This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Philippians 2:12 ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Philippians 2:12

‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’


This text is just one of the texts that Arminians and ‘free-willers’ are swift to raise up before others, as a proof of their position with regard to a synchronic means of salvation; that is, to say, that salvation is a ‘joint venture’ between both God and the sinner. Or, to put it in another way, that the cooperation of man is an absolute necessity for salvation. Of course, they have found many other ‘banners’ that they resolutely raise to their claim. They will happily jump upon the epistle of James, and the arguments they believe to be successfully made in the second chapter of that letter to ‘the twelve tribes which are of the dispersion,’ when James makes the statement, What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?—vs. 14. And further down, in verse 17, this inspired writer has written; has added, Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead in itself. The ‘free-willer’ posits that these passages teach the requirement of the sinner’s act as contributing to his, or her, salvation. Again, asserting that salvation from sin is a synergistic activity, ‘two things brought together to accomplish one goal,’ in this case, bringing the sinner safely to God, for forgiveness, justification, and redemption.      

These sad folk boldly preach such activity. They will set the cross of Jesus Christ before the mind’s eye of the sinner, and say that “God has done His part in giving His Son to die; Jesus has done His part in coming to shed His blood for the lost sinners [who will accept Him as their Savior], and now it is up to you. You must now do your part. It will be classically illustrated when it is said that “God has paved the way along that path that leads to your forgiveness; now it’s up to you to take that last step. Having said this much, what they are really saying, in doing so, is that God has not done enough, and the sinner must do the rest. Our text for this week, is claimed in support of this way of salvation; this joint venture between God and man; that text cited above, from Philippians 2:12, which states there view, they say:

    Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

You are to work it out; God is not going to do it all. He expects you to do your part. And your part is to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, did not our Lord Jesus say, expressly, to His hearers; those that had inquired, as recorded in John 6:28, 

They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God?

And, was His answer to these inquirers, in the very next verse, namely, John 6:29:

not, Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Now there you have it, God has sent His Son into the world to save lost sinners; Jesus has indeed come, and He has laid down His life for sinners; He has shed His precious blood at Golgotha for hell-deserving sinners. Now it is up to you to believe. Or to repeat it; God has done His part: the rest is up to you. Believe and be saved! And that is the gospel which they proclaim to sinners; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved. But, many say, I don’t believe; I cannot believe; how am I to be saved? Believe on Jesus Christ, and be saved. But, many say, I don’t believe; I cannot believe; how am I to be saved? I must be able to believe; would God command me to do something which I am not able to do? Would that even be fair? That doesn’t make any sense! 

Are we not informed, in John 6:44, from the lips of Jesus Himself, saying;       No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I

will raise him up in the last day. it is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me.

There are numerous, glorious illustrations of the apparent contradictions involved in this supposed conundrum. We may read, in the gospel account of Mark, and in the third chapter, even at the beginning of this chapter, the following blessed account:

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there who had his hand withered. Moving ahead to verse five; And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their heart, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and his hand was restored.

Now, do any of my readers believe that this man, of a sudden, did something to his hand that enabled him to stretch it forth, as he was directed to do by Jesus? Surely, this is a wonderful example of our Father in heaven, granting what He commands. Do we not understand that what God commands, He gives? There is another fine illustration in Matthew’s gospel account, and in the ninth chapter, verses 6 and seven.

But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy) Arise, and take up thy bed, and go unto thy house. And he arose, and departed to his house.

And, is this not the reason and the ground for our assertions about synergism? Is it not the case, to say again, that what God requires, He gives, or what God demands, that will He supply? This is, not very surprisingly, the reality of Paul’s teaching before us in Philippians. He has stated it most clearly, that what He commands, that He provides, or has provided, or will provide. To witness Paul’s agreement pertaining to this issue, we need only to move ahead from Philippians 2:12, to 2:13: for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Returning to James, we find this brother of our Lord Jesus, clearing these things up very well, if we would only read all he has said. He has taught, not really, that works are meritorious for salvation, but rather, that true faith will be emanated to be true faith. Therefore, we can say; I by my works will show thee my faith.  

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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