There’s an old saying that when you see the word “therefore” in the Bible, the first thing you should do is ask, “What’s it there for?”
In the case of Philippians 2:12, the “therefore” is pointing back to the previous section of Paul’s letter (Philippians 2:1-11), where he poetically describes the humility of Christ in going to the cross, and his subsequent exaltation to the right hand of God.
Paul coaches his Philippian friends: “Therefore,” since Jesus went to the wall for you to win your eternal salvation, now you go to the wall to take the gift of salvation you’ve been given and put it to work. Whatever you do, don’t let the gift just sit there and gather dust.
This gift of salvation is such a great and priceless gift that it should actually be put to use with fear and trembling. And how do we put it to use? It’s not complicated. It’s really quite strait-forward. Take Jesus’ words and actually practice them in your life.
In other words, really believe that what you believe is really real — and then obediently act on your faith:
- Trust Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life — and find true peace in this
- Trust that God’s commandments are the way to be attuned to God’s heart — and find joy in living according to them
- Trust that putting the interests of God and others ahead of your own interests will bring you great blessing
- Trust that this life is not all there is — God has an amazing inheritance in store for you in eternity
- Trust that the Bible is God’s word, and therefore, your perfect guide to walking in step with the Holy Spirit
You won’t need to do any of this by your own willpower or energy. God will give you everything you need. He will provide you with the willpower, and he will give you the energy. To believe. And to obey.
Because whatever God demands, he also always graciously provides — just as God first graciously provided us with Jesus, the Savior we all need.
God first works in us by being gracious to us. And what God works in, we then work out by being obedient and faithful to him.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV).
Lord Jesus, you humbled yourself and became obedient to death to win forgiveness of sins and salvation for me. Lord, I want to express my gratitude by being faithful and obedient to you. Work in me to will and to act according to your good pleasure.
Our Bible reading for Thursday, October 1, is Jeremiah 2:31 – 4:9, Philippians 2:12-30 and Psalm 115:12-18.
Header image based on "Typography Gradient" by Tyler Neyens, CC By 2.0