Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. THE MATTER TO BE WORKED OUT.
1. Your own salvation. Charity must begin at home. You ought to spread the truth, but you must first understand it. Ploughing another man's field, don't neglect your own; indicating to another the mote in his eye, do not permit a beam to blind your own.
2. What is to be worked out must first be worked in. An unconverted man can work nothing out, for there is nothing in. You have faith; work it out then; act like a believer; trust God in daily life. Be you Christlike, inasmuch as the Spirit of Christ dwells in you.
3. Salvation is to be worked out. Holiness is salvation. We are not to work out our salvation from the guilt of sin; Christ has done that, but from the power of sin. God has in effect worked that in; He has broken the yoke of sin; it lives and struggles, but it is dethroned, and our life is to keep it down. A man may be saved from the guilt of sin, and yet not saved from the power of pride or bad temper. Your salvation is not complete till you are saved from these. You must fight them till you conquer.
II. THE MODEL TO BE WORKED TO.
1. Every artist requires some idea in his mind to which he is to work. The apostle's model is exhibited in the context.
(1) Unanimity (ver. 2);
(2) humiliation (ver. 3);
(3) mutual love;
(4) in a word, the mind of Christ (ver. 5).
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS IS TO BE WORKED OUT.
1. An energetic spirit. From the Greek word "work" we get our word energy. The bringing out of the new nature requires this, inasmuch as it is a mark of superlative difficulty. God works in, therefore we must work out. The assistance of Divine grace is not given to put aside our own efforts, but to assist them.
2. With fear to offend so good a God of which we read, Blessed is the man who feareth always.
3. With trembling. Before the Lord we do not tremble with affright, but with holy awe, lest we should sin and grieve the Spirit.
IV. THE SWEET ENCOURAGEMENT THE TEXT AFFORDS. Here is —
(1) in an exercise beyond your power.
(2) All sufficient for every emergency.
(3) Which enables you to receive Divine help.
(4) Which shall be more than equal to the power of Satan and all your corruptions.
2. God works in us to will — gives us the desire for holiness, the resolution to put down sin, the stern resolve not to fall into sin again, and He who gave the desire will surely finish it.
3. God does not leave you then; He gives you the power to do, to achieve the victory; therefore fear not.
4. That which He works in you is pleasing in His sight.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.