"Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life, in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."
Philippians 2:12 is one of the many verses taken out of context.
Here is the context:
Paul, in Philippians 2, encouraged the beloved believers in Philippi, those deeply loved by God and Paul himself, to get along with one another so they could get out the good news of God's grace.
Complaining and arguing was common among them, preventing them from communicating the good news of God's grace.
In Philippians 2, Paul wrote to the Philippians, telling them to treat one another the same way Jesus had treated them: with encouragement, comfort, tenderness, and compassion.
He encouraged them to be humble-minded toward one another and look for ways to serve one another.
Starting in Philippians 2:12, Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to put into practice (obey) what he taught them.
By putting into practice what he taught them, they would be working out their salvation.
Salvation is never by works, because we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3-4).
However, salvation works itself out in the context of our relationships.
We saw in Philippians 1:6 through a previous blog, that the good work of grace that God started in the Philippian believers would continue until Jesus returns.
God who worked salvation for us in Christ through grace, also works his same grace within us to change us and transform our relationships.
That is why Paul told the Philippian people to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling" because "God works in you to will act according to his good pleasure."
It is God's good pleasure to work his grace within us and then to see his grace flow through us to others.
Fear and trembling is not the fear of being terrorized by God.
Fear and trembling is standing in awe of God because we are captivated by his grace, love, forgiveness, and kindness.
During Bible times, the phrase fear and trembling was a phrase used to convey deep admiration and respect for someone (see 2 Corinthians 7:15).
In verses 12-13, Paul taught the Philippian people to work out their salvation in the context of their relationships out of deep admiration and respect for God.
God desires to work within us humility, encouragement, comfort, compassion, tenderness. and a servant's heart toward people.
Rather than being humble, encouraging, comforting, compassionate, and tender toward one another and serving one another, the Philippian believers were complaing about and arguing with each.
By complaining, they were picking out each others' flaws and criticizing one another.
By complaining, they were picking out what they didn't like about each other and then telling others.
A critical spirit was spreading among them while God was seeking to work grace within them and within their relationships.
By arguing, they were pridefully seeking to prove they were right and the others were wrong.
By arguing, they were seeking to get their own way, rather than serving others by helping them get their way.
A selfish spirit was spreading among them while God was seeking to work grace within them and within their relationships.
Paul encouraged the Philippian church to stop being critical and condemning by complaining, and to stop being selfish by trying to prove they were right and to get their own way.
Instead, he wanted them to put into practice what he was teaching: to express to one another the same love, encouragement, comfort, compassion, and tenderness that Jesus had expressed to them.
Paul wanted them to put into practice the same servant's heart that Jesus had served them with.
Then they could shine the light of God's love and grace into the darkness of those lost in the city of Philippi.
In our own relationships, with respect and admiration for God, let's allow God to work his grace within us and flow from us to others.
No more criticizing each other pridefully.
No more arguing with each other selfishly.
But instead, expressing to each other the same love, encouragement, comfort, compassion, and tenderness we have received from Jesus and serving one another just as Jesus served us.