Question: Hello and thank you for taking our bible questions. I’m new to the bible and don’t have much knowledge so I don’t know where this appears in the bible, but my question is about examining yourself to see if you’re in the faith, I think it was Paul who wrote this, and I was hoping you could give context and explain what he’s talking about. Thank you very much and God bless.
Answer: I’m very pleased that you have found our website and appreciate your desire to understand the context of the passage. Many people just pluck verses out of context, preach it incorrectly, and cause many others to fall into fear or false doctrine.
Paul is writing to the church in Philippi. Contextually, he is writing to them about their fellowship and behavior toward one another (Cf. Philippians 2:2). He gives Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of humility for the believer to model (Cf. Philippians 2:3-11). Philippians 2:12 is a verse written in the same vein as the rest of the chapter. It’s ultimately about obedience to the Lord, mainly, in how we live and treat one another. You can see this by what is said in the beginning of the verse. Note, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always behaved…” Paul is encouraging them to keep on obeying. Salvation is not in context. Service and discipleship is the focus. The believers in Philippians had been obedient when Paul was with them, and he is encouraging them to continue in their obedience. “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is a reminder to continue the work of walking in the Spirit (Cf. Galatians 5:16).
Salvation is a one-time event that takes place at the moment of belief on Jesus Christ shed blood for the payment of one’s sins. This is a permanent action. However, discipleship and service are daily actions which the believer must maintain to avoid fulfilling the desires of the flesh (Cf. Romans 5:1-2; Acts 13:38-39; 1 John 5:13; 1 John 1:5-10; Philippians 2:12; Galatians 5:16-17; Romans 6:6-14; Colossians 3:5-10). I pray this helps and please be encouraged to keep studying the Bible!