"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
These two verses have always made me pause and think.
Work out your salvation?
With Fear and Trembling?
Paul, what are you talking about!?
I never quite could understand why he put this in here, and honestly I may never know what was going through Paul's mind when he wrote these words. The key to understanding these verses however, lies threefold:
1.) Any time a passage begins with "Therefore" there is a reason that it is there for... We need to look at the paragraph before it, "therefore" is a connecting word.
And... we see it is Paul giving the Philippians a picture of the humility of Jesus and telling them to imitate Jesus!
Work out your salvation by working to look like Jesus.
2.) But... we can't do that... not on our own power... and that is where the rest of verse 13 comes into play. I know I used to gravitate towards that phrase "work out your salvation..." without remembering that "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure"
God empowers and enables His people to follow Him. God alone can do this.
3.) I did a study on the word "work out" in Greek. I found that there is something interesting about how the word is used in other places. Specifically in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it carries with it a connotation of farming; like how a farmer prepares his fields. He works the ground. He works to plant. He works to water. He works the field to keep pesky bugs and weeds away. He works... but no matter how hard he works, it is nature, or rather, God who has created the seeds to do what they are supposed to do, grow. God does the miracle. God grows the crop. The farmer though is still working.This is the picture Paul paints for the Philippian church... Work like a farmer works... It is God who does the miracle, it is God who gives you the tools, the strength, the energy to make your fruit grow... but He has chosen to empower and enable YOU to work out with fear and trembling this great calling; this great and noble task of making disciples of all nations. And it starts with what God is doing in you.
God is teaching us all by doing the miracle of growth and understanding in us, but he chooses to do it through empowering us to: Work like a farmer.
- Sow your seed: Read and meditate on Scripture
- Water your fields: Pray without ceasing, make time in your day with scheduled prayer time.
- Protect your crops: Stay in community through weekly corporate worship in a local church.
- Reap your harvest: Share your story and testify to others what God has done and is doing for you.
"Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." -Philippians 2:12-13 NLT
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.