Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. THE INVALUABLE BLESSING SET BEFORE US.
1. The blessing itself — Salvation. What is that? Deliverance from sin. Had there been no sin there would have needed no salvation. But having sinned man has lost likeness to God, love for God, life with God, and he wants these restored. But he cannot get them back of himself. Christ, however, has secured them for him; deliverance(1) from the curse of sin. Christ has taken this upon Himself (Romans 8:1).
(2) From the dominion of sin. That is made the slave which all along has been the master.
(3) From all the consequences of sin.
(a) Separation from God. Being saved from sin man has access to God.
(b) Eternal punishment.
2. Your interest in this salvation. You hear people say, "That is my own house, my own business," and lay great emphasis on the "own." And your own salvation has a peculiar emphasis connected with it. Christ's salvation is a common salvation, and you do well to publish it; but what if heathens should possess it, and you through the want of it be lost.
II. THE MEANS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. "Work out," etc.
1. Negatively: this does not mean —
(1) To make an atonement for sin. Salvation in that respect is finished.
(2) That you are saved through your work. There is no more merit in it than there is in receiving alms from a benefactor.
2. Positively; it is —
(1) To labour to believe, and receive salvation — by reading, hearing, meditation, etc.
(2) To labour to secure the enjoyment of salvation. Many have it, but not the joy of it. This is secured by prayer and Christian work.
(3) Labour to exhibit and practise salvation. You cannot hold the world and sin in one hand, and salvation in the other.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO USE THE MEANS PRESCRIBED. Do not say, trembling soul, thou hast no strength, "I would work, but am so feeble." Thy helper is God.
1. He works "to will." He does not reform the natural faculty of the will; but sweetly and powerfully constrains that will by His Holy Spirit.
2. He works "to do." Sometimes you have the will but not the strength. But as God works in us principles of action — faith, love, and regard for His glory — so when these principles are quickened and brought into practice, what cannot a man do?
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.