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.
“Fear and trembling”?
Thank you for asking!
Over the centuries, there have been some preachers and some commentators that have a field day with these verses. What they often do is to quote them something like this: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, lest…”
Do you see a problem? When you read the verses and compare them with the “quote” is something missing? Was something added? By the way, don’t forget you must deal with the “therefore” that is the first word in verse 12. What does it refer to? It refers to 2:1-11; are these verses about going to hell? No way! They are about humility, godliness and the example of Christ which results in salvation… but don’t forget that section also begins with “therefore” so we need to go all the way back to chapter 1, where Paul set the context, which is rejoicing in suffering because God’s purpose is being advanced. My friends, these verses are not a threat that God is waiting for an excuse to smite somebody and ship them off to hell, they are about His purpose. As you will see shortly, this view is confirmed in the verses that follow, so fear not!