God is at Work


Philippians 2:12–13 is a great consolation when we come face to face with our weakness and sinfulness. 

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

Verse 12 speaks a command and verse 13 speaks a promise. Without the promise of verse 13, it would be impossible to obey the command of verse 12.

 "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," is the command. 

"It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure," is the promise. 

First, God calls us to walk in the fear of the Lord. Then, He reminds us that He is enabling us to do so. In other words, SINCE God is at work within us, THEREFORE we can walk in a way that pleases God. This is comforting.

It is not the other way around! The other way around would be the way of works righteousness. But this way, the gospel way, is the way of grace and faith. By grace through faith we were saved, and by grace through faith we will work out that salvation with fear and trembling.

Beloved, this IS NOT working FOR salvation! This passage is written, after all, to people who have already been saved. Their sins are forgiven. They are reconciled to God. They have the gift of eternal life. They know Jesus. They are filled with the Spirit. Why in the world would they need to work for a salvation that they have already received?!

"Work out your salvation," means, "Live out your salvation." It means to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. It means to keep pursuing and growing in holiness. It means to keep going forward in repentance. It means to stay diligent in putting to death the deeds of the sinful flesh for the honor of Christ. It means to stay diligent in offering our bodies as living sacrifices and in being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). It means growing in humility, gratitude, and the fruit of the Spirit. 

"With fear and trembling," DOES NOT mean, "scared of judgement and condemnation" (see 1 John 4:17-18; Romans 8:1). It means walking humbly in the fear of the LORD, rather than the fear of man, which bringeth a snare (Proverbs 29:25).

That sounds like a lot! Yes, but just remember this one thing that summarizes everything else: Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means growing in Christlikeness by the work of God within you.

How do we live for God? We live for God by the grace, power, and presence of the Holy Spirit within us. In all my efforts and struggles and failures and battles in aiming to live for the Lord, my only hope and only comfort is the reality that God is at work within me. 

By His grace and for His glory, Christ is with you and mightily at work within you. Hold fast, therefore, your confession of faith.

"You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:9–11)

by: Matt Fortunato