As ye have always obeyed - Continue to act on the same principles and from the same motives; having the same disposition which was in Christ; laboring so as to promote his glory.
Work out your own salvation - Go on, walking by the same rule, and minding the same thing, till your salvation be completed: till, filled with love to God and man, ye walk unblamably in all his testimonies, having your fruit unto holiness, and your end everlasting life.
With fear and trembling - Considering the difficulty of the work, and the danger of miscarriage. If you do not watch, pray and continually depend on God, your enemies will surprise you, and your light and life will become extinct; and then consider what an awful account you must give to Him whose Spirit ye have grieved, and of whose glory ye have come short.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed - The Philippians had from the beginning manifested a remarkable readiness to show respect to the apostle, and to listen to his teaching. This readiness he more than once refers to and commends. He still appeals to them, and urges them to follow his counsels, that they might secure their salvation.
Now much more in my absence - Though they had been obedient when he was with them, yet circumstances had occurred in his absence which made their obedience more remarkable, and more worthy of special commendation.
Work out your own salvation - This important command was first addressed to Christians, but there is no reason why the same command should not be regarded as addressed to all - for it is equally applicable to all. The duty of doing this is enjoined here; the reason for making the effort, or the encouragement for the effort, is stated in the next verse. In regard to the command here, it is natural to inquire why it is a duty; and what is necessary to be done in order to comply with it? On the first of these inquiries, it may be observed that it is a duty to make a personal effort to secure salvation, or to work out our salvation:
(1) Because God commands it. There is no command more frequently repeated in the Scriptures, than the command to make to ourselves a new heart; to strive to enter in at the strait gate; to break off from sin, and to repent.
(2) it is a duty because it is our own personal interest that is at stake. No one else has, or can have, as much interest in our salvation as we have. It is every person‘s duty to be as happy as possible here, and to be prepared for eternal happiness in the future world. No person has a right either to throw away his life or his soul. He has no more right to do the one than the other; and if it is a person‘s duty to endeavor to save his life when in danger of drowning, it is no less his duty to endeavor to save his soul when in danger of hell.
(3) our earthly friends cannot save us. No effort of theirs can deliver us from eternal death without our own exertion. Great as may be their solicitude for us, and much as they may do, there is a point where their efforts must stop - and that point is always short of our salvation, unless we are roused to seek salvation. They may pray, and weep, and plead, but they cannot save us. There is a work to be done on our own hearts which they cannot do.
(4) it is a duty, because the salvation of the soul will not take care of itself without an effort on our part. There is no more reason to suppose this than that health and life will take care of themselves without our own exertion. And yet many live as if they supposed that somehow all would yet be well; that the matter of salvation need not give them any concern, for that things will so arrange themselves that they will be saved. Why should they suppose this anymore in regard to religion than in regard to anything else?
(5) it is a duty, because there is no reason to expect the divine interposition without our own effort. No such interposition is promised to any man, and why should he expect it? In the case of all who have been saved, they have made an effort - and why should we expect that God will favor us more than he did them? “God helps them who help themselves;” and what reason has any man to suppose that he will interfere in his case and save him, if he will put forth no effort to “work out his own salvation?” In regard to the other inquiry - What does the command imply; or what is necessary to be done in order to comply with it? We may observe, that it does not mean:
(a)that we are to attempt to deserve salvation on the ground of merit. That is out of the question; for what can man do that shall be an equivalent for eternal happiness in heaven? Nor,
(b)does it mean that we are to endeavor to make atonement for past sins. That would be equally impossible, and it is, besides, unnecessary. That work has been done by the great Redeemer. But it means:
(i)that we are to make an honest effort to be saved in the way which God has appointed;
(ii)that we are to break off from our sins by true repentance;
(iii)that we are to believe in the Saviour, and honestly to put our trust in him;
(iv)that we are to give up all that we have to God;
(v)that we are to break away from all evil companions and evil plans of life; and,
(vi)that we are to resist all the allurements of the world, and all the temptations which may assail us that would lead us back from God, and are to persevere unto the end. The great difficulty in working out salvation is in forming a purpose to begin at once. When that purpose is formed, salvation is easy.
With fear and trembling - That is, with that kind of anxiety which one has who feels that he has an important interest at stake, and that he is in danger of losing it. The reason or the ground for “fear” in this case is in general this: there is danger of losing the soul.
(1) so many persons make shipwreck of all hope and perish, that there is danger that we may also.
(2) there are so many temptations and allurements in the world, and so many things that lead us to defer attention to religion, that there is danger that we may be lost.
(3) there is danger that if the present opportunity passes, another may not occur. Death may soon overtake us. No one has a moment to lose. No one can designate one single moment of his life, and say, “I may safely lose that moment. I may safely spend it in the neglect of my soul.”
(4) it should be done with the most earnest concern, front the immensity of the interest at stake. If the soul is lost, all is lost. And who is there that can estimate the value of that soul which is thus in danger of being lost forever?
The cold, formal, unbelieving way in which some of the laborers do their work is a deep offense to the Spirit of God. The apostle Paul says: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 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; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:14-17. 9T 273.1
We are to encourage in one another that living faith which Christ has made it possible for every believer to have. The work is to be carried forward as the Lord prepares the way. When He brings His people into strait places, then it is their privilege to assemble together for prayer, remembering that all things come of God. Those who have not yet shared in the trying experiences that attend the work in these last days will soon have to pass through scenes that will severely test their confidence in God. It is at the time His people see no way to advance, when the Red Sea is before them and the pursuing army behind, that God bids them: “Go forward.” Thus He is working to test their faith. When such experiences come to you, go forward, trusting in Christ. Walk step by step in the path He marks out. Trials will come, but go forward. This will give you an experience that will strengthen your faith in God and fit you for truest service. 9T 273.2Read in context »
The Saviour's promise, “Whosoever hath, to him shall be given” (Matthew 13:12), applies also to the reception of truth. To him who seeks to understand its teachings will be given increased understanding. To him who reveals that he possesses the spirit of truth will be given a larger measure of the Spirit, that he may work out his own salvation. The work of reflecting Christ to the world will not be done boastingly, but in fear and trembling, yet in the power of the Spirit. CT 399.1
The most desirable education is a knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He who serves the world sees not the great things of eternal interest prepared for the one who opens his heart to the light of heaven. But he who enters this path of knowledge and perseveres in his search after the hidden wisdom, to him heavenly agencies teach the great lessons which through faith in Christ enable him to be an overcomer. Through this knowledge spiritual perfection is reached; the life becomes holy and Christlike. CT 399.2
Christ's teachings were not impressed upon His hearers by any outward gestures, but by the words and acts of His daily life, by the spirit He revealed. In the higher life that He led as He worked the works of God, He gave to men an example of the outworking of the true higher education. So in the lives of His followers, when a hasty spirit is overcome, when the heart is melted to tenderness for others, when the life is devoted to working the works of Christ, the fruit of the higher education is seen. CT 399.3Read in context »
To know oneself is great knowledge. True self-knowledge leads to a humility that will open the way for the Lord to develop the mind and mold and discipline the character. No teacher can do acceptable work who does not bear in mind his own deficiencies and does not put aside all plans that would weaken spiritual life. When teachers are willing to lay aside that which is unessential for the life eternal, then it can be said that they are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and that they are building wisely for eternity. CT 419.1Read in context »
Many precious souls, desiring earnestly to be Christians, are yet stumbling in darkness, waiting for their feelings to be powerfully exercised. They look for a special change to take place in their feelings. They expect some irresistible force, over which they have no control, to overpower them. They overlook the fact that the believer in Christ is to work out his salvation with fear and trembling. Ev 287.1
The convicted sinner has something to do besides repent; he must act his part in order to be accepted by God. He must believe that God accepts his repentance, according to His promise. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Ev 287.2
The work of grace upon the heart is not an instantaneous work. It is effected by continuous, daily watching and believing the promises of God. The repentant, believing one, who cherishes faith and earnestly desires the renewing grace of Christ, God will not turn away empty. He will give him grace. And ministering angels will aid him as he perseveres in his efforts to advance.—Manuscript 55, 1910. Ev 287.3Read in context »