World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Shining as Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
12. Wherefore—Seeing that we have in Christ such a specimen of glory resulting from "obedience" (Php 2:8) and humiliation, see that ye also be "obedient," and so "your salvation" shall follow your obedience.
as ye have … obeyed—"even as ye have been obedient," namely, to God, as Jesus was "obedient" unto God (see on Php 2:8).
not as, &c.—"not as if" it were a matter to be done "in my presence only, but now (as things are) much more (with more earnestness) in my absence (because my help is withdrawn from you)" [Alford].
work out—carry out to its full perfection. "Salvation" is "worked in" (Php 2:13; Eph 1:11) believers by the Spirit, who enables them through faith to be justified once for all; but it needs, as a progressive work, to be "worked out" by obedience, through the help of the same Spirit, unto perfection (2Pe 1:5-8). The sound Christian neither, like the formalist, rests in the means, without looking to the end, and to the Holy Spirit who alone can make the means effectual; nor, like the fanatic, hopes to attain the end without the means.
your own—The emphasis is on this. Now that I am not present to further the work of your salvation, "work out your own salvation" yourselves the more carefully. Do not think this work cannot go on because I am absent; "for (Php 2:13) it is God that worketh in you," &c. In this case adopt a rule different from the former (Php 2:4), but resting on the same principle of "lowliness of mind" (Php 2:3), namely, "look each on his own things," instead of "disputings" with others (Php 2:14).
salvation—which is in "Jesus" (Php 2:10), as His name (meaning God-Saviour) implies.
with fear and trembling—the very feeling enjoined on "servants," as to what ought to accompany their "obedience" (Eph 6:5). So here: See that, as "servants" to God, after the example of Christ, ye be so "with the fear and trembling" which becomes servants; not slavish fear, but trembling anxiety not to fall short of the goal (1Co 9:26, 27; Heb 4:1, "Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any should come short of it"), resulting from a sense of our human insufficiency, and from the consciousness that all depends on the power of God, "who worketh both to will and to do" (Ro 11:20). "Paul, though joyous, writes seriously" [J. J. Wolf].