What does it mean to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12)?
The Reformed stress on the sovereignty of God, the action of God, and the initiation by God in salvation might lead someone to conclude that we are utterly passive in the Christian life. It might lead someone to conclude that we do nothing but wait, that we have no responsibility, or that we take no action. You can see throughout the New Testament that this is not a correct application of the doctrine of sovereignty. It’s not the application of the doctrine of sovereignty that the Reformed have made.
The Christian life, by the grace of God and the action of God, is an active life. It is a life in which we take part, are involved, and work out our salvation. That’s what Paul is calling all true believers to. You are not called, as a believer, just to wait and see what God does with you. Rather, He has called you to all sorts of specific activities. This is why the Reformed, following Martin Luther, said, “We always preach the law and the gospel.” The gospel assures us of God’s mercy in His promises, while the law not only convicts us of sin, but directs us in the path of holiness. That’s the path we’re called to walk.
The real Christian trusts Christ for everything, but also lives for Christ. Along those lines, we can ask the question, “What does it mean to become a disciple and be involved in the life of the church?” The life of the church is crucial for that. We have to be active servants in the life of the church as well as recipients of the blessing of God in and through the ministry of the church.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with W. Robert Godfrey and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.