Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)
We all know about the importance of taking good care of our body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, utilizing a workout plan that includes consistent exercise, sound nutrition, and adequate rest. Today I want to encourage you to engage in another kind of “workout,” one that builds your 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 we might lose if we do not engage in the “right” kind of works and produce the right kind of results. That would cause us to live in a condition of continual fear, which would violate not only the good news of the Gospel, but all of sacred Scripture, which assures us that God has not given us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
No, the “fear” that Paul was speaking about in Philippians 2:12 is best understood as reverence, awe, and respect for our Redeemer. I like the rendering that the English Bible translator J. B. Phillips gave to the verse: “Work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.”
So what does it look like for the 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 “work out” is to be found in our practice of obedience to the Lord. Please note that I did not say “our perfection of obedience,” because none of us will come close to perfection until we cross the Jordan and are received into glory. Until that time, we will live lives marked by both obedience and disobedience, because the old, sinful nature is in a constant struggle with the new, sinless nature (Galatians 5:17).
The secondary witness of our “work out” is found in the environment we are working out in. An attitude of reverence and respect for the Almighty is the environment we must work out in, remembering that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 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 are to desire to be obedient in all things. True disciples want to live in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to God. True disciples seek to use all of 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 “work out” been saying to those around you? In what areas are you working well? In what areas do you need to put in a little extra effort? Remember, the 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 He has given us with the proper sense of awe and responsibility. May this be the confession of our lives.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!