22 August 1999

"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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"- Philippians 2:12-13. From prison, Paul writes this affectionate epistle to his beloved brethren at Philippi. He refers to them as "my joy and my crown" and from the gloom of the prison cell he states, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." Even during his absence, his love for these brethren had not diminished and his concern for their welfare had not ceased. But at this juncture in his life he was unable to visit them personally and see to their needs and he admonishes them, even though he was physically absent, to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." But who is the apostle writing to? Is he writing to people who have no knowledge of Christ? Is he writing to people who know nothing about the Bible? Is he writing to people who are have not made a public confession of their faith; a people who have no knowledge of God? No, he is writing to baptized believers, people who are all of the above. To these members of the church at Philippi he admonished to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". From these few words we learn a lot about salvation: It does not always refer to eternity. As a matter of fact, we will find that much of the salvation that the Bible warns us about concerns the believer's salvation from the pitfalls and dangers of Satan in this life; a salvation from problems and dangers that so disrupt our lives and destroys our peace. I believe that many of God's people miss this salvation. Though they are heirs of grace, they have made shipwreck of this life. They have missed out on today because their eye is only on eternity. This salvation involves every facet of one's life. From child rearing to the marriage, from the workplace to God's house, it is all involved. It is this salvation that the apostle addresses and warns the brethren at Phillipi to "work out". Since the admonition is addressed to believers it must apply to me. I must have a salvation to work out, every day, every hour, every moment. And since the apostle refers to it as "your own", it must be a work that no one else can do for me. When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he didn't say, "Lord, what will you have the Pharisees to do", or, "what will you have these men that are with me to do." He said, "Lord, what will you have me to do." We can not blame others for our own soul trouble. We all dwell under our own vine and fig tree. In this sense, our personal relationship with the Lord is not the church's responsibility; it is not the pastor's responsibility; the member's responsibility; but our own. Whether Paul was present or absent, the Philippians were still accountable to God! From the apostles language, it seems that this salvation is to be taken very seriously. It is to be worked out with "fear and trembling". This metaphor is very suggestive. It depicts one who approaches life seriously and with great caution. In such a posture we will find one with eyes open; with a proper fear of God as well as a healthy fear of our accuser, the devil. Every decision is fraught by "all prayer". God's pleasure is in mind with the realization that life "under the sun" can be rewarding or mingled with great misery. According to Paul, the joy that the believer will experience in this life is, to a large degree, dependant upon how seriously he works this salvation out. But Paul would not have them to believe that they were alone in this Holy pursuit. Though he would be absent, he reminds them that God would be present with them, "for it is God which worketh in you". And how would God work with the brethren at Philippi? Just the same as He works with His people today. According to Paul, God must come first. He would first give them a "will" to do His good pleasure. Then He would give them the ability to "do" His good pleasure. The will must come first. The preacher can not give it nor can a host of religious exercises. It is a by product of life, an evidence that God already lives in the heart. If we have the will to please God we have the evidence that His spirit abides within us. Today, God continues to work in the lives of His people. HE is not dead nor is HE silent. Is he working in your life? Has He given you a will, a Holy anointing to please Him? If He has, follow His leadership. There is great reward! But how to perform those yearning of the heart becomes the part of the believer. The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak. Since God has given the will, surely He will make the way. It is to God that we must look for the wisdom and the strength to accomplish His Holy will. To the beloved at Philippi, this was Paul's wish. I wish it for you today. Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace. Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning. By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor