Philippians 2:12, 13
Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
The command that we should "work out our own salvation" is not in opposition to the truth that all salvation is the gift and the work of God. It has no reference to this, but is an exhortation to rely upon ourselves and upon God in us rather than upon any human guide or teacher.
I. THIS SALVATION IS AN INDIVIDUAL THING. It is "our own." To trust to human guides is to doubt the guidance of God. It was expedient for the disciples that the Lord Jesus should go away. While they were in his visible presence they trusted to that rather than to his Spirit within them. The presence of the teacher hinders the spiritual life if it tends to lead the disciples to trust to it rather than to God. A lesson useful both for our own spiritual training and for the work which we would do for the souls of others.
II. IT IS TO BE WORKED OUT WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING. This fear is not a servile fear, but it is the consciousness of the presence of God and of our relationship to him. Note that among these Philippians bidden to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, there must have been that jailor to whom St. Paul had said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." That first act of faith placed him in a state of salvation, and in this sense "saved" him, and now, being saved, he has to work out a full salvation.
III. THIS SALVATION IS OF GOD. From him comes firstly the desire by which we long for it and the power by which we can attain to it. All is of his grace. He gives grace for grace, not grace for good works. Consider the strength which this truth bestows. The One to whom we trust is not a guide outside us, but a God within us. He is not only One who can teach us when we are willing to be taught, but One who can give us the will to be taught. He is not One whom we have to persuade to help us against his will, but the whole that we need is already of "his good pleasure." - V.W.H.
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.