Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 ESV
As we encourage ourselves and others to study the Bible, we must be careful not to become fluent in our biblical knowledge and deficient in the application of the word of God. Jesus did not come on earth as an educator, though he was a renowned teacher. All of Jesus’ teachings were application based. He wasn’t interested in grooming biblical scholars. His focus was on making disciples.
Discipleship is a faith-based, Spirit-led, and work-powered spiritual exercise and characteristic. The writer of James makes it clear that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Authentic discipleship is about living out the gospel we proclaim and modeling the life of Christ. The difference between a Pharisee and a disciple of Jesus Christ is the application of the word of God to the glory of God.
The application of the word of God is grounded in love. Everything Jesus did was love-driven. The struggle to do the work of ministry is the result of a love deficiency. Love is action. Jesus came, suffered, and died because of his love for humanity. Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Love compels us to go beyond our comfort zone to do the will of God. It is love that compels us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless. Without love, there cannot be justice and equality. The current social unrest and the crusade for justice for black and brown people is a love campaign.
Someone asks me why many evangelical pastors are not speaking out against injustice in America. My response is that these leaders are Pharisees and not disciples of Christ. “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Many of them hide behind their pseudo-conservatism so they can proclaim a gospel they are not practicing, a faith they are not living, and a God they really do not worship in spirit and in truth. They are like celebrities who do commercials for products they are not really using in real life.
In today’s text, Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Salvation is not an idea to memorize. It is a life to live out as we carry our cross. That means loving those who hate us, serving those who abuse us, and praying for those who oppress us.
The key to this text is the word workout. It comes from the Greek katergazesthai, which always has the idea of bringing to completion. In other words, we should not stop feeding the poor or clothe the naked, or love our enemies, or serve the needing, or proclaim the gospel, or campaign for justice for the oppressed.
We were created to work (Ephesians 2:10). Whatever we learn from the Bible should be used in our day-to-day living concretely. Most people do not care about how much Bible we know. They just want to see our love in action. One of the reasons I have chosen the local church to minister instead of a seminary is because I am more driven to make disciples than biblical scholars. I believe the local church is the transforming agency through which God is reconciling the world to himself, not Academia.
So after we get through praying and studying the Bible, we have to say as Isaiah said, “here am I, send me.” God wants to send you out into the mission field today to do the work of his kingdom. Wherever we are is our mission field. Therefore, let us stop complaining about the ungodliness of the people around us, and let us start modeling Christ through loved-centered actions so they can see what a living Christ looks like.
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please give us the courage and discipline to work out our salvation with fear and trembling so others can see what a living Christ looks like.