Philippians 2:12 NASB
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.“
How many of you are working out your salvation with fear and trembling like I am, and what exactly, does that mean?
In the latter part of verse 12 as quoted above, we read “; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
We are told, time and time again, that our source is Jesus. He is the way, He is the truth and He is the life. Jesus tells us that without Him we can do nothing. Jesus tells us that we can see God our heavenly Father by looking at Him (Jesus).
The Apostle Paul, who obviously knew what he was talking about, clarifies what the working out of our salvation entails, with fear and trembling.
But why the fear and trembling? I sense we are not talking about fear as a fearful emotion, because we know that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). I sense Paul is saying to consider the seriousness of what we are embarked upon and Whom we are dealing with. So this fear speaks of a Holy respect for Whom we are dealing with and the trembling speaks of the seriousness of what is taking place. The trembling speaks to me of taking very seriously, the whole of God’s counsel or God’s Word. And the learning, always the learning and the accompanying mistakes.
The narrow path we are instructed to walk in, is not an easy path because it does indeed take some “working out”. This “working out” happens to all of us who place our hope and trust in Jesus. There are so many things to understand, so many things to balance, so many things to make judgements on. And, ultimately it all boils down to two things, our standing (us) with our Holy God (God). That would be you and I and God. This is not a frivolous subject, this is about as serious as it gets. And God, our Heavenly Father, did not leave us grasping at how to accomplish this need to connect and commune with Him. God in His wisdom, sent us His Son, so that we who see Jesus can learn to see, love and appreciate Him.
Holiness is not optional for Christians, we are to be Holy as God, our Father is Holy. And the only way in which we can do this is through our Saviour, Jesus the Christ. By having Jesus pay the price that our sins deserved and now live in us, through the seal of His Holy Spirit. As we walk this narrow path, we progressively die to self and Jesus lives in us through His Holy Spirit.
And this is the part that gives me my hope and joy because Paul tells us categorically that:
“for it is God who is at work in you“. That’s God’s Holy Spirit actively working within us. That’s the “working out” part. Changing us, changing our hearts, changing our minds, filling our spirit with His Spirit, changing our worldview and lifestyle.
Hebrews 10:14 NIV
“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.“
And there are stages, we start as babies in Christ, we are fed milk, then solids, and we progressively mature. That’s where the one on one with Jesus and God’s Word becomes critical. If there is no one on one, there is no growth. It’s not rocket science. And do we all mature at the same time, do we all come to the same understanding about all that we are to comprehend? I personally don’t see that. I see many Christians at many different levels, including myself. There are some who are more mature than me and some who are less, the thing is, we are all growing. What I may lack, others may excel at, and vice versa, the thing is we all grow collectively, if we are in truth, part of the body of Christ, His Church.
And then there is the last part of this verse which reads: “both to will and to work His good pleasure”,
That is where God’s will becomes our will. That is where God does His work through us in the power of His Holy Spirit, with leading, guidance and sometimes He just out and out does it through us, where we are merely the vessel, all of which is to His glory and for His good pleasure. Why so? Because that is just the way that it is. With God, all things are possible and He has determined that through faith in the accomplished work of His Son Jesus, we are granted eternal life in Him. In short, it is a gift from God to us.
I could fill this page with reference after reference where God’s Word tells us NOT to be so critical with one another, to accommodate the weak if we are strong, to remember that it is God that will bring to completion, that which He has started in each one of us.
This “working out” is a reality in each one of us. None of us are exempt, none. And just for the record, I am not advocating white washing sin nor am I advocating a watered down Gospel. What I am advocating is tolerance and accommodation where feasible. For some the feasibility line will differ from others. I can’t speak for others, only myself, but I strongly suspect that this is one place where our Christian maturity comes into play.
What I do know is this. God’s love for us surpasses anything we can imagine. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts and this “working out” takes time. But God already knows this and He knows our end from our beginning and He has us covered, all the way through, through His Son, Jesus Christ, who He is forming in each one of us who truly believes.
1 Corinthians 13:9-12 NASB
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.“
The perfect for us has not come yet, we do not in this life see God face to face, but we will. Because I live you will also live. This is Jesus’ promise to us who believe.
So be thankful for the opportunity to work out our salvation, with fear and trembling, because it is God at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!