This is an answer to the previous discussion of salvation by “faith only.” Philippians 2.12 instructs one to “work out your own salvation.” This passage has taken a sad turn in the hearts of many who believe your salvation is to be worked out however it best fits your desires. It has even been mentioned to speak of one’s children growing up to “have their own faith,” not the faith of their parents.
The passage fits in the middle of those who say salvation is all p to God - you cannot do it on your own, and those who say, “It is all up to me” - walking in self-sufficiency, independent from God.
“Work out your own salvation” indicates salvation is a continual growth process, which begins at the time of forgiveness of sins when one first becomes a Christian, and is completed at the time of death or the Lord’s second coming.
The phrase “work out” means “accomplish, achieve” - complete the salvation provided in continuing to submit, trust, and obey God. For example, “The student worked out a problem in arithmetic.” In the previous statement, we understand the student took the problem and worked it properly to its ultimate conclusion. To say, “The couple worked out their problem” means they came to a solution through the process of implementing particular attitudes and actions until the problem was resolved.
In one sense are are saved (Acts 2.47; Ephesians 2.5). In another sense, we are yet to be saved (1 Peter 1.5). The salvation we are yet to eternally experience needs humble, loving cooperation by each Christian with God’s will (Philippians 2.13).
In Philippians 2.4, the emphasis is not looking each of you “to his own things.” The same idea is in v. 12, this is “your own salvation.” Both passages show it is what you have. It is not another’s “things” or another’s “salvation.” “His OWN things” and “your OWN salvation” refer to your personal possession, not another’s. No one owns your possession nor is another to work out your salvation for you. Neither one is inherited or given to another. Neither is your salvation to be dependent upon another’s presence or absence. It is yours!
Understand this passage in view of Acts 2.40. The Bible says, “Save yourselves.” It does not mean save yourself the best way you can from this evil generation. It means take personal interest in your salvation. Do something about it to work for God’s pleasure, not your own. There is no permission implied to work it out the way you choose. If so, freedom to choose your way of salvation would permit universalism or having an indifferent attitude and no passion at all for being saved. The pattern of salvation is not of one’s choosing, but is outlined in the Bible.
Philippians 2.12 means having salvation and completing it. Daily working upon with with “fear and trembling” - serious, reverent respect - not laziness or indifference - knowing eternity is at stake. Have you thought about what your attitude is toward your salvation? We either humbly work on it or we lose it.