Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)
Now, inasmuch as it is important to be using a sound workout plan to care of your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I want to encourage you today to engage in another kind of “workout,” one that builds that temple from the inside out.
First, let me make something perfectly clear: The apostle Paul was not suggesting that we need to work out a salvation that can be lost if we do not engage in the right kind of workout or produce the right kind of results. We are not to be living in a condition of continual fear. That, beloved, would violate not only the good news of the Gospel, but all of sacred Scripture. The “fear” Paul spoke of in today’s verse is best translated as “reverence” or “respect” for our Redeemer.
I’m not a big fan of paraphrases of the Bible, but I do believe that the rendering of Philippians 2:12 in J.B. Phillips’ New Testament in Modern English beautifully articulated the sense of what Paul was exhorting us all to do:
Be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.
So what does it look like for a Christian to work out his or her salvation? It starts with a desire to live obediently before the face of God. The primary witness of our “workout” is found in our practice of obedience to the Lord. Notice that I did not say “the perfection of obedience,” because perfection will not be part of our lives until we cross the Jordan and are received into glory. Along the way, we will live lives marked by both obedience and disobedience because our old sinful nature is in a constant struggle with the new sinless nature. But in spite of the many times we will stumble along the way, we are to “press on toward the goal,” as Paul said in Philippians 3:14, of growing in Christ-likeness. As I’ve said here before, Christian, always remember that falling is not failing unless you fail to get up again.
The secondary witness of our “workout” is found in the environment that we are working out in, which is an attitude of reverence and respect for the Almighty. Remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). In other words, we are to take the call of Christ to live as obedient disciples seriously! Even though we know we will work out our salvation imperfectly on this side of the grave, nonetheless we strive to be obedient in all things. True disciples desire to live lives that are pleasing and acceptable to God. True disciples seek to use all their time, talent, and treasure for the advancement of the kingdom of God. True disciples look to glorify God in all things.
What has the witness of your “workout” been saying to those around you? In what areas are you working out well? In what areas do you need to put in extra effort? Remember, the same grace that saved you is the same grace that is sanctifying you—and it is all of grace—yet God has called each one of us to “work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.” May this be the daily confession of our lives.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!