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“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” ~Phil 2:12-18

The doctrine of “Justification by Faith” is clearly explained in detail in the book of Romans, it is therefore unnecessary that we revisit the issue of whether one is saved by practicing the Law or through faith in Christ. Martin Luther, in the sixteenth century, started the Protestant Reformation and revealed the errors made by the believers then. Today, it is clear to Christians that we are saved by “justification through faith” and not by “justification through works.” This is explained clearly and plainly in Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Thus, we can safely eliminate the possibility that “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” means that a Christian should obey the Law and do good works so as to save his own soul and enter heaven. Neither does “Fear and trembling” mean that we should live in daily fear and terror of not being able to live up to the requirements of the Law, or not being able to do enough good works — resulting in losing our own souls and ending up in hell.

In the original greek text, “Work out your salvation” can also be translated as “accomplish your salvation.” The key to the understanding of this passage lies in which aspect of “salvation” is discussed here. If we were to look at the two bible passages below, we will be able to understand what this “salvation” refers to.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” ~2 Pe 1:5-11

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” ~2 Th 1:11-12