Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. THE END TO BE ATTAINED. Salvation.
3. Eternal life: the whole benefits of redemption.
II. THIS END IS ONLY TO BE ATTUNED BY WORKING. This teaches —
1. Negatively(1) That it is not a matter of course that men are saved, because Christ has purchased redemption for them.
(2) That salvation is not a benefit which others can confer upon us. Each one must work out his own. No priest can save us.
(3) This is not an easy work. Κατεργάζεσθε is a strong word, and this working is to be with fear and trembling, i.e., with solicitude, lest after all we should fail. Our utmost exertion therefore is required. "Strive to enter," etc. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence." Israel, to gain possession of Canaan, had to fight long and hard. No cross, no crown.
(1) Our working must be directed to a right end, not to make atonement or merit salvation by our good works. These are the two errors of all false religions, and men who labour in this direction make no progress. The proper course is to obtain an interest in Christ, and to bring our hearts and lives into conformity with the will of God. If a man thinks it enough to believe in Christ and then live as he pleases, he turns the grace of God into licentiousness. We have to subdue the world, the flesh, and the devil.
(2) We must work in accordance with the gospel. Therefore our work must recognize —
(a) The work of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King.
(b) The work of the Holy Ghost.
(c) The efficacy of the means of grace, none of which are to be neglected.
(3) It must be assiduous and laborious.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS.
1. That God can, does, and will aid us.
2. That this aid is not merely outward, giving us the means and opportunity, but inward and efficacious, giving us strength and will.
3. There is, therefore, a divine consensus, a cooperation promised, analogous to the working of God in nature, and in those cases in which He gave strength to the palsied or the lame.
4. This Divine cooperation is congruous to the nature of the soul.
5. As it is absolutely necessary it should be sought and relied on.
(C. Hedge, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.