Work Out Your Own Salvation: What Does Philippians 2:12 Mean?


Philippians 2:12, “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.” (King James Version)

TranslationPhilippians 2:12
ESVTherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
NASBSo then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling
NIVTherefore, 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
NLTDear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

Also see the meaning of Greater Love Has No Man to learn more.

Work Out Your Own Salvation: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

2:12-18 We must be diligent in the use of all the means which lead to our salvation, persevering therein to the end. With great care, lest, with all our advantages, we should come short. Work out your salvation, for it is God who worketh in you.

This encourages us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain: we must still depend on the grace of God. The working of God’s grace in us, is to quicken and engage our endeavours. God’s good-will to us, is the cause of his good work in us.

Do your duty without murmurings. Do it, and do not find fault with it. Mind your work, and do not quarrel with it. By peaceableness; give no just occasion of offence. The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless.

The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness, even as the light-house warns mariners to avoid rocks, and directs their course into the harbour. Let us try thus to shine.

The gospel is the word of life, it makes known to us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Running, denotes earnestness and vigour, continual pressing forward; labouring, denotes constancy, and close application.

It is the will of God that believers should be much in rejoicing; and those who are so happy as to have good ministers, have great reason to rejoice with them.

Also see the meaning of Be Fruitful and Multiply to learn more.

Philippians 2:12 | Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Wherefore—Seeing that we have in Christ such a specimen of glory resulting from “obedience” (Php 2:8) and humiliation, see that ye also be “obedient,” and so “your salvation” shall follow your obedience.

as ye have … obeyed—”even as ye have been obedient,” namely, to God, as Jesus was “obedient” unto God (see on [2386]Php 2:8).

not as, &c.—”not as if” it were a matter to be done “in my presence only, but now (as things are) much more (with more earnestness) in my absence (because my help is withdrawn from you)” [Alford].

work out—carry out to its full perfection. “Salvation” is “worked in” (Php 2:13; Eph 1:11) believers by the Spirit, who enables them through faith to be justified once for all; but it needs, as a progressive work, to be “worked out” by obedience, through the help of the same Spirit, unto perfection (2Pe 1:5-8).

The sound Christian neither, like the formalist, rests in the means, without looking to the end, and to the Holy Spirit who alone can make the means effectual; nor, like the fanatic, hopes to attain the end without the means.

your own—The emphasis is on this. Now that I am not present to further the work of your salvation, “work out your own salvation” yourselves the more carefully.

Do not think this work cannot go on because I am absent; “for (Php 2:13) it is God that worketh in you,” &c. In this case adopt a rule different from the former (Php 2:4), but resting on the same principle of “lowliness of mind” (Php 2:3), namely, “look each on his own things,” instead of “disputings” with others (Php 2:14).

Also see the meaning of What God Has Joined Together to learn more.

salvation—which is in “Jesus” (Php 2:10), as His name (meaning God-Saviour) implies.

with fear and trembling—the very feeling enjoined on “servants,” as to what ought to accompany their “obedience” (Eph 6:5).

So here: See that, as “servants” to God, after the example of Christ, ye be so “with the fear and trembling” which becomes servants; not slavish fear, but trembling anxiety not to fall short of the goal (1Co 9:26, 27; Heb 4:1, “Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any should come short of it”), resulting from a sense of our human insufficiency, and from the consciousness that all depends on the power of God, “who worketh both to will and to do” (Ro 11:20). “Paul, though joyous, writes seriously” [J. J. Wolf].

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