For some Scripture might be confusing. Paul wrote “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Elsewhere Paul writes about we are “saved by grace through faith in Jesus.” Which is it? Actually both. The cause of salvation is what Jesus Christ has done—only. If we have concerns about whether we are saved, we go back to the foundation: Ephesians 2:1″And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” But Paul continues:
So, which is it? Is salvation accomplished and completed in Jesus? Or is salvation still ultimately dependent on us? Note, that the above verse establishes the foundation of salvation—”saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.” Nothing you or I can do will add to that salvation.
But when Paul continues, he addresses how we as Christians live. Does that make a difference? Absolutely. So when he writes: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” he is encouraging living in the reality of salvation by grace through faith. As you read all of Philippians 2, you will discover that Paul is encouraging us to live in light of our salvation. We do that by imitating Christ, his attitude, actions, words. Or as Paul writes: “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
So Paul is not encouraging Christians to receive all that Christ has done, but when it comes to living out that faith, then we look to ourselves for assurance. Rather, because we are saved, how is that reflected in our living. Do our words reflect who we are “in Christ”? Do our actions demonstrate Christ’s love to others? Do our attitudes initate Christ’s?
We are not left on our own. We have God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, other Christians to encourage, comfort, teach, and support one another. Paul had sent his fellow worker, Epaphroditus, to encourage and support the Christians in Philippi (2:25). And he desires to send Timothy (2:19). Notice how Paul puts everything in perspective. Each Christian is involved in caring for and encouraging one another. But behind it all, there is God.
The God who saves us gives us everything we need to live out the faith. Is it difficult? Absolutely! At times very difficult. But that is why we live (walk) by faith, not by sight. And that is why God provides other Christians to walk with us. we are saved by grace alone, but we are never saved alone.