Commentary on Philippians; Workout Your Salvation in Fear and Trembling

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Kato Mivule | June 21, 2011

Philippians 2:12-16 Was Paul the apostle contradicting himself when he proposed to the Philippians that they workout their own salvation with fear and trembling? Paul was not about self contradictions but rather calling on Christians to take responsibility for their walk in Christ.


Yes, salvation is a free gift and we do not do anything to attain the free gift of Salvation, we cannot purchase forgiveness in anyway, we come before Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness after we acknowledge that we are sinners and in need of forgiveness. However, once we get past that point of acknowledging our sins before The Lord and asking for forgiveness, the New Testament then calls us to a personal responsibility, to follow in the foot steps of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament has numerous scriptures calling Christians to take full responsibility of walk in Faith, that they should not turn back. Yet today we have teachings such as the Once Saved Always Saved doctrine that seem to suggest no personal responsibility at all.

Hebrews 2:1-3 KJV  Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.  (2)  For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;  (3)  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

Grace in Christ Jesus is taken for granted in modern day Christianity and anyone can do anything in regards to sin with fear of no eternal consequences. Yet this is not what the Bible teaches. Paul therefore warns us here in this verse to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, not before Humans but in fear of The Holy God.

Philippians 2:12-16 KJV  (12)  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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.  (13)  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  (14)  Do all things without murmurings and disputings:  (15)  That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;  (16)  Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

You notice that in verse 12, Paul cautions the Philippians not to obey the scriptures just to please humans but that Christians should obey the Teachings of Christ out of respect, reverence, and fear of God. What we have today is a man-pleasing culture, that does things to attain the acclaims of men and human mortals. When we go to our offices, we work so as to please the boss, our education system is based on performance standards set by humans bound by imperfections.

When we go to Church and practice faith, we carry on the same worldly human pleasing standards, so as to please the preacher and we in turn seek preachers who will perform to please us. We therefore get driven away by man-pleasing doctrines and teachings that turn us into spiritual performance oriented Christians. We seek to please and to be pleased by mere mortals...that is one of the greatest weakness of our present humanist culture.

Yet against this background of a man pleasing culture, Paul cautions the Philippians to practice their faith in Christ with fear and trembling before God; not in the fear of men, not in a legalistic way but in the holy fear of God.

Notice that in verse 15, Paul points out that this man-pleasing generation of ours is perverse and crooked; setting their own man pleasing standards. Paul the apostle was not trying to engage in a cultural war here. Rather, he was recognizing that the world will always have their own man pleasing standards opposed to God's standards.

Paul did not call for the overthrow of the pagan cultures but rather that Christians fully obey and commit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and as such, they will shine as light in darkness, in this present generation. Many times we get into cultural wars that we shall never win, yet the greatest victory is not to politically impose our Christian beliefs as law of the land on none Christians but to practice and live out our faith and fully follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. No one can argue against such a Testimony. So, the spiritual work to be done is not with the world but with us as Christians, let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling before The Holy God and surely the fear of God will come upon the land. If there is any renewal and fear of God, the first place for that to happen has to be the Church.

God Bless You All.

Kato Mivule