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So 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. (Philippians 2:12)
Now, we are about to see Paul give three applications in this following section: practical Christianity (vv. 12-13), positive steadfastness (vv. 14-16), and personal joy (vv. 17-18).
In the first application, we once again see Paul tying what he has said to what he is about to say. In the Greek (ὥστε hōste) is here translated “So then,” and carries with it the concept of therefore or wherefore. “Because of what has been stated, let us apply it to what I am about to say.”
Paul calls them his beloved. The Greek word used here is in the plural, so Paul was speaking to all of the believers at Philippi. He addresses them from his heart the need to apply the theology he had just given them in the previous verses.
He says that he remembered how they did their best to incorporate all the things that Paul had taught them into their daily lives when he was in their midst. And he is now stressing that it was more important that they do what he had taught, even when he was not around. So often, when the one in leadership is not present, people tend to back off and relax from what they are supposed to be doing. The Philippians appear to be more observant of what Paul taught while he was gone than when he was in their presence. This is a good commendation from Paul. You see, the things taught were not for Paul’s benefit but for the Philippian believers. The goodness of this truth is that they were in obedience to God.
Paul tells them to “work out your salvation.” The Greek word (κατεργάζομαι katergazomai) rendered ‘work out’ here means to put something into effect entirely or thoroughly, result in, bring something about to completion. So no true Christian is condemned to fail or to give up. God was absolutely certain that genuine Christians could complete the work that he had given them to carry out, the work that leads to their salvation—or he would never have inspired Paul to pen such a statement. As Jesus himself said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt 24:13) How can Christians succeed in their human imperfection? It is not something that they accomplish on their own. If they had the strength themselves, what need would there be for “fear and trembling.” Rather, Christ ‘acts within us,’ with The Holy Spirit working in our mind and heart, guiding us “to will and to work.” (Phil. 2:13) There is no reason they cannot make the right choices in life with the Holy Spirit? And if anyone stumbles and sins, they have the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ! – Luke 11:13; Matthew 20:28.
The Philippian believers were already saved, they understood that it was all by grace, but it was to be displayed in their daily life to give God all the glory. One must first possess Christ to be able to work out its conclusion – Christ-likeness or displaying the mind of Christ. Not imitating Christ, but the Holy Spirit reproducing the character of Christ in the believer.
Salvation is not a once and for all deal. True salvation of a believer is a threefold salvation. The believer is saved from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. When a person accepts Christ as their Savior (Rom. 10:13), they are immediately saved from the penalty of sin. (Rom. 6:23) This is our past tense – our justification. We are then to seek on a daily (hourly) basis to walk in the blessedness of our salvation, work it out in our daily lives, or sanctification. This is our present tense of salvation. And finally, we shall be saved from the presence of sin. (Rom. 8:29-30) This is the future tense – our glorification. So, when we receive Christ as our Savior, our past, present, and future are all involved. It is good to make a note at this point that all the verbs in Romans 8:29-30 are in the past tense – signifying that the entirety of salvation in the believer was completed at the point of salvation. God now challenges us through Paul to make sure that what has been worked in us becomes visible (worked out) for those around us.
So, we now are instructed to do this “with fear and trembling.” The Greek word (φόβος phobos) carries with it the idea of dread and terror, but by metonymy  in the New Testament, it becomes the replacement for the thing that causes the intimidation. It thus carries with it the concept of a reverential fear of Christ – a constant carefulness in our dealing with others. The emphasis is added by the Greek word (τρόμος tromos) – trembling. Paul is picturing the idea of a servant who is desirous to please his master. It is a picture of one who is fearful, not of losing their salvation, but failing in their walking in the mind of Christ. It should be every believer’s desire to please our Lord, Jesus, in all that we do. We should hold this fear of all that would rob us of our vitality and victory in our spiritual lives.
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BIBLE TRANSLATION AND TEXTUAL CRITICISM
BIBLICAL STUDIES / INTERPRETATION
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM
CHURCH HEALTH, GROWTH, AND HISTORY
 Holman Bible Editorial Staff, ed., HCSB Study Bible (Kindle Locations 147153-147159), ed. Holman Bible Editorial Staff (B&H Publishing Group Kindle Edition, 2010).
 See Ephesians 2: 8-10.
 Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal. It is plain from the New Testament teaching throughout that justification comes to the sinner by the atoning work of Jesus and that this is applied to the individual sinner by faith. That God pardons and accepts believing sinners is the truth that is enshrined in the doctrine of justification by faith.
 The generic meaning of sanctification is “the state of proper functioning.” To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer…. The Greek word translated “sanctification” (hagiasmos) means “holiness.” To sanctify, therefore, means “to make holy.”
 The reader might make note that all verbs in this passage are in the past tense
 See verse 9 for a description and explanation of a metonymy.
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996).. Page 229-230.