Let’s read that interesting verse: “Therefore, my beloved, as you 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” (NKJV). I will state from the outset that the “salvation” being spoken of can NOT be referring to the “salvation of the soul,” for the sinner’s salvation from the penalty of sin can NOT be earned by any kind of “works.” Ephesians 2:8-9 confirms this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.” God’s Word NEVER contradicts itself, so we can say emphatically that the salvation of the soul is NOT by works, but through simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our verse today agrees with this, for instead of saying, “work FOR your salvation” it says “work OUT your own salvation.”

What exactly does Paul mean when he says, “work OUT your own salvation?” In order for salvation to be “worked OUT,” it must have already been “worked IN.” God has saved the repentant and believing sinner and His desire is now for the saved sinner to MANIFEST what He has put in them. He has given them a new life along with the Spirit of God, and God wants believers to show to a lost and guilty world this new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is to be done “with fear and trembling,” which we believe speaks of the attitude we should have while working out our own salvation. There should be a holy “fear of God,” which will produce a “fear of dishonoring Him” in our lives. Such an attitude will keep us humble and walking in dependence upon God, so that He can empower us and give us the ability to “work out our own salvation.”

The next verse speaks to that for it reads, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” If we humbly submit ourselves to God He will not only produce in us “a desire to please Him,” but He’ll actually give us all the grace we need to “do His will.” This “work of God within us” was mentioned also in Philippians 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.”

It should be mentioned that some believe the “salvation” that is being spoken of is the “deliverance from the problems” they were having at Philippi. Throughout this epistle Paul is exhorting them to “be on one mind” and in 4:2 he goes right to the source of this problem: “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” These two sisters had had a falling out and it was so serious that a full-blown division could take place. We know that when two can’t get along, sides are often taken and what started out with only two could lead to many being divided. In saying, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Paul could be exhorting the assembly at Philippi to apply the remedy to their problem by being of “one mind.” The context of this chapter gives weight to this interpretation for in verses 2-5 we read: “Fulfill my joy by being LIKE-MINDED, have the same love, being of ONE ACCORD, of ONE MIND…in LOWLINESS OF MIND let each esteem others better than himself…let us each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others…let THIS MIND be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (263.5) (DO)