” 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.”
Here is quite is testimony to the faithfulness of the Philippian church. Paul declares that they have always obeyed his teachings, not just when he was there in person, but even now when he is away from them. Paul’s messengers would bring back word to him how the churches were doing, and he always got a good report from Philippi. If I was Paul, I know this would give me a great feeling, .
Through the years I have witnessed and prophesied to many people. Some I have been able to keep in touch with, some I have not. Nothing is more thrilling then seeing someone who I mentored, or who I led to the Lord, doing great things for the kingdom. When I see this, tears of joy well up within my spirit, and often overflow to my cheeks, as I give God glory for using me to advance His kingdom. One young man, who I mentored as a teenager almost 40 years ago, is now one of the premier tent preachers in the country. You never know what will become of someone when God starts to work in their lives, so give it all you’ve got.
The second part of this scripture says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. You have to remember that this portion of scripture is written to people who are already saved and have been obeying Paul’s commands faithfully. It is impossible to be saved by our works. Salvation only comes by faith through the grace of God (Eph 2:8-9). We can do nothing to earn it.
That being said what does it mean to work out our salvation? Well I have two thoughts on this. The first has to do with the parable of the sower and the seed (Matt 13:3-23). If you know this parable you know that there are four different categories of people that are addressed. The first is where the seed is sown on hard ground and never takes root. These are people who don’t accept the word at all so they would not be saved to begin with.
The second group are those who receive the seed but they have rocky ground and the seed cannot root itself deep enough to produce a plant and it dies out. These are people who do well for a little while, but when trials or persecution comes, they leave the faith because it never really took root. If a saved person doesn’t know that they need to become a part of the fellowship with believers and read their Bible then they will flounder and most likely not be serving Christ very long. The problem is that they will think they’re saved because they made a profession of faith but they never really gave themselves a chance to grow.
The third category are those that did accept the seed and started to grow but thorns and thistles grew around them and eventually the nutrients in the ground were all used up and the plant died. These are people who received the word, they get involved in a church, they do read their Bible and they seem to be doing well. But the cares of everyday life start to take priority again, and soon they are back to their old self. They lack the ability to stay focused on Christ and they didn’t have anyone that could turn to to help them get through. Churches need to have a mentoring program for these new Christians so that they can grow those new converts into disciples. And the last group are those that flourish as Christians.
The second meaning is actually a thought that I had and really haven’t seen in any commentaries. When we accept Jesus Christ we accept Him into our hearts. My thought is that He then needs to work out of our hearts to our bodies. This is a much slower process that takes a lot of work on behalf of the person that got saved. Too often we think a person should change on the outside right away and we criticize them or judge them because they haven’t. given certain things up yet. But God could be doing an amazing work inside of them and we need to allow God to do his thing in his timing as long as we see them making an effort to improve in their relationship with Christ. Don’t rush a newborn Christian into being what you think a Christian should be
Lord, help me be patient with newborn babes in Christ, and allow you to grow them at your pace, not mine.