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Philippians 2:12 ("work out your own salvation") is a verse for sanctification and Christian service, not eternal salvation

Philippians 2:12 ("work out your own salvation") is a verse for sanctification and Christian service, not eternal salvation 

By Ron Bedell


Philippians 2:12-13 King James Version (KJV)


12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.


John 3:16 is a salvation verse but not Philippians 2:12.


Philippians is one of four prison epistles written by the apostle Paul when Paul was incarcerated in Rome (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).


Paul wrote this letter (epistle) to the believers at Philippi.


The theme of the book of Philippians can be summed up this way: “living the Christian life.”


Paul says in verse 12, “work out your own salvation.” But how can you work something out if you don’t already have it in you? You must be saved first in order to live the Christian life.


2:12-13, in light of the example of Christ Paul uses himself as an example to illustrate a Christ like pattern he is addressing. Using himself Paul exhorts the Philippian believers to obedience. They manifested obedience when he was with them before; now they are to behave in the way in his absence. Paul’s specific admonition is to “work out your own salvation.” The salvation (“soteria”, cf. 1:19, 28) he refers to is equivalent to sanctification. But for eternal salvation justification is by faith, not works. That the working out of salvation is equivalent to obedience is clear from the parallelism in 2:12. The Philippians obeyed during Paul’s presents with them in the past. They are now to work out their salvation during his absence.


Whereas Paul’s presents in the past resulted in their obedience, so Paul’s absence in the present is to result in their working out their salvation.


The Philippians were to keep on working for Christ and thereby keep on growing toward maturity. As the believer humbly serves God with a healthy respect for Him, he can be assured that God is working with him and through him. The type of relationship in which there is a mutual cooperation between the believer and God is the type of relation that will bring Him good pleasure (v.13).