“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.”
“he spoke to us through the Son…”
What a wonderful gift has been given to us in Jesus Christ. All of the many parts and pieces of scriptures, all of the narratives, all of the prophetic literature, all of the songs, the poems, the laments, the dirges, all of the exalted praise find their meaning and unity in Jesus Christ. In Christ scripture finds its fullness of meaning, apart from Christ we are left with a puzzle that is disjointed and confusing. Is it any wonder that so many non-believers have looked at the Bible and have seen nothing but random words of men through the history of the church and of Israel, while as believers we come to the word of God and see Christ! Oh, beloved, do not back down, shy away from, or give up this great truth! How great a truth that the church in our own day has given up, when they give up the doctrines of the plenary inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of scripture, for when you let go of these views, you begin looking at scripture as the unbeliever looks at scripture and you lose its unity because you lose the one piece that gives it significance, unity, and life—you lose Christ. The writer of Hebrews states boldly and clearly that in the ancient times God spoke to his people in many and sundry ways, now, in these last days—they days between the cross and the return of our Lord, God speaks to us through Christ—through the Word made flesh, and now written out for us in the complete scriptures.
Have you ever noticed how often our God speaks? This is one of the wonderful attributes of our God—he is communicating and he designs to communicate with his creation—an infinite God condescending to communicate with a finite man. God did this with Adam and Eve in the Garden and even after their sin and the fall, God continued to communicate with them. We even see God communicating with himself before mankind existed, during his creative process (Genesis 1:26), and God used communication as the means by which he created in the first place, for he spoke creation into existence. What a wonderful thing that communications is—it is the way that ideas are shared, thoughts are put together, and societies are united. Communicating is part of our very nature for it is part of God’s nature. The sad thing is that often we fail to communicate or refuse to communicate truth to others. In turn, that is why relationships, marriages, and cultures break down. Now, notice the connection to our passage, for while God has many ways of communication at his disposal, his preferred and happy means of communicating with his people is through his wonderful Son, Jesus Christ!
Oh, loved ones, how we often fall into sin and error when we refuse to communicate in the context of Christ. What do I mean by that statement? What I mean is this: if God chooses to reveal all we need to know for living (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17 for the reminder that the scriptures are profitable for all of life) through his Son, then we also should communicate all we do through God’s Son as well. Thus, if you are a historian, we should communicate all of history on the basis of its relationship to the life and work of Christ. If you are a philosopher, all philosophies should be understood and communicated in their relationship to Christ. If you are a mathematician, mathematic principles should be communicated in their relationship to Christ, knowing that all things were created through and for Christ—hence the regularity of mathematical or scientific descriptions of the world was established for the glory of Christ himself. Christian, if you want to see reformation and even revival in our culture once again, it begins by breaking down the dichotomy between life in Church and life elsewhere. If you want to see real change, you will need to communicate as God communicates—through Christ—in every endeavor you undertake.