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Work Out Your Own Salvation with Fear and Trembling:  
Does this mean our salvation depends upon our work?
(12-16-11, 12 minutes)  
By Brother Mike 

 


Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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 worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure
(Php. 2:12-13).
 


For some this passage has been interpreted to mean that our works have something to do with ourselves becoming saved. After all, in this passage we are commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and how can we be so commanded unless our own works have something to do with becoming saved. On the surface this might seem to be saying that we must work or do something in order to be saved, but upon closer examination, this is not what this scripture is saying at all. 

Notice this scripture says to work out your own salvation. It doesn't say to work out your own salvation in order to obtain or earn your own salvation, but it says to work out or perform your own salvation that is already in your possession. This, then, is clearly not a command to work in order to become saved, but it is a command to God's people who are already saved to work out or perform the salvation they have already been gifted with. What's more, this working out or performing of their salvation is not said to be their own work, but it is completely the work of God. This becomes clear in the next verse which states the reason why God's people should work out or perform their own salvation with fear and trembling: " for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." In other words, this verse is teaching that God's already saved people are commanded to work out or perform their own salvation because it is God who works and wills to do of his good pleasure through them. Yes, it is completely the work of God that one truly wills and does of God's good pleasure, and it really has nothing to do with working for salvation at all, but rather it has to do with the following through with, or the performing or doing of the salvation they already have. 

Interestingly, the verb "work out" in this passage could be in either the middle or the passive voice of the Biblical Greek language. The middle voice means that the subject to the verb acts upon itself to bring about the working out of salvation with fear and trembling. This would mean that you yourself act upon yourself to bring about the working out of your own salvation with fear and trembling so that you yourself would be the cause for the working out of your own salvation. On the other hand, the passive voice means that something apart from the subject acts upon the subject, which is passive, to bring about the working out of your salvation with fear and trembling. This means that God acts upon you, who are passive, to bring about the working out or performing of your own salvation so that God would be the complete cause of the working out your own salvation. 

Now because the context of the verse in discussion is that of God working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure, I do believe the proper interpretation of this verb "work out" is clearly to see it as being in the passive voice. This means when the Lord commands His people to work out their own salvation, the emphasis is upon God working upon his people to cause them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. It is not God's people who are the cause of the working out of their own salvation, but it is God who is the cause of the working out their own salvation. This gives all the glory to God and it removes all possibility of glorying in man. 

So is this verse in any way teaching that one must, or can, work to some degree for salvation? Absolutely not! This verse is teaching that God's people who are already saved will work out or perform the salvation they have been given for one reason alone: " For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." All the work and credit goes to God alone! Salvation from start to finish is completely all of God. " . . . he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). 

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