the Christian life is a fool, and he must not be
surprised if certain things begin to happen to him. If you are a child
of God, He is going to bring about your perfection and if you do not do
it yourself to please Him in this way, then, I say, you may well find
that God will do it to you in one of these other ways. That is a very
wonderful thing. I am not saying that every Christian who suffers is
being chastised, but I do say that God does do that, and if we fail to
respond to His appeal, then we must not be surprised if we experience
Therefore, my beloved, 'work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of
his good pleasure.' (Philippians 2:12-13 Working Out Our Own
><> ><> ><>
Chambers - Work out what God works in - Your will agrees
with God, but in your flesh there is a disposition which renders you
powerless to do what you know you ought to do. When the Lord is
presented to the conscience, the first thing conscience does is to
rouse the will, and the will always agrees with God. You say—‘But I do
not know whether my will is in agreement with God.’ Look to Jesus and
you will find that your will and your conscience are in agreement with
Him every time. The thing in you which makes you say ‘I shan’t’ is
something less profound than your will; it is perversity, or
obstinacy, and they are never in agreement with God. The profound
thing in man is his will, not sin. Will is the essential element in
God’s creation of man: sin is a perverse disposition which entered
into man. In a regenerated man the source of will is almighty, “For it
is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good
pleasure.” You have to work out with concentration and care what God
works in; not work your own salvation, but work it out, while you base
resolutely in unshaken faith on the complete and perfect Redemption of
the Lord. As you do this, you do not bring an opposed will to God’s
will, God’s will is your will, and your natural choices are along the
line of God’s will, and the life is as natural as breathing. God is
the source of your will, therefore you are able to work out His will.
Obstinacy is an unintelligent ‘wadge’ that refuses to be enlightened;
the only thing is for it to be blown up with dynamite, and the
dynamite is obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Do I believe
that Almighty God is the Source of my will? God not only expects me to
do His will, but He is in me to do it. (Chambers, Oswald: My Utmost
For His Highest - Barbour Publishing)
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Display According to Circumstances
by John Ker = "... work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling" (Phil. 2:12). - The Pharisees were rebuked for making their
religion public. Daniel would have sinned had he made his private. So
different is duty when religion is popular or unpopular. Sometimes a man
has no religion if he does not show it; sometimes very little if he
obtrudes it. One thing we must always show the fruits in the life.
There are things in religion not for common talk, which a delicate mind
will no more thrust in than it will its heart's deepest affections.
David says, "Come near all ye that fear God: I will tell what He hath
done for my soul." Those that "fear God" are invited, and they must
Our Saviour was thirty years in the world before He said much in it, as
far as we know. Then He spoke "as one having authority." He bade some of
the healed speak, others to be silent, as suited character and
circumstance. He kept silence on occasions--when the Syro-Phoenician
woman cried after Him, when His accusers testified against Him. There
are many seasons for silence as well as for speech.
Hidden Work by Elisabeth
Elliot - Phil 2:12-14 - Few of us accomplish without delay or
interruption what we set out to accomplish. Plans are made, and they
fail. We dream dreams, and they are not fulfilled. Even what seem to be
soberly realistic schedules are interrupted by unforeseen demands. Often
we are tempted to quit our efforts altogether, to take a careless
attitude, or to give in to helplessness, despair, and frustration.
When the apostle Paul's itinerant ministry was brought to a standstill
by his imprisonment in Rome, he had plenty of human reasons for giving
up. He wrote to the Christians at Philippi, who themselves were
suffering persecution, reminding them of the humble obedience of Christ.
"You too, my friends, must be obedient, as always.... You must work out
your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in
you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for his own chosen purpose.
Do all you have to do without complaint or wrangling" (Phil 2:12-14
Imprisonments, persecutions, late planes, an attack of the flu, an
uninvited guest, or an unpleasant confrontation--never mind. Be obedient
as always! Such a simple directive. So hard to carry out--unless we also
remember that we are not by any means alone in our effort. God also is
at work in us, always accomplishing what we could not accomplish if left
to ourselves: his own chosen purpose.
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Theodore Epp - Balanced and
Every Christian needs to work out his
salvation with a tender conscience and a watchfulness against
temptations, trials or testings, shrinking from whatever might offend
God or discredit His name.
Each of us needs to seriously consider whether or not there is something
in our lives that is discrediting the name and Person of Christ. When we
realize what He has done for us, we ought to tremble as we stand in the
presence of a holy, righteous, almighty God.
Not only do we stand in His presence now, but we will also stand in His
presence when we give account at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
When others view our lives today, what do they see? What do they talk
about? We should be constantly apprehensive of the deceitfulness of the
Jeremiah 17:9,10 says
The heart is more deceitful than all
else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search
the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his
ways, according to the results of his deeds
We need to develop a watchfulness in
regard to the power in our corruption.
In all of this a perfect balance is kept--God gives the divine
enablement; we provide the human responsibility. We are not to be
totally passive, for after God works in us, we are to work it out
through our lives.
"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of
offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). (Back
to the Bible)
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Becoming Whole - When a friend
fell off her bike and suffered a severe brain injury, doctors weren’t
sure she would survive. For several days she remained suspended between
life and death.
The first good news came when she
opened her eyes. Then she responded to simple voice commands. But with
every small improvement, anxiety remained. How far would she progress?
After one difficult day of therapy, her husband was discouraged. But the
very next morning he shared these welcome words: “Sandy’s back!”
Physically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally, Sandy was
becoming the “self” who we knew and loved.
Sandy’s fall reminds me of what theologians refer to as “the fall” of
mankind (Gen. 3). And her struggle to recover parallels our struggle to
overcome the brokenness of sin (Ro. 7:18). If only her body healed,
recovery would be incomplete. The same would be true if her brain worked
but her body didn’t. Wholeness means that all parts work together for
God is the one healing Sandy, but she has to work hard in therapy to
improve. The same is true of us spiritually. After God saves us through
Christ, we must “work out” our salvation (Phil 2:12)—not to earn it but
to bring our thoughts and actions into agreement with His purpose.— by
Julie Ackerman Link
More like the Master I would ever be,
More of His meekness, more humility;
More zeal to labor, more courage to be true,
More consecration for work He bids me do.
To become whole,
keep yielding to the Holy Spirit.
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J C Philpot...
None but God's people under the
teachings of the Spirit know what it is to "work out their own
salvation." And all who work out their own salvation will work it out
"with fear and trembling." For when a man is taught by God to know what
he is; when he feels what a deceitful heart he carries in his bosom;
when the various snares, temptations, and corruptions by which he is
daily encompassed are opened up to him; when he knows and feels what a
ruined wretch he is in self, then he begins to fear and tremble lest he
should be damned at the last. He cannot go recklessly and carelessly on
without "making straight paths for his feet," without "examining himself
whether he be in the faith."
And whenever a man's dreadfully deceitful heart is opened up to him;
whenever the hollowness of an empty profession is unmasked; whenever he
feels how strait is the path, how narrow the way, and how few there are
that find it; whenever he is brought to see how easily a man is
deceived, and how certainly he must be deceived unless God teaches him
in a special manner--whenever a man is brought to this point, to see
what a rare thing, what a sacred thing, and what a spiritual thing
religion is, that God himself is the author and finisher of it in the
conscience, and that a man has no more religion than God is pleased to
give him, and cannot work a single grain of it into his own soul; when
he stands on this solemn ground, and begins to work out that which God
works in, it will always be "with fear and trembling;" with some "fear"
lest he be deceived, until God assures him by his own blessed lips that
he is not deluded; and "with trembling," as knowing that he stands in
the immediate presence of God, and under his heart-searching eye. (June
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A Long Obedience -
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. —Every January,
health club memberships dramatically increase and exercise rooms become
crowded with what some people call "the New Year's resolution crowd."
Fitness regulars know that by March many of the newcomers will be gone.
"They don't see results as quickly as they think they will," says one
club director. "People don't realize it takes a lot of work and
perseverance to get in shape."
It's a phenomenon we experience in the spiritual realm as well. Author
Eugene Peterson notes that in a culture that loves speed and efficiency,
"it is not difficult . . . to get a person interested in the message of
the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest." To
follow Christ faithfully, Peterson says, requires "a long obedience in
the same direction."
Paul urged the Philippians to adopt the same mindset as Christ, whose
obedience to the Father was wholehearted and complete (Phil 2:8-note). He
encouraged them to keep on obeying the Lord and to "work out [their] own
salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).
As new believers, we may have good intentions when we take our first
steps of faith. Then, as we grow in Christ, God's power enables us to
keep walking joyfully with Him along the long road of obedience. —David
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
The Lord God is
faithful, and always will be,
He'll never give up on you or on me;
So let us continue to serve Him each day,
Faithful to follow His will and His way.
Faith in Christ is not just a single step
but a life of walking with
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THE ONE THING
If there be
anything excellent, it is salvation; if there be anything necessary, it
is working out salvation; if there be any tool to work with, it is holy
fear. "Work out your salvation with fear." The words are a grave and
serious exhortation, needful, not only for those Christians who lived in
the apostle's time, but may fitly be calculated for the meridian of this
age wherein we live...The proposition is this: It should be a
Christian's great work to be working out his salvation. The great God
has put us into the world as into a vineyard, and here is the work He
has set us about, the working out of salvation. There is a parallel
Scripture to this: "Give diligence to make your calling and election
sure" (2Pe 1:10). When estate, friends, life cannot be made sure, let
this be made sure: The original Greek signifies to study, or beat the
brains about a thing. These words in the text, "work out," imply two
things. First, a shaking off spiritual sloth. Sloth is a pillow on which
many have slept the sleep of death. Secondly, it implies a uniting and
rallying together all the powers of our souls that we may attend the
business of salvation.
now to the reasons enforcing this holy sweat and industry about
salvation, and they are three. We must work out our salvation because
difficulty of this work.
rareness of it.
possibility of it.
difficulty of this work.
It is a
work that may make us labor to the going down of the sun of our life
(Da. 6:14) Now this difficulty about the work of salvation will appear
four manner of ways.
the nature of the work. The heart is to be changed. The heart is the
very nursery of sin. It is the magazine where all the weapons of
unrighteousness lie. It is a lesser hell. The heart is full of antipathy
against God; it is angry with converting grace. Now that the bias of the
heart should be changed, what a work is this! How should we beg of
Christ, that He who turned the water into wine would turn the water, or
rather poison of nature, into the wine of grace?
will be ready to deceive us in this work of salvation, and make us take
a show of grace for grace. Many think they repent when it is not the
offence, but the penalty which troubles them; not the treason, but the
bloody axe. They think they repent when they shed a few tears; but
though this ice begins to melt a little, it freezes again; they go on
still in sin. Many weep for their unkind dealings with God, as Saul did
for his unkindness to David. "He said to David, You are more righteous
than I; for you have rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded you evil"
(1Sa 24:17). "And Saul lifted up his voice and wept" (1Sa 24:16). But
for all this he follows David again, and pursues after him (1Sa 26).
Secondly, men can lift up their voices and weep for sin, yet follow
their sins again. Thirdly, others forsake sin, but still they retain the
love of it in their hearts. Like the snake that casts off its skin, but
keeps the sting, there is as much difference between false and true
tears as between salt water and spring water. That which makes
salvation-work hard, is, that it is a slippery work. "Look to
yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought" (2Jn
8). This work falls down almost as fast as we build. An ordinary
builder, when he has been at work, finds his work the next morning just
as he left it; but it is not so with us. When we have been working out
salvation by prayer, fasting, meditation, and leave this work a while,
we shall not find our work as we left it; a great deal of our work is
fallen down again. We had need be often called upon to "Strengthen the
things which remain, that are ready to die" (Rev 3:2). No sooner is a
Christian taken off from the fire of the sanctuary, but he is ready to
cool and freeze again in security. He is like a watch, when he has been
wound up towards heaven, he does quickly unwind to earth and sin again.
When the gold has been purified in the furnace, it remains pure; but it
is not so with the heart. Let it be heated in an ordinance, let it be
purged in the furnace of affliction, it does not remain pure, but
quickly gathers soil and corruption. We are seldom long in a good frame.
All this shows how difficult the work of salvation is, we must not only
work, but set a watch too.
But why has God made the way to heaven so hard? Why must there be this
To make us set a high estimate upon heavenly things. If salvation were
easily come by, we should not have valued it to its worth. If diamonds
were ordinary, they would be slighted; but because they are hard to come
by, they are in great esteem.
rareness of this work
reason we must put forth so much holy sweat and industry about salvation
is because of the rareness of this work. But few shall be saved;
therefore we had need work the harder that we may be in the number of
these few. The way to hell is a broad way; the highway of it is paved
with riches and pleasure; it has a golden highway; therefore there are
daily so many travelers in it. But the way to heaven lies outside of the
road; it is an unbeaten path, and few can find it. Those who advocate
universal grace say that Christ died intentionally for all; but then why
are not all saved? Can Christ be frustrated of His intention? Some are
so gross to aver that all shall actually be saved; but has not our Lord
Christ told us, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads
unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14)? How all can go
in at this gate, and yet but few find it, seems to me a contradiction.
possibility of this work
reason why we should put forth so much vigor about the work of salvation
is because of the possibility of the work. Impossibility kills all
endeavor. Who will take pains for that which he thinks there is no hope
of ever obtaining? But "there is hope in Israel concerning this."
Salvation is a thing feasible; it may be had. Oh Christians, though the
gate of paradise be strait, yet the gate is open! It is shut against the
devils, but it is yet open to you. Who would not crowd hard to get in?
It is but paring off your sins; it is but unloading some of your thick
clay; it is but assuaging the swelling humour of your pride, and you may
get in at the strait gate. This possibility, no probability, of
salvation may put life into your endeavor. If there be corn to be had,
why should you sit starving in your sins any longer?
And so I
proceed to the use of exhortation, to persuade you all in the affections
of Christ to set about this great work, "the working out your
salvation." Beloved, here is a plot for heaven, and I would have you all
in this plot; rally together all the powers of your souls; give neither
God nor yourselves rest until you have "made your election sure."
Christians, fall to work; do it early, earnestly, incessantly. Pursue
salvation as in a holy chase; other things are but matters of
convenience; salvation is a matter of necessity. You must either do the
work that Christians are doing, or you must do the work that devils are
doing. Oh, you that never yet took one stitch in this work of salvation,
begin now. Religion is a good trade if it be well-followed. Be assured
there is no salvation without working. But here I must lay down a
caution to prevent mistakes.
shall not be saved without working, yet not for our working. We do not
work out salvation by way of merit. Bellarmine says, "We merit heaven
out of worthiness." No, though we are saved in the use of means, yet by
grace too (Eph. 2:5). There must be ploughing and sowing the ground, but
yet no crop can be expected without the influence of the sun; so there
must be working, but no crop of salvation can be hoped for without the
sunshine of free grace: "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you
the Kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Give? Why, might some say, we have wrought
hard for it? Ay, but heaven is a donation; though you work for it, yet
it is the good pleasure of God to bestow it. Still look up to Christ's
merit; it is not your sweat, but His blood that saves. That your working
cannot merit salvation is clear, "It is God that works in you to will
and to do" (ver. 13). It is not your working, but God's co-working. For
as the scrivener guides the child's hand, or he cannot write; so the
Spirit of God must afford His auxiliary concurrence, or our work stands
still. How then can any man merit by working, when it is God that helps
him to work?
now, having laid down this caution, resume the exhortation, and persuade
you to the working out salvation. But I must first remove two objections
which lie in the way.
Objection 1. You bid us work out salvation, but we have no power to
It is true, we have not power; I deny that we have the liberty to work.
Man before conversion is purely passive; therefore the Scripture calls
it a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). A man by nature can no more prepare
himself to his own converting than the stone can prepare itself to its
own softening. But yet when God begins to draw, we may follow. Those dry
bones in Ezekiel could not of themselves live, but when breath came into
them, then "they lived, and stood up upon their feet" (Ezek. 37: 10).
But suppose God has not dropped in a principle of grace? Suppose He has
not caused breath to enter?
Yet use the means. Though you cannot work spiritually, yet work
physically; do what you are able, and that for two reasons. 1. Because a
man by neglecting the means, does destroy himself. It is like a man by
not going to the physician, may be said to be the cause of his own
death. 2. God is not wanting to us when we do what we are able. Urge the
promise, "Seek and you shall find" (Matt. 7:7). Put this bond in suit by
prayer; you say you have no power, but have you not a promise? Act so
far as you can. Though I dare not say as the Arminian, when we do exert
and put forth nature, God is bound to give grace; yet this I say, God is
not wanting to those who seek his grace. No, I will say more, He denies
His grace to none but those who willfully refuse it (John 5:40).
Objection 2. The second objection is this; But to what purpose
should I work? There is a decree past; if God has decreed I shall be
saved, I shall be saved.
God decrees salvation in a way of working (2Th 2:13). Origen, in his
book against Celsus, observes a subtle argument of some who disputed
about Fate and Destiny. One gave counsel to his sick friend not to send
for the physician, because, says he, it is appointed by destiny whether
you shall recover or not. If it be your destiny to recover, then you
need not the physician; if it is not be your destiny, then the physician
will do you no good. The like fallacy does the devil use to men; he bids
them not work; if God has decreed they shall be saved, they shall be
saved, and there is no need of working; if He has not decreed their
salvation, then their working will do them no good; this is an argument
fetched out of the devil's topics. But we say, God decrees the end in
the use of means. God did decree that Israel should enter into Canaan,
but first they must fight with the sons of Anak. God decreed that
Hezekiah should recover from his sickness, but let him lay a fig to the
boil (Isa. 38:21). We do not argue thus in other things. A man does not
say, "If God has decreed I shall have a crop this year, I shall have a
crop; what need I plough, or sow, or fertilize the land?" No, he will
use the means, and expect a crop. Though "the blessing of the Lord, it
makes rich" (Prov. 10:22), yet it is as true, "the hand of the diligent
makes rich" (Prov. 10:4). God's decreeing is carried on by our working.
having removed these objections, let me now persuade you to set about
this blessed work, the working out your salvation; and that my words may
the better prevail, I shall propound several arguments by way of motive
to excite you to this work.
1. The first argument or motive to working, is taken from the
preciousness of the soul; well may we take pains that we may secure this
from danger. The soul is a divine spark kindled by the breath of God. It
does out-balance the world (Matt. 16:26). If the world be the book of
God, as Origen calls it, the soul is the image of God. Plato calls the
soul a glass of the Trinity. It is a bright mirror in which some
refracted beams of God's wisdom and holiness do shine forth; the soul is
a blossom of eternity. God has made the soul capable of communion with
Himself. It would bankrupt the world to give half the price of a soul.
How highly did Christ value the soul when He sold Himself to buy it? Oh
then, what pity is it that this excellent soul (this soul for which God
called a council in heaven when he made it) should miscarry and be
undone to all eternity? Who would not rather work night and day than
lose such a soul? The jewel is invaluable, the loss irreparable.
2. Holy activity and industry does ennoble a Christian. The more
excellent any thing is, the more active. The sun is a glorious creature,
it never stands still, but is going it's circuit round the world. Fire
is the purest element, and the most active; it is ever sparkling and
flaming. The angels are the most noble creatures and the most nimble;
therefore they are represented by the cherubim, with their wings
displayed. God Himself is (as the school men speak) a most pure act:
Homer says of Agamemnon, that he did sometimes resemble Jupiter in
feature, Pallas in wisdom, Mars in valor; by holy activity we resemble
God who is a most pure act. The phoenix flies with a coronet on its
head; the industrious Christian needs not a coronet; his sweat ennobles
him; his labor is his ensign of honor. Solomon tells us that "drowsiness
shall clothe a man with rags" (Prov. 23:21). Infamy is one of the rags
that hang upon him; God hates a dull temper. We read in the law, that
the donkey, being a dumb creature, must not be offered up in sacrifice.
Spiritual activity is a badge of honor.
3. Working out salvation is that which will make death and heaven
sweet to us. It will sweeten death. He that has been hard at work all
day, how quietly does he sleep at night? You who have been working out
salvation all your lives, how comfortably may you lay down your head at
night in the grave, upon a pillow of dust, in hopes of a glorious
resurrection? This will be a deathbed cordial. It will sweeten heaven.
The more pains we have taken for heaven, the sweeter will it be when we
come there. It is delightful for a man to look over his work and see the
fruit appear. When he has been planting trees in his orchard, or setting
flowers, it is pleasant to behold and review his labors. Thus in heaven,
when we shall see the fruit of our labors, "the end of your faith, even
the salvation" (1 Pet. 1:9), this will make heaven the sweeter. The more
pains we have taken for heaven, the more welcome it will be; the more
sweat, the more sweet. When a man has been sinning, the pleasure is
gone, and the sting remains; but when he has been repenting, the labor
is gone, and the joy remains.
4. Yet you have time to work. This text and sermon would be out of
season to preach to the damned in hell. If I should bid them work, it is
too late; their time is past. It is night with the devils; it is yet day
with you. Work while it is day (John 9:4). If you lose your day, you
lose your souls. This is the season for your souls. Now God commands,
now the Spirit breathes, now ministers beseech, and as so many bells of
Aaron, would chime in your souls to Christ. Oh, improve your season!
This is your seed-time, now sow the seeds of faith and repentance. If
when you have seasons, you lack hearts, the time may come when you have
hearts and you shall lack seasons. Take time while you may; the mariner
hoists up his sails while the wind blows. Never had a people a fairer
gale for heaven than you of this city, and will you not set forward in
your voyage? What riding is there to the term: I warrant you the lawyer
will not lose his term. Oh my brethren, now is the term-time for your
souls, now plead with God for mercy, or at least get Christ to plead for
seriously of these things. [Reasons to think seriously of these things]
our life does unravel apace. Gregory compares our life to the mariner in
a ship going full sail; we are every day sailing apace to eternity.
the seasons of grace though they are precious, are not permanent. Abused
mercies will like Noah's dove, take their wings and fly from us.
England's golden hour will soon run out; gospel blessings are very
sweet, but very swift. "Now they are hid from your eyes" (Luke 19:42).
We know not how soon the golden candlestick may be removed.
there is a time when the Spirit has done striving. There are certain
spring tides of the Spirit, and these being neglected, possibly we may
never see another tide come in. When conscience has done speaking,
usually the Spirit has done striving.
the loss of gospel opportunities will be the hell of hell. When a sinner
shall at the last day think with himself, oh, what might I have been! I
might have been as rich as the angels, as rich as heaven could make me!
I had a season to work in, but I lost it. This, this will be as a
vulture gnawing upon him; this will enhance and accent his misery. And
let this persuade you speedily to work out your salvation.
you may do this work and not hinder your other work; working out
salvation and working in a calling are not inconsistent. And this I
insert to prevent an objection. Some may say, but if I work so hard for
heaven, I shall have no time for my trade. No, surely, the wise God
would never make any of His commands to interfere; as He would have you
"seek you first the kingdom" (Matt. 6:33), so he would have you provide
for your family (1 Tim. 5: 8); you may drive two trades together. I do
not like those who make the church exclude the shop, who swallow up all
their time in hearing, but neglect their work at home (2 Thes. 3:11).
They are like the lilies of the field which toil not, neither do they
spin. God never sealed a warrant to idleness. He both commands and
commends diligence in a calling, which may the rather encourage us to
look after salvation, because this work will not take us off our other
work. A man may with Caleb, follow God fully, (Num. 14:24) and yet with
David be "following the sheep great with young" (Ps. 78:71). Piety and
industry may dwell together.
the inexcusableness of those who neglect working out their salvation.
Methinks I hear God expostulating the case with men at the last day,
after this manner, "Why did you not work? I gave you time to work, I
gave you light to work by, I gave you My gospel, My ministers. I
bestowed talents upon you to trade; I set the recompense of reward
before you. Why did you not work out your salvation?" Either it must be
sloth or stubbornness. Was their any work you did of greater concern?
You could work in brick, but not in gold. What can you say for
yourselves why the sentence should not pass? Oh, how will the sinner be
left speechless at such a time, and how will this cut him to the heart
to think with himself he neglected salvation, and could give no reason
Seventhly, the inexpressible misery of such as do not work out
salvation. Those who sleep in spring, shall beg in harvest. After death,
when they look to receive a full crop of glory, they will be put to beg,
as Dives, for one drop of water. Vagrant people who will not work are
sent to the house of correction. Such as will not work out salvation,
let them know, hell is God's house of correction that they must be sent
if all this does not prevail, consider, what it is we are working for.
None will take pains for a trifle; we are working for a crown, for a
throne, for a paradise, and all this is comprised in that one word,
"salvation." Here is a whet-stone to industry. All men desire salvation.
It is the crown of our hopes; we should not think any labor too much for
this. What pains will men take for earthly crowns and scepters! And
suppose all the kingdoms of the world were more illustrious than they
are - their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their windows of
sapphire - what were all this to that kingdom we are laboring for? We
may as well span the firmament as set forth this in all its splendor and
magnificence. Salvation is a beautiful thing, it is as far above our
thoughts as it is beyond our deserts. Oh, how should this add wings to
our endeavors! The merchant will run through the intemperate zones of
heat and cold for a little prize. The soldier, for a rich booty, will
endure the bullet and sword, he will gladly undergo a bloody spring for
a golden harvest. Oh then, how much more should we spend our holy sweat
for this blessed prize of salvation!
III. THE MANNER
having laid down some arguments by way of motive, to persuade to this
work, I shall now propound some means by way of direction to help us in
this work; and here I shall show you what are those things to be removed
which will hinder our working, and what are those things to be
prosecuted which will further it.
must remove those things which will hinder our working out salvation.
There are six obstacles in the way to salvation which must be removed.
First, the entanglements of the world. While the foot is in a snare,
a man cannot run. The world is a snare; while our feet are in it, we
cannot run the race set before us (Heb. 12: 1). If a man were to climb
up a steep rock, and had weights tied to his legs, they would hinder his
ascent; too many golden weights will hinder us from climbing up this
steep rock that leads to salvation. While the mill of a trade is going,
it makes such a noise that we can hardly hear the minister "lifting up
his voice like a trumpet." The world chokes our zeal and appetite after
heavenly things; the earth puts out the fire; the music of the world
charms us asleep, and then we cannot work. In mines of gold there are
killing damps. Oh, how many souls have been destroyed with a damp
arising from the earth!
second bar in the way to salvation is sadness and uncheerfulness:
when a man's heart is sad, he is unfit to go about his work; he is like
an untuned instrument. Under fears and discouragements we act but
faintly in religion. David labors to chide himself out of this spiritual
melancholy, "why are you cast down o my soul?" (Ps. 42:5). Cheerfulness
quickens; the Lacedemonians used music in their battles to excite their
spirits and make them fight more valiantly. Cheerfulness is like music
to the soul, it excites to duty, it oils the wheels of the affections.
Cheerfulness makes service come off with delight, and we are never
carried so swift in religion as upon the wings of delight. Melancholy
takes off our chariot wheels, and then we drive on heavily.
The third bar in the way to salvation is spiritual sloth. This is a
great impediment to our working. It was said of Israel, "they despised
the pleasant land" (Ps- 106:24); what should be the reason? Canaan was a
paradise of delight, a type of heaven; but they thought it would cost
them a great deal of trouble and hazard in the getting, and they would
rather go without it; they despised the pleasant land. Are there not
millions among us who had rather go sleeping to hell, than sweating to
heaven? I have read of certain Spaniards who live near where there is
great store of fish, yet are so lazy that they will not be at the pains
to catch them, but buy of their neighbors. Such a sinful stupidity and
sloth is upon the most, that though Christ be near them, though
salvation is offered in the gospel, yet they will not work out
salvation. "Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep" (Prov. 19:15). Adam
lost his rib when he was asleep; many a man loses his soul in this deep
fourth bar in the way to salvation is an opinion of the easiness of
salvation; God is merciful, and the worst come to the worst, it is but
merciful, it is true, but withal He is just; He must not wrong His
justice by showing mercy; therefore observe that clause in the
proclamation, He "will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:7). If a
king did proclaim that only those should be pardoned who came in and
submitted to his scepter; could any, still persisting in rebellion,
claim the benefit of that pardon? Oh sinner, would you have mercy, and
will not disband the weapon of unrighteousness?
It is but
repent. But repent? It is such a mark that we cannot hit unless God
direct our arrow. Tell me, Oh sinner, is it easy for a dead man to live
and walk? You are spiritually dead, and wrapped up in your winding sheet
(Eph. 2:2). Is regeneration easy? Are there no pangs in the new birth?
Is self-denial easy; do you know what religion must cost, and what it
may cost? It must cost you the parting with your lusts, it may cost you
the parting with your life; take heed of this obstruction. Salvation is
not accomplished lightly; thousands have gone to hell upon this mistake.
The broad spectacles of presumption have made the strait gate seem wider
than it is.
fifth bar in the way to salvation is carnal friends. It is dangerous
listening to their voice. The serpent did speak in Eve. Job's wife would
have caged him off from serving God, "Do you still retain your
integrity?" (Job 2:9) What, still pray and weep? Here the devil did hand
over a temptation to Job by his wife. Carnal friends will be calling us
off from our work. What needs all this ado? Less pains will serve. We
read that some of Christ's kindred, when they saw Christ so earnest in
preaching, would try to stop Him: His friends "went to lay hold on Him"
(Mark 3:2 1). Our friends and kindred would sometimes stand in our way
to heaven, and judging our zeal madness, would lay hold of us and hinder
us from working out our salvation. Such friends Spira met with; for
advising with them whether he should revoke his former opinions
concerning Luther's doctrine, or persist in them to death, they wished
him to recant, and so openly abjuring his former faith, he became like a
living man in hell.
sixth bar in the way to salvation is evil company. They will take us
off our work. The sweet waters lose their freshness when they run into
the salt; Christians lose their freshness and savouriness among the
wicked; Christ's doves will be sullied by lying among these pots. Sinful
company is like the water in a smith's forge which quenches the iron be
it ever so hot; such cool good affections. The wicked have the plague of
the heart (1 Kings 8:38), and their breath is infectious. They will
discourage us from working out our salvation; just as he who is a suitor
to a woman; and is very earnest in his suit, there comes one and tells
him he knows something about the woman of ill report, some impediment;
the man hearing this, is presently taken off, and the suit ceases. So it
is with many a man who begins to be a suitor to religion. Sincerely he
would have the match made up, and he grows very hot and violent in the
suit, and begins to work out his salvation, but then there come some of
his confederates, and they tell him they know something about religion
that is of ill report. "This sect is everywhere spoken against." There
must be so much strictness and mortification that he must never look to
see good days anymore; hereupon he is discouraged, and so the match is
broken off. Take heed of such people; they are devils covered with
flesh; they are, as one says, like Herod, who would have killed Christ
as soon as He was born. Thus, when Christ is, as it were, beginning to
be formed in the heart, they would in a spiritual sense kill Him.
And thus I
have shown you the bars that lie in the way to salvation, which are to
proceed now in the second place to lay down some helps conducive to
first is in the text, fear and trembling. This is not a fear of
doubting, but a fear of diligence. This fear is requisite in the working
out of salvation. Let us fear lest we come short (Heb. 4:1). Fear is a
remedy against presumption. Hope is like the cork to the net, it keeps
the soul from sinking in despair; and fear is like the lead to the net,
it keeps the soul from floating in presumption. Fear is that flaming
sword that turns every way to keep sin from entering. Fear quickens; it
is an antidote against sloth. "Noah being moved with fear, prepared an
ark" (Heb. 11:8). The traveler, lest night should overtake him before he
gets to his journey's end, spurs on the faster. Fear causes
circumspection; he that walks in fear treads warily. Fear is a
preservative against apostasy, "I will put My fear in their hearts, that
they shall not depart from Me" (Jer. 32:40). The fear of falling keeps
us from falling. Fear is the badge and livery of a Christian. The saints
of old were men fearing God (Mal. 3:16). It is reported of holy Anselm,
that he spent most of his thoughts about the day of judgment. "Happy is
the man that fears always" (Prov. 28:14). Fear is a Christian's
garrison, the way to be secure is always to fear. This is one of the
best tools for a Christian to work with.
Secondly, another great help in working out salvation is love. Love
makes the work proceed with delight; seven years labor seemed nothing to
Jacob because of the love that he did bear to Rachel. Love facilitates
everything. It is like wings to the bird, like wheels to the chariot,
like sails to the ship; it carries the soul on swiftly and cheerfully in
duty. Love is never weary. It is an excellent saying of Gregory, "Let
but a man get the love of the world into his heart, and he will quickly
be rich." So do but get the love of religion into your heart, and you
will quickly be rich in grace. Love is a vigorous, active grace. It
despises dangers; it tramples upon difficulties; like a mighty torrent
it carries all before it. This is the grace which "takes heaven by
violence." Get but your hearts well heated with this grace, and you will
be fitted for this work.
third thing conducive to salvation is work in the strength of Christ.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
Never go to work alone. Samson's strength lay in his hair. And a
Christian's strength lies in Christ. When you are to do any duty, to
resist any temptation, to subdue any lust, set upon it in the strength
of Christ; some go out against sin in the strength of resolutions and
vows, and they are soon foiled. Do as Samson; he first cried to heaven
for help and then having taken hold of the pillars, he pulled down the
house upon the lords of the Philistines. When we engage Christ in the
work, and so take hold upon the pillar of an ordinance, we then bring
down the house upon the head of our lusts.
Fourthly, work humbly, be humble, do not think to merit by your working.
Satan would either keep us from working, or else he would make us proud
of our working. God must pardon our works before He crowns them. If we
could pray as angels, shed rivers of tears, build churches, erect
hospitals, and should have a conceit that we merited by this, it would
be as a dead fly in the box of perfume; it would stain and eclipse the
glory of the work. Our duties, like good wine, savor of a bad cask. They
are but glittering sins. Let not pride poison our holy things; when we
have been working for heaven, we should say as good Nehemiah, "Remember
me, O my God, concerning also, and spare me according to the greatness
of Your mercy" (Neh. 13:22).
Fifthly, work upon your knees; be much in prayer. Beg the Spirit of
God to help you in the work; make that prayer, "Awake O north wind; and
come, you south; blow upon my garden" (Song 4:16). We have need that
this Spirit blow upon us, there being so many contrary winds blowing
against us, and considering how soon holy affections are apt to wither.
The garden has not more need of wind to make its fruit flow out, than we
of the Spirit to make our graces flourish. Philip joined himself to the
Eunuch's chariot (Acts 8:29). God's Spirit must join itself to our
chariot; as the mariner has his hand to the helm, so he has his eye to
the star. While we are working, we must look up to the Spirit. What is
our preparation without the Spirit's operation? What is all our rowing
without a gale from heaven? "The Spirit lifted me up" (Ezek. 3:14).
God's Spirit must both infuse grace and excite it. We read of a "wheel
in the middle of a wheel" (Ezek. 1: 16). The Spirit of God is that inner
wheel that must move the wheel of our endeavors. To conclude all, pray
to God to bless you in your work. "The race is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong" (Eccl. 9: 11), nothing prospers without a
blessing; and what way to obtain it but by prayer? It is a saying of one
of the ancients, The saints carry the keys of heaven at their girdle.
Prayer beats the weapon out of the enemy's hand, and gets the blessing
out of God's hand.
Lastly, work in hope; the apostle says, "he that plows should plow
in hope" (1 Cor. 9:10). Hope is the soul's anchor (Heb. 6:19). Cast this
anchor upon the promise and you shall never sink. Nothing more hinders
us in our working than unbelief. Surely, says a Christian, I may toil
all day for salvation and catch nothing. What is there "no balm in
Gilead?" Is there no mercy seat? Oh, sprinkle faith in every duty! Look
up to free grace; fix your eye upon the blood of Christ. Would you be
saved? To your working join believing (The
One Thing Necessary - sermon on Php 2:12)