“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)
Several years ago, my wife had severe abdominal pains. They became so severe I had to take her to the emergency room for treatment. One of the nurses charged with her care, a Christian, had a Chinese tattoo on his arm. Robbie asked him what it meant. The nurse replied, “He who walks with no fear.”
I noticed a cross on his neck and thought about the irony. How could a Christian walk with no fear when the Bible says that we should “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”?
It’s a confusing verse because it reads as if our salvation may not be sure, which would certainly invoke fear and trembling in my spirit. Yet, the Bible promises that if we confess the Lord Jesus with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, then we are saved. So the question is this: If we’re saved, why do we have to serve God with “fear and trembling”?
Paul never meant that we should quake in our boots as Christians. He simply meant that Christians should never want to offend God with their lives. Working out our salvation with fear and trembling implies a heightened sense of reverence for God by living our lives in ways that testifies to the fact that we are saved.
We all know that a modicum of fear is healthy. For example, a child’s fear of his parent will often produce the right behavior. The same is true for God. In fact, the Book of Proverbs provides great instruction about the fear of the Lord. Take a look at the scriptures below:
Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.”
Proverbs 10:27: “The fear of the Lord prolongs days.”
Proverbs 14:27: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 19:23: “The fear of the Lord leads to life.”
The truth is that if we don’t have a healthy fear of the Lord, we cannot please God. The prophet Isaiah said it this way: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you will build me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things my hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.’” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
The Bible is clear about what a fear of the Lord can bring to our lives. Without it, we close ourselves to the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. We also will flirt with evil and be corrupted by it. Our lives are likely to be shorter. And finally, we will never come to know the love of God that gives us the assurance and confidence of our own salvation.
We really should walk in fear of the Lord, but we shouldn’t be afraid of him. He is a life-long companion, and an ever-present help in a time of trouble. Respect his ways, observe his truths, and walk in his light.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!