Philippians 2:12,13 reads: “Therefore, 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 who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
We receive salvation by grace based on Christ’s merit, but God requires us to work out sanctification by obedience and submission to His will. How? It is a process of character development. We use our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1,2); we develop the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22); we use our talents in His service (Matthew 25:14-28); we become the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13); and we learn to be capable ministers in the ministry of God’s reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Thus, salvation is the work of God through Christ, but he allows us to play our part in demonstrating our appreciation and love. And even in playing our own part, we are not alone, it is not something accomplished by sheer willpower, but it is our acceptance of God’s hand to shape our minds, our desires, our circumstances, and our ministry.
We work out our salvation with fear and trembling by showing reverence, respect, and commitment to the cause we have been enrolled in. This is not a work of terror, but of heart appreciation in humility. Psalm 2: 11 says “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”
Paul teaches that both grace and works contribute to our salvation in Christ.