Fear and Trembling

Philippians 2:5-13 (HCSB)
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death —
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow —
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth —
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

In the middle of chapter 2 of his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells them to “work out” their own salvation.

Does this mean that Paul is telling them to save themselves?

No… Paul had already made it clear (just prior to this) that Christ…

…emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death —
even to death on a cross.

…Meaning, Jesus did the work needed for salvation.

So then, what is the Christian supposed to do?

Fear and Trembling

The Christian is to have a “fear and trembling” towards God. That was how salvation was to be worked out by them, and Paul told the Philippians how to do it…

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus…

What was Christ’s attitude?

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient

Help from the Psalmist

Psalms 115:11 (HCSB)
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and shield.

The person in view here, sees God as their “help and shield.” In other words, they recognize that it is God who performs their protection. They “trust” or have confidence in the security that He provides. But, they also have something else… They “fear” Him.

The Biblical notion of fear is a very important thing to understand. In the Broadman & Holman HCSB Strong’s Bible notes (for this verse), it explains what “fear” points to in the Biblical sense…

“No single English word conveys every aspect of the word fear in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel.”

Back to Paul

In keeping with the rest of Scripture, Paul is telling the Philippians that in order to work out their own salvation, their job is to have a “…worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the covenant-keeping God of Israel.” In other words, the New Covenant people of Philippi were to keep up what they were already doing with respect to their (New) covenant-keeping God…

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

He was encouraging them to continue to do such because (as Paul had just reminded them) Christ had already done the heavy lifting by dying on the cross…

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death

even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow —
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth —
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

After encouraging “fear and trembling,” Paul then repeated the notion that it is God who does the work…

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

Our Ability

The Philippians’ ability to have a “fear and trembling” came from God. The result of Him “working” in them, was the “enabling” of them to “desire and to work out His good purpose.”

What an encouraging realization this was for the Philippians… and for us!

Brethren, this is not a difficult thing to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” “enabling” you to “desire and to work out His good purpose,” because it is God who has made such possible… It is He who is at work in us.

Whenever we become forgetful of how easy His burden upon us actually is, we must always remember these encouraging words from our Lord…

Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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