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.
Have you ever read Philippians 2:12 and wanted to shut your Bible and say, I’m done God, this is too hard? Have you ever heard someone preach this verse shouting that it was up to you to save yourself? Did it make you want to walk out of church and never return? Yeah, me too. Or maybe you have never read verse twelve and had all these questions. Either way, we should pause a moment and thank God for His grace and for leading us to the truths of His salvation. By no means am I the wisest person who could share their beliefs about the message we read in these two verses. What I am is a lady who loves to dig as deep as I can with the resources God has blessed me with.
Side note: Do not ever just believe whatever the preacher says or bible study you do. Learn the Word of God. You are more capable than you realize beautiful!
Okay, where was I? Back to working out your own salvation! As I broke down the verses before this (find that Bible Study here.) and verse thirteen with it, I sighed a great relief of God’s beautiful grace. I did a word study of the word "work" in both verses. Before we break down what I found looking up those Greek words, join me and look at how Paul started this verse.
“Therefore, my beloved” - Paul loves his people well. “You have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but when I am absent” - Paul wanted other believers to succeed. This was meant to be an encouragement, and though fear is mentioned, Paul was using words that build up and not tear down. It is truth and love.
So how can we break down what in the world it means to “work out your own salvation.” I’m not sure about this, but when “your own” is used, I am thinking that he was reminding everyone that they were all sinners and to not fall into the trap of minding everyone else’s business but their own. If you continue reading the entire letter, verse fourteen mentions “without grumbling or disputing,” Later in chapter four, a dispute between Euodia and Syntyche is addressed. Can you imagine the church drama happening? My prayer is that this small reminder will keep us humble and working in unity for the sake of the gospel.
As we move forward in dissecting this verse, one question that we can ask is how do we “work out our own salvation”? To find the answer, I am prompted to search for the original Greek word.* The Greek word used is katergazomai. Please do not ask me to try to say that out loud with my southern accent. A brief summary of the definition is - to accomplish, do that which something results. We know that our works do not save us. Only the work Jesus did on the cross does that, but we learn in James 2:14-26 that faith without works is dead. Because of our faith, we desire to do good works in the world for the glory of God. And we are reminded to do this in “fear and trembling.” To sum that up, we are all sinners, and our God is a Holy Holy Father. We know that perfect love casts out all fear and that God is love. (1 John 4) When I think of fear and trembling in this context, I think of Isaiah six “Woe is me! For I am lost (undone); for I am a man of unclean lips.” Our works do not save us, but our salvation pushes us to seek a holy and good God to spread his love and goodness in the darkness around us.
When we begin to observe verse thirteen, we find the word "work" twice. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” During my word search, I found that the action of work in this verse is different from what we find in twelve. The Greek word is energeo. The definition summary - put forth power, to work for one, to effect. Do you see the difference? Any good work we do is an effect of God's work in our lives!It is the Holy Spirit within us that gives us the power to walk out our faith in Jesus Christ! I get excited about this because I have been on the church pew as a preacher, took verse twelve out of context, and had me walking in condemnation instead of in the grace we find in verse thirteen. This is the type of truth that reminds me that we can exhale hope with deep breaths of grace!
Any good work we do is an effect of God's work in our lives!
My prayer for you, beautiful, is that as you go and search God’s word because you aren’t taking my word for it (see side note above), you will find the vast and unconditional love of God. I pray that you find your peace resting in His truths and not in the world’s truth.
* I use the Blue Letter Bible app for my word searches, and it is one of my favorite study resources. I link my scriptures to their website on all my bible study post.