Paul states, “Therefore, 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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
This is a fascinating verse which the Lord has continued, over the past few days, to open up. He has brought revelation and showed me some significant insights resulting in fresh understanding of the amazing love of God and life in community with other believers. Let me share a thought or two…
The word “your” here in this passage is plural, not singular. He is describing a community of disciples – believers in Jesus – in which “salvation” refers to the whole, not just one person; not the salvation of an individual but of the believers – the body of Christ, the local church. The Holy Spirit is telling us that we cannot “work out our salvation” alone; but, we must share life in a Christian community and here “work out your (plural) salvation” helping one another as we are sharing life together.
Today we have many believers who are detached from a local church and not attending and involved in any one faith community on a regular basis. So, for them, it is impossible to fulfill this call to “work out your salvation.” They are not part of a community. And, we have others who attend a local church but are still not an integral part of the community life of that church. They are not relationally connected to other members of the local body. They simply attend and remain detached. They too are unable to “work out your salvation.”
The word “salvation” is not referring to deliverance from the PENALTY of sin, nor freedom from the PRESENCE of sin, but rather deliverance from the POWER of sin. He sees this salvation taking place within the life of the community, the local church.
The PENALTY of sin is spiritual separation from God (Romans 6:23a). This was defeated by the finished work of Christ at Calvary. No one can be free from the PRESENCE of sin for we live in a fallen and sin-sick world. We remain within this spiritual atmosphere so that we can be a witness for the freedom that is available through Calvary.
But she can be delivered from the POWER of sin in and on our lives. But, as this verse states, this requires sharing life with others and being accountable to others within the local church. That is why the word “your” is plural. It refers to the members of a local church. Here we can experience a lifestyle where we can be accountable and responsible for our sanctification. This is why the Holy Spirit assigns to each believer a part and a place in a specific body of believers – the local church. “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, everyone of them, just as He wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:18). Thus, as a community, we can be free from the POWER of sin.
So, God urges us to become a vital and active part of His community, the Church. Here we can find a shared lifestyle with those who have been set free from the PENALTY of sin and are rescuing people from the PRESENCE of sin in their individual lives. And, being responsible and accountable, we can together work out our salvation with fear and trembling as we experience freedom from the POWER of sin.