A friend asked me to not be so negative, and put some things up that he could criticize(!) So here goes, some thoughts on Philippians 2:12-13, an important text in the Christian life, as if from a student, to another. Lord bless our exploration.
What is the relationship between God being "at work in you," which Paul tells the Philippians is true of them, and what Paul exhorts them to do, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling"?
The simple answer is that the first is a reason for the second. "For it is God who is at work in you." That's the immediate reason that Paul gives them for what he asks and exhorts and commands them to do. God is at work in them. That's the reason they should work out their salvation.
So before we ask questions of the form "why doesn't it mean what I think, namely, xyz," we should look at the passage on its own. The exhortation, "work out your salvation ..." is supported on both sides: before, and after. 2:13 is the "after"; 2:12a, is the "before" (if not the whole letter in some respects).
So we have prior-support, then the exhortation, then following-support. The following-support is very interesting, because of the fact that it supplies the premise (2:13) for an inference. How is 2:13 a reason for working out our salvation?
Has the fact that others are working with us ever given us a reason to work at something? How about if it is God, working in us? Should God working in us not give a sufficient reason to work something out? Especially if the very thing God is working on is the means that we humans get things done by using: our wills, and our deliberate actions. But how then is it our very salvation, that we are to work out?! More soon.
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