“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”: A contextual interpretation.

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“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

It is imperative for verses to be read in context. I am sure you had this quoted to you like a million times.

“Work out salvation with fear and trembling” to justify their teaching that you can “fall from Grace” or fall “out of Jesus”

Here’s something that might help you. Quote the whole verse!!!

Philippians 2:12-13
Lights in the World
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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Notice four things.

The word “therefore”.
The word “obey”.
The word “work out”.
The words “God who works”.

The presumption in reading this passage has always been to “obey” the Law of Moses. That is simply a wrong assumption.

A simple reading of Philippians 3 will tell you that. In fact he says the righteousness that comes from the Law is “dung” when it’s compared to the righteousness that comes from faith in Jesus.

What then is the “obedience” Paul ask us to keep? Paul begins the verse with “therefore”. Hence, the passages before this one is needed to understand the point he is making.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This was what he was asking them to observe. To look into other’s interests. This is what he was asking them to obey. It has nothing to do with “sinning” but brotherly love.

Paul the quotes doctrine but showing them how Jesus did this. It was an object lesson in humility.

Philippians 2:5-8
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

So the point Paul is trying to make here is this: Your salvation is not of your doing. It is Jesus’s. Why then are you conceited? Why then should be consider ourselves highly compared to others? Why should our agendas be more important than others?

That was the agenda.

So Paul tells them this.

Philippians 2:12-13
Lights in the World
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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Read this carefully: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. Notice this? It is God who works in you!

Paul drives home the point. It is He that saves you and keeps you saved! Paul is saying there is no reason for you to be conceited, proud and selfish again.

Hence when you read the words “work out your salvation”, he is asking us to consider seriously “how we were saved!” The words “work out” today simply would mean to “figure out”.

Why “fear and trembling” then? It simple really. Let’s look at another passage Paul was speaking about.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The words “fear and trembling” has to do with the demonstration of the Spirit and his power.

So to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” would be to “figure out how you were saved by the demonstration of the Spirit’s power”.

This is in concurrent with the theme of chapter 2 which speaks about humility. Especially when it is God who works in and even works the will for you to obey.

Now let us look at the next verse.

Philippians 2:14-16
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing”.

One of the main purpose Paul wrote this was to deal with this: “there appears to have been some discord and division in the church” and so the apostle writes to encourage humility with a view toward unity.

“Working out your salvation with fear and trembling” has nothing to do with doing good works or obeying moral codes of law to sustain your salvation or grace in Jesus.

Hope that helps.

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5 thoughts on ““Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”: A contextual interpretation.

  1. Thanks Simon, This has always been confusing for me…. we are save by what Jesus did on the cross, so how hare we to work our our own salvation with fear and trembling……. You have made is so clear now… I will not forget it! Thank you! 🙂

  2. Pingback: KERJAKAN KESELAMATANMU DENGAN TAKUT DAN GENTAR : SEBUAH INTERPRETASI KONTEKSTUAL | dailygracia

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