Philippians 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worked in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
‘Obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ We all have the responsibility of working out our own salvation until it is completed (3:21; Rom. 6:22; 8:23; 1Pet. 1:5-13). It is everyone’s own responsibility to ask to receive (Matt. 7:7; Jas. 4:7-8) and allow God to complete the work He has begun in us (1:6). God can only bring salvation in us to completion when we are willing to die to the self (Matt. 10:11-13, 37-38).
‘Fear and trembling’ – Why fear and trembling if there is no possibility of a fall and a failure? From 1Corinthians 9:27 we see Paul’s warning to keep our bodies under and bring them into subjection: lest by any means we should be castaways. From Hebrews 6:4-9 we see that Christians can backslide, tearing down the foundation of repentance that is already laid. Should they ever again be admitted into Christ, they will have to build again the foundation of repentance and do their first works again (Heb. 2:1-4; Rev. 2:5) and that Christians can fully apostatize from Christ, completely rejecting Him and His atoning work, so that it is impossible to renew them again to repentance (Heb. 10:26-29; 2Pet. 2:20-22).
‘Worked in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ If one will not obey in working out His own salvation, will God continue to work when man refuses to permit Him? Man’s power to will and to do as he pleases should not be puzzling. Such power comes from God but the use of it lies with man. One who will not use this power to work out His salvation will be held responsible. All people possess the power but not all use it (John 3:16-20; Mark 16:15-16; 1Jn. 1:9; Rev. 22:17).