What Does It Mean to Work Out Your Salvation With Fear and Trembling?

“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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

The Bible is filled with tough verses to interpret. Many verses are tough even for seasoned Biblical scholars. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you know that we believe that salvation is not works based. Meaning that no matter how hard you try, you cannot work your way into right standing before God. Your good works are as dung before God. He accounts them as nothing. We need the perfect work of Jesus Christ to be counted as holy, so as Christians we put all of our faith in Him and his finished work on the cross of Calvary.

In light of that, this verse in Philippians can be a tough one to figure out. At first it seems to imply that our salvation is based upon what we do. But this is not what Paul is saying at all. If you have read Paul’s letters, he clearly states that salvation is not based on works, but on faith alone in Christ alone.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

So Paul is not saying that we need to work for our salvation. What he is saying is that our salvation is working in us and it is our responsibility to let that process work through us. It’s not a completed process. So Paul is encouraging us to work out our salvation.

In one sense our salvation is complete. Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. He died for our sins. That is complete. But in the sense Paul is speaking of here, our salvation has not worked out completely in us. Salvation is a process. Once the process is started in our lives, salvation links up with sanctification. The reason these two link up is to work in us and to make us more like Jesus. The goal of salvation is not simply to save us, but with the process of sanctification, it is to conform us into the image of Jesus.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29

Now the question is how are we to work out our salvation? Paul says “with fear and trembling.” Now why do you suppose he uses these two words to describe this process? I believe it is because that is how we enter into the kingdom in the first place. Remember, God does not give grace to the proud. The fear of the Lord produces humility in us and that holy fear is what Paul is referring to in this passage.

Once we are saved, we can become so comfortable with God, that we forget to have reverence toward Him. While the Bible encourages us to approach his throne with confidence, that doesn’t mean that we throw out any reverence for His name and who He is. We must always remember that we are drawing near to a holy and perfect God. He has grace and love towards us, but we show our love toward Him by showing Him respect. So Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with this fear in mind.

Fear Creates Slaves

Fear is a powerful motivator. Corrupt governmental regimes have seen this for years. Kings and Presidents have used fear to motivate people to do what they wanted. Motivation from fear is much easier to accomplish than motivation from inspiration. The United States just recently went through an election of our political leaders in 2020. This election was marked by fear on both sides of the aisle – people being motivated to vote for or against a particular candidate because of fear.

And while 2020 was the most recent example, this tactic has been used before. As the Bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9). The enemy of our souls uses this same tactic to create servants through fear. We become enslaved to the flesh and to the enemy over many years by being bombarded by fear. This is a life principle: You will serve whatever it is that you fear.

The Bible connects service and fear on several different occasions. It’s not a coincidence. God knows that what you fear, you will also serve. Now it is important to reiterate that the spirit of fear and the fear of the Lord are two different types of fear – the former being profane and the latter is holy reverence. The spirit of fear seeks servants through control, the fear of the Lord creates servants through love.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” Deuteronomy 10:12

The fear of the Lord in Deuteronomy is connected with walking in his ways or holy living, with loving God and with serving him fully. God isn’t asking us to fear Him in order to control us, He is reminding us here of who He is. When we see God seated in his proper place, when we get a revelation of who He is, then we will experience a healthy amount of holy fear or reverence toward Him.

Many times in the Bible, when a prophet or someone gets a vision of the Lord, what is the first thing that happens? They fall to the ground like a dead man. When we truly see the Lord for who He is, when we get a small taste of His glory, the fear of the Lord swells up within us and we fall down before Him.

Sadly, too often in churches today, we don’t see a fear of the Lord. What we see is prideful arrogance. We won’t even bow our knee in church because we are more concerned about what others may think about us, rather than what God thinks. We certainly wouldn’t want to lie prostrate on the ground for the entire church to see. In our arrogance, we stand in pride and as a result, the glory of the Lord doesn’t fill our houses of worship like it did in the Bible. God doesn’t reveal his glory to a prideful people, but to a reverent one.

If we truly want to live as free men and women, we must pray to the Lord and ask Him to rid us of that spirit of fear that is seeking to keep us in slavery. God is more than willing to break us out of that bondage. Jesus was anointed to set the captives free. Don’t let another day pass without letting God set you free. Pray today, “Lord, I am in bondage to the spirit of fear. I have been a slave to the fear of man and I need you to set me free. I cannot do this myself. I need you to set me free. Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me and setting me free today, in Jesus name I pray, amen.”

Return To Your First Love: An Overview of Ephesians

Personal update: For those that do not know, starting December 1, I was named pastor of a local church here in North Carolina. And it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve not had time to devote to the blog or podcast because of this process. I am currently serving as pastor and working full time and that leaves very little time for everything else. I’m going to continue to update this as much as possible and may just be posting mainly portions of my sermon notes for the foreseeable future. I appreciate your prayers and understanding. Much love – Brian.

The city of Ephesus is located in Modern day Turkey. It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and it was home to one of the seven wonders of the world – the Temple of Artemis. Rather than looking in Ephesians, we are going to start our study in the book of Acts, chapter 18.

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,[d] he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland[a] country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.[c] 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Here we see what happens in Ephesians…Apollos starts preaching there and winning converts. Aquilla and Priscilla explain things to him a little more. Later he takes off to Corinth and the Apostle Paul shows up and starts baptizing people in the Holy Spirt. The Apostle Paul stays there for two more years preaching the word to Jews and Greeks.

Continue reading “Return To Your First Love: An Overview of Ephesians”

Guest Post: Depression, Self Harm and Jesus – How to Find God in our Darkest Hours Through Prayer

Untitled design (4)This is a continuation of our series on healing that we started on the Everyday Jesus podcast last week. If you haven’t listened to our episode yet, please catch up here:

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ashley Brooks. Ashley is a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom. Ashley has been married to Lee for 10 years and they have a 9-year-old son. Ashley has a passion to see people healed of depression, suicide, rape and self-harm. And while Ashley is actively involved in her church now, this was not always the case. This is her story:

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Ashley Brooks

I was raised in church. Every Sunday I knew where I would be, I knew if the church doors were open I would be there. I loved church, I loved the music, I loved the family feel.

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I decided it was time to stop living the second hand faith through my Aunt and Uncle and get my own relationship with God. I was overwhelmed by His love for me, and how the Holy Spirit was speaking to me! I was on a JESUS HIGH for a Continue reading “Guest Post: Depression, Self Harm and Jesus – How to Find God in our Darkest Hours Through Prayer”

God’s Plan – Free from Fear

God’s Plan – Free from Fear

On the Everyday Jesus podcast we are continuing our discussion on the Holy Spirit and how He helps us in our daily lives. This week on the show we talked about how to find God’s plan for your life. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you can check it out below:

Today I wanted to talk about one of the words I used in the podcast that hinders people from following God or seeking His will – Fear. Fear is a huge problem in the world and Continue reading “God’s Plan – Free from Fear”