Today's verse will be familiar to many of us but read it, along with the Devotion, with an open mind. What is God saying to you?
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12 (NIV)
As Christians, our salvation is a gift given to us by God’s grace, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and not something achievable through merit, penance, good deeds, being nice to everyone, or any other way. This verse is clearly not about earning our salvation.
So, what exactly does this verse mean?
Two ways of looking at it come to mind:
- Work out. This verse challenges us to ask the question, ‘What does being saved look like, day to day?’ It refers to our walk as Christians – we are to figure out what that walk should look like.
- Outworking. We don’t just have salvation, like some trophy on the mantle piece. Our salvation should be a lifestyle choice, which involves our motivations and actions. We live differently because we have salvation and this is the outworking of our salvation. This is sanctification (becoming more like Christ).
God says ‘Be Holy as I am Holy.’ How does this affect my life, for example, what comes out of my mouth or what I choose to think about? Asking these questions is working out my salvation. Being holy (or godly) is the outworking of discovering what it means to be holy. Perhaps this means that I keep my mouth shut instead of joining in gossiping at work or maybe it involves a decision not to watch that particular TV show which has explicit sex and violence in it.
Jesus commanded us to love one another. Working out my salvation causes me to ask questions about love. Do I really love others? Do I love those who are difficult to love? Loving others is the outworking of my salvation. We should be stamped with a hallmark of love, which reads ‘We love because He first loved us.’ This is working out our salvation.
We are taught to forgive others. Working out our salvation is a lifestyle of being quick to forgive and continuing to do so, however many times we may need to.
Working out our salvation also causes us to ask the question, ‘What is my mission?’ and to pursue that purpose or calling we have been given.
What about all this ‘fear and trembling’? This passage is part of a letter, which Paul was writing to the followers of Christ in Philippi, in Macedonia. It was in this same city that Paul (along with Silas) was thrown into prison and then experienced his miraculous release.
Firstly, here’s what I believe ‘fear and trembling’ isn’t. It is not God wanting us to have anxiety over whether or not we’re saved. God desires our walk to be godly and convicts us as we allow Him to correct us, but He does not condemn us nor desire us to be physically terrified about our salvation. His grace covers all of our shortcomings.
‘Fear and trembling’ are Paul’s words and I can see two reasons for his use of them.
- Paul knew better than most the costs and risks involved in following Christ and he was urging the Philippians to be wise to and prepared for the possible persecution they may endure.
- God is serious about holiness. His grace is free but it is not designed to be a free ride. God’s desire is that the outworking of our salvation would be honouring to Him, pleasing to others, healthy for our own wellbeing and world changing.
© Rosaleen Donnan 2014