Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. THE DUTY — "Work." The estate of a Christian is a working not idle estate. Christianity is not verbal profession nor speculative (John 13:17).
1. Works of preparation are those that prepare men to believe, as hearing, reading, meditating.
2. From these a Christian ought to proceed to —
(1) Works of piety, faith, hope, prayer, and —
(2) works of charity.
3. The use of all this is to give us a right conceit of religion. Many are good talkers, and yet never come one step towards salvation.
II. THE RIGHT MANNER OF PERFORMING THE DUTY.
1. Obediently. "As ye have obeyed." Whatever we do it must be in obedience to God. Then(1) We must know what God's will is (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:10).
(2) This must be to all God's laws. Partial obedience is no obedience (Psalm 119:10).
2. Sincerely. "Whether I am present or not." God sees you. The Pharisees obeyed to be seen of men (Matthew 6:2, 6). Joash was a good king as long as Jehoida lived; but a good Christian is ever good, in all places, occasions, companies.
3. Laboriously. "Work out." No perfunctory thing can please God.
4. Constantly — not like morning dew, or Lot's wife who turned back (Luke 1:75; John 17:4; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). To this end —
(1) We must come with a resolution not to be scared from the performance of duties, and therefore to be furnished with patience (Hebrews 10:36; Galatians 6:9).
(2) We must consider the promises (Revelation 3:21; Matthew 10:22).
5. It must tend to salvation. We must go on in a constant course of goodness that we may come to the end of our faith. For salvation is begun here, and the state of grace here is called salvation, even as well as the state hereafter. All conclusions are to be reduced to their principles, and so all is to be reduced to salvation as the mare principle. Do we sanctify all things by prayer (Colossians 3:24).
III. THE MOTIVES TO THIS DUTY.
1. The example of Christ. "Wherefore." Christ did all in obedience to God, etc.
2. The apostle's love. Christians should take good courses, that they may comfort those that are good.
3. The possibility of it. You have gone so far; keep on.
4. The end. Salvation. Considering we are not yet perfect, we are encouraged to go on to perfection (Titus 2:11; Hebrews 11:26).
IV. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT IS TO BE DONE.
1. Fear is an affection planted by God in our natures, whereby we, foreseeing dangers which may hinder our being or well being, are afraid of them. This is a spiritual fear.
(1) A fear of reverence, which is a fear mixed with love, wherein we stand in awe of God's greatness but love Him for His goodness.
(2) A fear of watchfulness.
(3) Of jealousy, lest we should offend God.
2. God loves not the careless Christian.
3. All things must be done in this fear, or we shall come short of our salvation.
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.