“Therefore, 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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
What an incredibly big word “f-o-r” is! We could as easily translate it with the English word “because.” “For” or “because” is there as Paul’s way of alerting us to the way in which we are going to carry out the command of v. 12. How are we going to do this, Paul? His answer: only by the antecedent working of God in your desires and actions.
So, Paul is not telling us to sit idly by, twiddling our spiritual thumbs, passively waiting until some inner urge stirs us to act. He is saying quite the opposite. Get up and get to work with the confidence that what just prompted and empowered you to do so was God antecedently at work in your heart.
As I noted earlier in the examples I gave you, Paul is not saying that God is working in our place, as if to say he’s doing the work so we don’t have to. God himself does not work in children’s ministry at your church so that you don’t have to. God himself does not greet visitors with a smile and a warm embrace so that you don’t have to. God himself does not attend a small group or pray for the sick so that you don’t have to. Rather, God is supplying us with the power so that we can perform the work. We act the miracle he produces.
It’s also important for us to see that Paul doesn’t say, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling so that God might then go to work in you.” God’s working in us is not the divine response to our acting but the divine cause of our acting. God doesn’t act in us as a reward for our havin