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"work out your salvation with fear and trembling..."

Devotion for Monday, June 15, 2020

Phil. 2:12, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”

The Apostle Paul gives us a useful correlation between living in the fear of the Lord and the process of sanctification. In Philippians chapter 2, immediately following the great hymn to the humility of Jesus Christ, Paul encourages his readers to continue obeying the word of Lord by working out their salvation with fear and trembling.

This verse seems to point to a works based salvation, or that salvation is tenuous and must be maintained and not lost. Often, I have quoted this scripture to startle the congregation into momentarily thinking just that. Of course, we immediately move to the next verse to get the full weight of the context.

“For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to His good purpose.”

Therefore, we are to work out our salvation not with our power, but with the power of God in our lives, who is carrying out His will and good purpose through us. Therefore, working out your salvation in this context is pointing to sanctification, which is the process of becoming more Christlike.

I must say, however, that often when I quote this passage, or meditate on this passage, I often too rapidly move from verse 12 to verse 13 and focus on the divine work of spiritual empowerment. As we have been looking at the fear of the Lord, I have meditated more on the phrase, “fear and trembling” in verse 12. What does it mean for us to follow Christ with fear and trembling? Aren’t we suppose to live and serve the kingdom of Heaven with boldness and confidence?

To fully understand this phrase, we need to look to the passages of Scripture in the New Testament that point to the cost of discipleship. Always remember, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the free gift of salvation, but it costs everything. Jesus teaches us, “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost?” (Luke 14:28) And, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24).

We must remain circumspect in our walk with the Lord. We must be compelled by the weight of God’s glory and His high calling in our lives. It is NO SMALL THING to be called out of darkness to walk in God’s marvelous light. Each day is to be set apart for Holy Living.

Therefore, to work out your salvation with fear and trembling is to daily approach your calling with “sober mindedness” and to walk worthy of that calling by which you have been called.

Here is Paul, “Therefore I, the PRISONER OF THE LORD, urge you to live WORTHY OF THE CALLING you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” (Eph. 4:1-2)

Here is Peter, “Therefore, with you minds ready for action (or, girding up the loins of your mind), be SOBER-MINDED and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13) Again, here is Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the MIGHTY HAND OF GOD, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares about you. Be sober-minded, be alert…” (1 Peter 5:6-8a)

Weigh each day with the fear of the Lord. Be captivated by the gravity of God’s calling. Ask the Lord to work through you daily to serve His kingdom. Remember that you are an Ambassador of Christ, serving the Ministry of Reconciliation everywhere you go. For the weight of God’s glory does indeed cause us to tread lightly in fear and trembling. Yet, it is that same glory in His calling that strengthens our steps that we can boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel of God.

Joshua Moore

Pastor, Sharon First Baptist Church

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