Work Out Your Salvation With Fear And Trembling

May 31st, 2023 – Wednesday Afternoon

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” ~Philippians 2:12-13

It is amazing, no, rather, it is shocking to me how easily we turn from looking at God to looking at us. This happens in all kinds of situations, circumstances, conversations, etc.; for example, instead of seeing (and trusting) the God who controls the wind and the waves, we are afraid for our lives; instead of looking to the One who knows all things and has given us His Spirit to walk with Him, we refuse to confess, forgive, or rejoice; and, instead of humbly respecting and honoring He who judges righteously, we quickly dismiss our sin and shrug off His commands.

Am I being facetious or perhaps too harsh? No, I don’t believe so. Pause a moment to take stock of your life today. Have you struggled and lost to a temptation (no matter how trite or serious it might have seemed) today? Have you opened your mouth and said something you should not have said? Have you lied? Lusted or coveted? Harbored anger, bitterness, or hatred in your heart? Blamed your sin, your situation, or your pain on someone else? Leaned on your own understanding instead of seeking the counsel of God? Don’t think for a minute that I am condemning you anymore than I am indicting myself; no, I am guessing we all stand guilty of not honoring or revering our Lord in some way today.

Before we brush this all off in the name of God’s grace, love, and the blood of Jesus, though, perhaps we need a serious word of caution: The passage above is not alone in commanding believers to live a holy life in the fear (dread) of God. Yes, if God has rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son of His love then we are covered by Christ’s blood and the grace and love of God. We cannot forget, however, that our atonement cost the Son of God His position, His glory, His reputation, His life, and His communion with His Father; we cannot treat such grace with contempt – shrugging off our sin and ignoring the fear of and the commands of the Living God – to do so would bring the full condemnation of God’s wrath upon ourselves.

Paul is urging the Philippians to work out (literally, to do that from which something results) their salvation with fear (dread, terror) and trembling (quaking with fear) because it is God who is putting not only the desire to do this work, but the very power with which to accomplish it, in them. The fear and trembling mentioned here are not new to the New Testament (or the Old, for that matter); it is this fear and trembling – produced by a correct understanding of the nature and character of God – that is to undergird our moment-by-moment lives and lead us towards the holy life that pleases God. [To be clear, this fear and trembling is to be perfectly coupled with the love, mercy, and grace of God; yet, we often neglect the fear and trembling balance because we only want to see and hear about God’s love and grace.]

Beloved, let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and allow His working on our behalf to lead us and empower us on to the working out of our salvation. If your picture of Him is too small to allow you to fear and tremble before Him, don’t settle for your puny perspective; get on your knees in prayer and into His Word with expectation until you are overwhelmed by Him. He is worthy of our worship – in all of our thoughts, our words, and our actions – and deserving of our complete reverence.