Applying the Gospel (Philippians 2:12-13)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, ¹³for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.—Philippians 2:12-13
When my sins are forgiven, my neighborhood is improved. Philippians 2:12-13 calls me to expect this and to make it so.
These Fighter Verses call you to soberly and intentionally work out (apply) the gospel of your salvation to your mind, your tongue, your wallet, your sex life, your food pantry, your cancer, and your casket. They also affirm that God is at work in you to accomplish this mission.
Coupled together, we have an imperative: “work soberly at your faith!” with an indicative: “God is working out the gospel into every crevice of your being.”
Repentance is an imperative. “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come” (Acts 3:19-20). Yet repentance is part of God’s work of grace. Paul instructed Timothy to teach patiently, saying, “God may perhaps grant them repentance” (2 Timothy 2:25).
In the fear of the Lord, we must keep God’s commandments. “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). Yet God is the one working in our desires, making us careful to keep his laws. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).
We are commanded, “Be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10). But strength comes from God. So Paul prays, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might” (Colossians 1:11). We are called to “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4). Yet even in this, God is at work in us: “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work” (Psalm 92:4). Romans 12:11 appeals to human effort: “Serve the Lord.” But whatever ministry we take up, we may say with Paul, “I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given to me by the working of his power” (Ephesians 3:7).
It’s not, “I do half and God does half.” It’s all God’s work. As a human experience, I decide, reject, choose, fight, serve, endure, appeal, take up—fear and tremble, weep and rejoice. But behind the curtain of my humanity, I see a love-prompted, outworking grace. God is altering my appetites, strengthening my grip, loosening my wallet, expanding my concerns, compelling my commitments.
God is working in you to bring the gospel of your salvation to maturity and to fit you into the mosaic of his wondrous Great Work of salvation history. So work and strive to think and apply your salvation to every matter under the sun.
John Ensor is president of PassionLife, where he trains Christian leaders in biblical bioethics and pregnancy crisis intervention in countries suffering the highest rates of abortion worldwide. He is the author of Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life and lives in Roswell, GA.