"Your own salvation."

Phil. 2:12.

H. C. Anstey.

Christian Friend vol. 15, 1888, p. 284.

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." It seems to me to confuse the true meaning of this exhortation to say that "we have this salvation, and now we have to work it out." The point here is not the salvation of the soul. If the whole passage be read, I think this will be clear to anyone. Nor does it cast any doubt on the fact of the salvation of the soul, which is the effect of faith, and is dependent on no works of ours. But at the time of writing this epistle the apostle was in prison, and he gladly remembered the obedience of these Philippian saints. They had manifested it when he was among them. Through taking heed to his words, they had saved themselves from the attacks of Satan, and from his wiles. And now that he was in prison, was it safe for them to be less obedient? No; if possible they were to be yet more earnestly careful and watchful than they had been in his presence, and this would manifest itself in obedience to his words. Therefore he says, "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 that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."

Now it is clear that present obedience is that which the apostle inculcates and desires them to aim at, in order to their present blessing, and that blessing is what he calls "your own salvation."* And while none, save those who possess the salvation of the soul, can thus "work" (because only of such could verse 13 be true), the salvation of the soul is not the point in the apostle's mind. Obedience to the words of an apostle (and now to the words of all the apostles) goes on at the same time as the working of God, by His Spirit, within the soul. They never oppose one another. Indeed obedience is wrought by the Spirit. Nothing can be a greater proof of the possession of divine life  than this, that because God speaks in His word, I do not question, but I OBEY. Then it was the words of the apostle which they had heard (when he was with them), and which they were reading now again in his letter to them: "To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe." Obedience produces a quiet and steady walk on earth even to the end, and Phil. 2 sets this path before us in perfection. It was the path of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is presented in it. He "always obeyed," as the apostle desires them to do, and the result is that "God hath highly exalted Him;" and Satan's history, in opposition to the Lord in His walk of obedience, is a history of his continuous defeat. So should his history be in conflict with us, and this is the point, I believe, in the passage before us. The enemy was ceaseless in his efforts against them. But he says, "in nothing terrified by your adversaries." We have not only to believe, he says, "but also to suffer for His sake." The question is, How are the saints to save themselves from all the traps and snares which Satan spreads for their feet? Why, by having the "same mind" which marked Him who walked calmly on amid them all, because He walked in obedience. Here is the one grand and only remedy to meet them all - obedience. No saint (however long on the road) is safe but in the path of obedience. By it he works out "his own salvation with fear and trembling," from every trap and from every snare which Satan spreads in his path. Fear and trembling will always accompany me - not distrust of God, but distrust of myself - because I see what a poor thing I am in conflict with my wily foe, and how I tend to respond to the very suggestions which he makes to me on the road.

*The reader will weigh this interpretation. For ourselves, while entirely agreeing with the line pursued in the paper, we understand "salvation" in this passage to mean, as in chap. 1:19, complete salvation at the end - deliverance through all perils, temptations, etc., until the end of the race, at the Lord's coming. - Ed.

It is important also to notice that this verse (Phil. 2:12) is one of the texts which is used by the enemies of the truth to deny that one can know that he has the salvation of the soul. They say, "Even Paul tells the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling." When the context is seen this assumed difficulty disappears. It is most disastrous to take words or passages of Scripture out of their connection; for, if kept and read where God has placed them, the harmony and beauty of the whole is preserved; and what is more, the enemy is often defeated by the very text with which he sought to, defeat us. No one need fear to look at the passages of Scripture he quotes. H. C. A.