Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. WHAT IS SUPPOSED IN THE COMMAND.
1. That we, while in our natural state, are lost creatures, liable to perish forever. Our being bid to work out our salvation, supposing this to be our antecedent condition, may well keep us humble as long as we live.
2. That there is a way open by which we may be delivered from that condition, for we had never been enjoined thus had we been doomed to perish (vers. 6-8; John 3:16).
3. That God is very desirous of their salvation to whom this command is sent (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11).
II. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE SALVATION WE ARE TO WORK OUT. Considering ourselves —
1. As fallen creatures, our first work is to get our state changed, and not to rest satisfied till we are restored to the favour and image of God. Here our salvation in the application of it begins. And with what earnestness should it be laboured after by every one who loves his safety.
2. In a state of grace, but as yet imperfect in attainments. The work of our salvation includes the mortifying of the remains of our corruption in us, the resisting of temptations, the making additions to grace received, and our pressing on to glory. And how much has a Christian to do, as to all these? (2 Peter 1:10; Philippians 3:12-14).
3. As mortal and dying out of the world, the work of salvation includes our preparing for a removal from it, and laying up treasure in another.
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN BEING BID TO WORK THIS OUT, AND THE MANNER IN WHICH IT IS TO BE DONE. That it is a work —
1. In which the soul is to be engaged. Bodily service profiteth nothing alone.
2. In which we are to engage with the greatest intentness.
3. In which the utmost watchfulness is necessary, considering the deceitfulness of the heart, the temptations of Satan, the instances of many who have miscarried.
4. In which the appointed means are to be employed.
5. In which we are to persevere, as he only who endures to the end will be saved.
IV. GOD WORKS IN US.
1. It is God who works in us to will and to do.
(1) Man is naturally averse to the business of his salvation. How plain is this command and how strongly urged, but how few can be prevailed upon to set about it!
(2) When this aversion is overcome it is God that does it.
(a) He touches and turns the will, and by His renewing grace brings His people to love and choose what they previously disliked, and thus He of unwilling makes them willing (Ezekiel 36:26).
(b) He excites that grace which He implants, and thus both the disposition and the act is owing to influence from heaven (Song of Solomon 1:4). As to His method, usually God —
(i) Opens their souls to their lost and miserable state (John 16:8).(ii) He holds their thoughts close to what is thus discovered as matter of the highest moment, not to be made light of as heretofore.(iii) By such discovery and view our impression is made upon the conscience, so that the sinner can no longer rest in his present state.(
iv) The awakened sinner is led to importunately inquire what he must do to be saved (Acts 2:30; Acts 16:36).
5. The inquirer is reasonably instructed in the gospel method of salvation (John 3:16).
6. Salvation being represented as attainable the sinner under Divine influence is led to desire, hope, choose, believe.
2. God works of His good pleasure.
(1) 'Tis of His sovereign grace that He works in any; without any constraint or need on His part; without, nay contrary to any merit in ours.
(2) In whomsoever God works they are to own it a gracious vouchsafement, one to be highly prized and improved.
V. THE FORCE OF THE REASON, FROM SUCH A REPRESENTATION OF THE DIVINE INFLUENCE, TO QUICKEN AND ENGAGE US TO SET ABOUT OUR PART WITH THE UTMOST DILIGENCE.
1. What reason have we from God's working in us to excite ourselves to work out our salvation. It makes it —
(1) Reasonable. His hand is stretched out to pluck you as brands from the burning, let it not be overlooked; His presence is vouchsafed to help the soul to heaven, let it not be slighted.
(2) Possible. However difficult the work, the Divine worker is working within.
(3) Hopeful. What room is there for despondency when God undertakes the design, begins the work, and works on if you do not break off?
(4) Delightful. When God draws the believer runs.
2. We are to work because of the manner of God's working, viz., His good pleasure.
(1) It is certain that without God's working we can do nothing.
(2) Perhaps we long neglected the work, and therefore how justly might the Divine favour have been withdrawn.
(3) How much yet remains to be done, and the time allotted is uncertain and short.
1. Behold the folly of sin.
2. See the mercy of God.
3. How unreasonable despair.
4. How inexcusable the finally lost.
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.