“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always been obedient, not only in my presence alone, but now also even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for God is the one working in you, even to will and to work for satisfaction.”
The word, “His,” is often inserted before the word “satisfaction” in this phrase, which clearly is the meaning in context, though the word is only implied and not present. That stated, it should be noted that when we are in Christ, that which satisfies or brings God good pleasure ought to be that which satisfies us the most. Thus, as God the Father is most satisfied in his Son, we too are only truly satisfied when we are deeply in relationship with the Son as well.
Now, sometimes people get a little hung up on the language of working out your salvation…in this context, Paul is referring not to our justification, where we are made right with God through the atonement of Jesus Christ…we do not contribute to that work … but to the ongoing process of sanctification where we participate alongside of the Holy Spirit in seeking to grow in grace. The clincher, though is found in the language that immediately follows… “for God is the one working in you.” He does the real work both in justification and in sanctification, the question is whether we will be submissive to the work of the Spirit in us or whether we will kick and fight against the goads in that process.
The key word is obedience. Sometimes I wonder whether Americans still understand the word or instead see it as something that is archaic and out of fashion. Obedience is a willing submission to the authority of another. It is hearing what that person in authority says, remembering it, and acting upon it. It seems that people in our culture detest such a notion with every fiber of their being, so whether from God or from men. Yet, as a believer, we are called to be obedient to the Word of God. As Moses commanded, these words are our very lifeblood (Deuteronomy 32:47). All too often people in our culture want what they want and they sometimes even become violent rather than appealing to the authority of scripture, seeking to submit to its wisdom. In a world filled with ideas, it seems that no one wants to critically evaluate them. It seems that instead of wanting to communicate, all people really want is a “bully pulpit.”