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Question: "What does it mean to work out salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)" S. Michael Houdmann you have given an excellent answer and I quote the end of your text: "Obedience and submission to the God we revere and respect is our "reasonable service" (Romans 12:1-2) and brings great joy. Psalm 2:11 sums it up perfectly: "Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling." We work out our salvation by going to the very source of our salvation-the Word of God-wherein we renew our hearts and minds (Romans 12:1-2), coming into His presence with a spirit of reverence and awe." What you have said is true about approaching God in a spirit of reverence and awe working out our salvation, but the next few verses gets down to what Paul is emphasizing! Philippians 2:12-16: Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That you may be blameless and sincere, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; HOLDING FORTH THE WORD OF LIFE [THE GOOD NEWS MESSAGE ABOUT THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE THINGS ABOUT THE LORD JESUS - NOTICE: Acts 8: 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them..... and what did he preach in order for them to be baptized? Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. That is what it means for us to hold forth the WORD OF LIFE! And if we seek first the kingdom of God - Mat:6:33 and hold forth the saving word of life we shall never have to worry about losing our salvation! Are you holding forth the WORD OF LIFE before all!.
What does it mean to workout your own salvation with fear and trembling. This is a wonderful exhortation in its context because it not only tells us how we are to relate to and behave toward God but the second half of the verse grounds us in the glorious hopeful reality regarding Gods work in us. It reiterates what has already been said in Phi.1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. The other important thing to notice about larger context the is how Paul has just extolled the glories of the exalted Christ and brought into view that glorious day when every rational creature that has ever existed in the universe will bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father. This exhortation to work out your own salvation in fear and trembling has this picture as a backdrop. Keep this future historic event in your outlook toward the future. But notice in the opening of" V.11.therefore my beloved" how Paul in a very tender pastoral way reminds them of the evidence of Gods work begun in them which was displayed in the way they obeyed the gospel when Paul was present with them. It was filled with, affection, gratitude, and respect. Can you imagine the joy and gratitude the Philippian jailer felt (Acts 16:25-34) when he fearing for his life discovered the truth about the risen Christ when Paul and Silas preached the gospel to him then to his family. Or Lidia, who had been awakened to the reality of God through some influence of the Jews and their gatherings for prayer on the Sabbath, who as yet was unconverted but then upon hearing the things spoken by Paul had her heart opened to the glorious gospel. Acts 16:15 " 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us." It is this initial obedience to the gospel that was produced by God that Paul is exhorting them to hold out for and expect to increase "as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence It was begun by God. The same God who began the work is still at work, work with Him, work out what He is working in with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12-13 is frequently understood as something believers individually do to complete their salvation or make sure of it. Supposedly it is working out what God worked in. However, a different perspective considers that Paul was addressing the entire church as a community of believers, saved and secure, Philippians 1:1, 4:3, consistently considered a collective group, the “brethren,” Philippians 3:1, 17, 4:1, 8. The communal aspect is evidenced by the church participating in the sharing of the gospel by their giving, Philippians 1:3-8, 4:10-16. Paul prayed their love would continue, Philippians 1:9-11. Paul then shares his experience with this body of believers, Philippians 1:12-26. Within this section, is Philippians 1:19, which is the first of three verses having the Greek word “soteria” which means “salvation.” “Salvation” is not exclusively used for personal escape from eternal damnation. It also means physical “deliverance,” “safety,” “integrity,” “health,” or “preservation.” Many versions correctly have in Philippians 1:19, the word “deliverance.” The context shows that Paul was not referring to eternal salvation. He was speaking of deliverance, not from prison or death, but from failure to honor Christ. It would be through their prayer and the working of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that he would not be ashamed but remain faithful. In Philippians 1:27-30, Paul turns his attention to them and their conduct as a church. He desires that in unity, they would strive together for the faith of the gospel. In this section, Philippians 1:28 has the second use of “soteria” or “salvation.” It is about showing bravery and boldness that would prove to adversaries their ruin, and to this church their deliverance. Paul then pleads with them to have a humble and selfless attitude, as exemplified in Christ, Philippians 2:1-11. This display of sacrifice and service would also be seen in Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, as given in Philippians 2:17-30. Then comes the third mention of “soteria” or “salvation” in Philippians 2:12. That Paul is continuing to address the church unit is indicated by the use of plurals here. Philippians 2:12 is not about the eternal welfare of the individual, but that the whole church will be an effective witness, one that shines as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, Philippians 2:14-16. The phrase “work out” means to produce a satisfactory end, as in resolving issues. The Philippian church was commanded to find restoration to a healthy condition. It is their job to cooperate, to find deliverance, “salvation” from the problems they have of disunity and disharmony, Philippians 2:2-4, 4:2-3. It will take fear and trembling for them to obediently continue to allow God to work His will in them, Philippians 2:13. The rest of the epistle, Philippians 3-4, are practical and encouraging words for the church body to ensure a right relationship to one another and with Paul, and to have peace with God. Philippians 2:12 clearly admonishes the Philippian church to seriously seek and work out deliverance from things that divide and tear apart their unity.
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