What Was Paul Really Saying?

Out of all of the Pauline epistles the letter to the Philippians has a particular tender tone. I imagine that writing it while incarcerated in Rome and missing his friends went along way to showing his deep tenderness though, without doubt the church at Philippi were very dear to him.

But today I want to focus on chapter two verses twelve of his letter and frame our discussion in a question; what was Paul saying?

Let’s take a look.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

It’s the later part of his statement that I wrestle with today… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

I’ve devoted allot of reflection even as a younger Christian on this statement. I’ve heard this preached in and out of context (way out of context) and I’ve glossed over his edification as a passing statement in order to segue to greater truths.

I used to suppose that Paul’s statement was referencing a journey, my Christian walk along the way as I grow in grace and revelation. On deeper reflection I’ve come to realise that working out our own salvation is not a journey but a discipline. It’s more a decision to studiously work on what I believe and know about who God is, discovering what His plan is for me and how I might live. Learning what I’ve come to believe and then questioning why I continue to believe what I’ve learnt (consider 2 Timothy 2:15).

Matthew Henry interrupts the Apostle this way… “He (Paul) exhorts them to diligence and seriousness in the Christian course. It concerns us above all things to secure the welfare of our souls: whatever becomes of other things, let us take care of our best interests. It is our own salvation.”

Consider 3 John 1:2 and ponder ‘as your soul prospers.’ As we continue to navigate the first part of a New Year I’m even more aware that my soul’s heath is in my hands as much as it is in God’s hands.

I think Paul was telling the Philippians that they had a share of the responsibility to invest in their well-being. The Christian walk is not just a journey but a discipline to invest in and work on our salvation.