Paul’s instruction to “labor out our redemption with dread and trembling” is one of the most challenging sentences in the New Testament. Did he mean that we’ll continuously tremble in fear of God’s wrath?
Paul, I believe you have a wholly different notion in mind here. Let’s look more closely at this. To begin with, “fear” in the Bible does have a wider variety of connotations than in English, frequently embracing positive concepts such as reverence and awe. I’ve already blogged about this. In Hebrew, “fear” can express how the feeling manifests itself in action. “Fear” can relate to worship or obedience that comes with holding someone in high regard.
What is reverent obedience?
In other places, Paul employs the same term, Phobos kai promos (fear and trembling), to signify “reverent obedience.” Finally, Paul explains Titus’s impressions of the Corinthians when he visited them in 1 Cor.
“And his fondness for you is heightened because you were all obedient, greeting him with Phobos kai promos.” Therefore, enslaved people, be submissive to those who are your fleshly masters with Phobos kai promos, in great conviction, as to Christ.”
In theory, you might take this text as being afraid, but it seems far less plausible than having tremendous respect, which will lead to compliance.
The section begins with Paul complimenting the assembly for their obedience in his presence. Then, in his absence, John encourages his Philippians to accomplish even more since God is performing a “wonderful job in you.” Interpreting phobos kai tromos as respectful, it fits better here than being scared of judgment, which Paul is not thinking about in this highly positive context.
Work out your salvation with Fear and Trembling
When we read this scripture or hear someone refer to it, it may sometimes be misinterpreted and used to scare people into believing that they would lose their salvation if they were not cautious. But, on the other side, you could wonder why we need to strive for our salvation if “works do not save us.”
It is critical to note that Paul does not say “work for your salvation,” but rather “work out your salvation.” There is a distinction. You see, “works” do not save us since the Bible clearly states that we are saved by saved through faith is a gift from God, not a consequence of our efforts. Our actions demonstrate that our belief is genuine.
“He predestined those he god knew to be molded to the pattern of his Son, so that he may be the first among many brothers.” And those he predestined, he also called, and those he called, he also vindicated, and those he justified, he also glorified.”
So, to “work out” your salvation implies continuing working out until completion or ultimate fulfillment is attained. It is to make a consistent effort to complete our salvation, which God has provided us in His generosity.
The good news would be that, even if we cannot do this working out in our strength, the second part of the scripture, Philippi, states, “because it is God that acts in you, whether to will and act for his good pleasure.” God be praised! This indicates that God assists us in working out our salvation or sanctification process in Him.
God works for us by The Holy Spirit in the following ways:
- Giving us His wishes
- Convicting us of sin
- Condemning us of righteousness
- Convicting us of judgment
- Manifesting His sovereign will
God does this by forcefully working in us. “Him we preach, warning everyone and educating everyone with all knowledge, so we may bring everyone mature in Christ,” Colossians states. For this, I struggle with all of his force, which he strongly works inside me.”
So, let Christ forcefully operate in you, and allow Him to work in and through you. He will give you the power to live a holy and pleasant life, bearing the fruits of virtue to become more like Him in every moment.
Finally, I encourage everyone to labor for your salvation with dread and trembling. Abide in Christ, enabling His Holy Ghost to emerge in your life and do His divine work for us to be cleansed for the glory of God.
What Does “Work Out Redemption with Fear and Trembling” Mean?
“Work hard to exhibit the benefits of your salvation, following God with profound reverence and terror,” Philippians says in the New Living Translation. “Be vigorous in the life of salvation, respectful and sensitive before God,” the Message translation says. Paul encourages us to be modest in our redemption and live fearfully and repentantly of sin.
“The words may be deemed, “work about your redemption”; employ selves in items which accompany redemption, and to be conducted by all those that expect it, but while not to be anticipated for the achievement of them; including such hearing of a word, capitulation to Gospel ordinances, and a release of every branch of ethical, religious, and evangelical conformity whereby the apostle before.
Work Out What God Has Worked In
When we hear Paul say, “Work out your redemption with dread and trembling,” many things should strike us. The first is the term “exercise.”
Working something out means proving it to be true. We don’t fundamentally change the answer when we solve a math issue. For example, the sum of two and two is always four. We merely show that two plus a couple equals four when we perform the calculation. But, in certain ways, we must figure out the “math” of our salvation.
In other words, God already has completed the colossal work of redemption in us. He has saved, pardoned, and redeemed us, instilled his Holy Spirit inside us, and joined us to himself.
The following words should strike us as the second thing it should hit us when we hear the instruction to “work out your salvation without dread and trembling.”
Paul continues, “For it is God who works in person, both to that will and work for the good pleasure.”
It should give us a lot of hope.
Because God is at work within us.
We labor to carry out the good actions that God has entrusted to us, knowing that he provides us with both the desire and the power to do so.
God constantly operates in this manner. First, he summons us to duty and then empowers us to obey.
Consider it analogous to an automobile engine. We apply pressure.