Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
Cast a sponge into water, and, the fluid filling its empty cells, it swells out before our eyes; increases more and more. There is no effort here, and could be none; for though once a living animal, the sponge is now dead and dry. But it is not as sponges fill with water, nor, to use a Scripture figure often employed, and sometimes misapplied, as Gideon's fleece was filled with daws, that God's people are replenished with His grace. More is needed than simply to bring ourselves in contact with ordinances; to read the Bible; to repair on Sabbath to the Church; to sit down in communion seasons at the Lord's table. The babe, for example, is laid in a mother's arms, and in contact with her breast; but is laid there only to die, unless, with slumbering instincts awakened, it fastened and suck by its own efforts the nourishment provided for it, independent of itself; and there, drawing life from a mother's bosom, it lies in her loving arms, the symbol of him who hangs by faith in Christ, and, fed on the sincere milk of the word, is nourished up into the likeness and image of God.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.