Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. THE ONE GREAT THING WHICH A MAN HATH TO DO IS TO WORK OUT HIS OWN SALVATION. To clear up the nature of this work, consider —
1. It is not to be done by the way, but with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 2 Peter 1:10).
2. All our other works are to be referred to this (1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. We cannot do it by our own strength (Jeremiah 10:23; 2 Corinthians 3:5). Why, then, doth God command us to do it?
(1) God's commands show not our ability but duty.
(2) God, by His commands, puts us upon doing what we can, depending on Him for the rest.
(3) God by His commands enables us to do it (Genesis 1:3; John 5:6; John 11:43; Acts 3:6).
(4) None can enable us to do it but; God (ver. 13; 2 Corinthians 3:5).
(5) We have no ground to expect strength from God to do it, but through Christ (John 15:5).
(6) We must not do in our own way but God's (Isaiah 8:20).
(7) This is the one thing needful (Luke 10:42).
(8) It is the most honourable work we can be employed in (Proverbs 12:26).
(9) It is not to be begun only but finished (John 17:4).
II. HOW DOTH IT APPEAR THAT THIS IS THE WORK WE OUGHT TO DO?
1. This is the end of our continuance on the earth.
2. God calls on us to do it (Ezekiel 33:11), and commands (Acts 17:30).
3. He hath shown us how to do it (Micah 6:8).
4. He hath offered us the means (Jeremiah 7:25).
5. He hath promised to enable us in the use of those means to do it (Matthew 18:20).
6. All His providences tend to it (Job 36:8-10).
7. And so do His ordinances.
III. HOW MUST WE DO THIS WORK?
1. Begin it(1) with knowledge (1 Chronicles 28:9; Isaiah 1:7).
2. Repentance; consisting in(1) a sense of sin (John 16:8).
(a) Original (Psalm 51:5);
(b) actual (Psalm 51:3-4); in our thoughts (Genesis 6:5); affections (2 Timothy 3:3-4); words (Matthew 12:36); actions.
(c) Habitual (Jeremiah 13:23).
(2) A sorrow for sin.
(a) Cordial (Joel 2:13).
(b) Universal (Ezekiel 9:4).
(c) Exceeding all other sorrow (Zechariah 12:10-11).
(3) A hating of sin (Psalm 139:21-22.
(4) A firm resolution against sin (Psalm 17:3; Psalm 119:106).
(5) A constant endeavour to perform those resolutions with faith (Acts 16:31).
(a) Assenting to the Scripture in general (Acts 24:14; 2 Timothy 3:26), viz., that the assertions are all truths (Hebrews 6:18); that the history is certain; the commands Divine (Romans 7:12-14); the promises performed; the threatenings executed.
(b) Assenting to the gospel in particular, viz., that Christ is the Son of God; truly man; the promised Messiah; the only Saviour; our meritorious substitute; our prevailing intercessor.
(c) Applying these truths to ourselves (James 2:29); that He is our Lord and God (John 20:28); our Saviour and Redeemer; our Advocate (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
2. We must carry on this work —
(1) By increasing in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
(2) By renewing our repentance (Psalm 25:7; 1 Corinthians 15:9).
(3) Renewing acts of faith.
(4) Watchfulness over our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).
(5) Frequent exercise of our graces.
3. We must finish this work (John 17:4).
(1) By mortifying all our sins (2 Timothy 4:7; Revelation 4:12, 21).
(2) Continuing in the performance of all duties (1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 3:11).
(3) Persevering in all places (2 Timothy 4:7).
IV. SET UPON THIS WORK. Consider —
1. This is the work you came about.
2. You have comfort of no other works (Romans 6:21).
3. All other works are sin till this be set about (Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:4, 27; Isaiah 66:3).
4. Till this be done, ye are incapable of any mercy (Matthew 2:2).
5. Subject to all misery —
(1) The curse of the law (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 28:15-16).
(2) The wrath of God (Psalm 6:11).
6. Even in this life this is the best work —
(1) Most pleasant (Proverbs 3:17).
(a) Here we exercise our best parts (Matthew 9:29).
(b) Set them on their proper objects.
(c) Employ them to their proper end.
(2) Most honourable (Proverbs 12:26).
(a) As the persons we converse with.
(b) As to the employment itself.
(3) Most profitable. Hereby we attain
(a) the most real riches (Proverbs 23:5; Luke 8:18).
(b) Most satisfying (Isaiah 55:1-2).
(c) Most lasting (1 Timothy 6:17).
7. All the power we have of doing anything was given us to do this.
8. Unless this work is done we are undone forever (Luke 13:3).
9. If this be done, we shall be happy.
(1) In our freedom from evil (Revelation 14:13).
(2) In our enjoyment of all good.
1. I have no time.
(1) What hast thou any time for but for this?
(2) Thou hast time for other things (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2).
2. We know not how to do this work. I have told you.
3. It is hard work.
(1) It is feasible.
(2) It is not hard in itself, but our sins make it so (Matthew 11:30).
(3) Do what you can, and God will enable you to do the rest.
(4) Be but willing, and the work is easy (1 John 5:3).
(5) Whatsoever pains you take will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
(6) Heaven will make amends for all.
4. I have done it already.
(1) You may be mistaken (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 25:11).
(2) Howsoever, you cannot do it too well.
(3) None have done so much but there is more to do.
(a) Hast thou no sin to be repented of (Ecclesiastes 7:20);
(b) no lust to subdue (Romans 7:24);
(c) no grace to get quickened (Philippians 3:11, 12).
(4) No ones work is finished till they die; were it otherwise, God would give you your reward (John 17:4).
5. Time enough hereafter. No, the best time is now (John 9:4).
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.