Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. THE SALVATION WHICH IS TO BE WROUGHT OUT. "Salvation" has two senses — deliverance, and a being raised to that state of holiness and happiness which God designs. In the text it includes both. Salvation was no: finished on the cross. It was not even secured; since something depends upon our own act. Salvation is a process. The first step is deliverance from blindness and insensibility; the second, from condemnation. Our salvation, then, proceeds into a state of entire conformity to the mind of Christ. Yet it supposes growth, even then. It is also preservation, every moment, from temptation, sloth, neglect, impatience, until at death the pure spirit is committed into the hands of the Father, and enters upon the perfect happiness of heaven.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH IT IS TO BE WROUGHT OUT.
1. "Work" denotes a vigorous application of the mind to —
(1) Serious thoughts.
(2) Prayerful exercises of faith.
(3) The government of the heart.
(4) The resistance of temptation.
(5) The means of grace.
(6) Practical religion.
2. Salvation is to be worked out. By repentance and faith till justification and sanctification are secured. Our daily contests and attainments must be prosecuted till the conqueror be crowned.
3. With fear and trembling. Beware of the treachery of the heart. The number who have fallen; the immense stake at issue; the frown of God.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT.
1. This settles the disputed point of Divine help and human agency; not philosophically but practically. God does not so work in man as to render him a mechanical instrument; nor does man so work as that the work is attributed to his own powers.
1. A great part of the controversy respecting free will arises from not distinguishing between a power to will and the act of willing. That such a distinction is just, appears most clearly from God's working in us "to do." Now, it were absurd to say, God "does," that is, prays, watches, and believes, for us; but He gives the power. It were equally absurd to say, God "wills" for us; but He gives the power to will; for He restores free agency. Again: If God necessitated our doing, He would not "work in us to do," but by us to do; so, if He necessitated our will, he would work, not" in us to will," but by us to will. The sense is, that He works in us that we may ourselves will and do.
2. God works in us to will. Several operations are necessary here. He enlightens the mind; impresses upon us the things that belong to our peace; and sets before us the motives which persuade the will. This, however, is not power to do. "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." God strengthens us by the rich effusions of His blessed Spirit. He does not convey all power at once. Some degree of it is given, independently of ourselves. Afterwards, the power is increased according to our diligence, and faith, and improvement. What, then, is there that you cannot attain? "God worketh in you."
3. Do you doubt of(1) Your attaining to saving faith? "God worketh in you;" and His grace is sufficient.
(2) Your attaining power over sin? "God worketh in you;" and is anything too hard for Him?
(3) Your gaining complete salvation? "God worketh in you;" and His almighty Spirit can sanctify the most corrupt and depraved nature.
(4) Your victory over trouble and conflict? Fear not: "God worketh in you;" and His strength shall be so made perfect in your weakness, that you shall be even "more than conquerors."Conclusion:
1. If you neglect your proper work, think not to blame God. He has both given and offered power.
2. If you have it not, you have not asked, or have not employed it.
3. In proportion as you are strengthened, you act. Live, then, near to God.
4. The glory of salvation is the Lord's. You do nothing but in His power.
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.