God's Grace in Working out Our Salvation



"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 2:12-14


Do you struggle with legalism? Sometimes in our Christian walk it can be difficult to distinguish between trying to do things in our own efforts and at the same time relying on the grace of God. If we are walking in our own power trying to obey rules, our legalism grows and pride roots within us. If we go to the other extreme, however, we take God’s grace for granted, and we lose our reverence for Him. Where do we find the balance? There are two things we can observe from Paul’s words to the Philippians: (1) we have a responsibility, but (2) we also don’t have to rely on ourselves to carry out that responsibility.

We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This isn’t indicative of someone who has to earn their salvation. The Greek word for “work out” Paul uses here is katergazomai, which means to do that from which something results. What is the result of working out our salvation? Sanctification. It isn’t automatic—it is a process. Sanctification is obedience, pruning, and respect for our Creator. In being sanctified, we become more like Christ, and He works in us until the day of completion (Philippians 1:6). Our motivation shouldn’t be doubts about our eternal security (which is sealed). Rather, it should be stirred by the presence of God.

God empowers us both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Our wills and actions are an overflow of where God is working. The Holy Spirit dwells within us (1 Corinthians 3:16), as well as the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Take some time this week to thank God that our efforts are not one-sided. To pursue obedience and godliness can be difficult, but God dwells within us along the way.


Father, give me a burden for the responsibilities You have given me. Sanctify me, and help me to be obedient for Your will and pleasure. Help me to have a reverence for You and to pursue holiness day by day. Thank you for forgiving me when I fail, and thank You that Your work isn’t finished yet.

Your Turn

Spend time this week in Philippians 2:1-18. What can we learn from Christ’s example of servanthood? How does this help us work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?

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Chelsi Woods is the coffee-loving Content Manager for Whole Magazine and a writer for the Reformed Outlook. She is a Jesus-loving, tattooed soccer mom to a beautiful, blue-eyed 12-year-old girl and “Choo-Choo” to a 9-year-old nephew and 4-year-old niece. Her hobbies include communicating in gifs, playing guitar, and bad dad jokes. Chelsi’s passionate pursuit is to teach women solid, Biblical truths focused on spiritual growth, loving God with our minds, all while glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.