In Philippians 2:12, Paul begins his exhortation to his readers based upon the example of Christ’s self-humiliation and obedience unto His death on the Cross. The Christian should cultivate a spirit of cooperative 26 davy crockettobedience with a humble spirit. Then to finish the verse Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We have to be very careful not to misunderstand the phrase “work out.” James Montgomery Boice helps us understand better when he writes, “The verse does not say, ‘work for your salvation’ or ‘work toward your salvation’ or ‘work at your salvation.’ It says ‘work out your salvation.’ And no one can work his salvation out unless God has already worked it in.” It’s most likely pointing to letting the salvation that God has given us through our faith in His Son, Jesus, have its rightful place in our lives, or as Paul will shortly say in this letter, to live lives that are worthy of our calling as Christians.

The calling that Paul is focusing on in this chapter is the calling to think like Christ in humility and to act like Christ in obedience. But the world is full of difficult situations wherein we don’t know how to respond. Do we obey corrupt officials? Is it ever right to disobey the rightful authorities that God has put in our lives? The verse goes on to say to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling.” Sometimes we must wrestle with the issues. I believe the Bible makes a case for civil disobedience at appropriate times. When government commands us to sin, we must put God first. I’ve even known parents who allow and even encourage under age children to drink when it’s against the law, or even to do worse things. Cult leaders often demand unquestioning obedience from their followers. The trouble is that there are times when we shouldn’t necessarily humbly submit in obedience. But don’t decide lightly! Be sure you’re right. Paul says to do it with “fear and trembling.”

The reason we should do it with fear and trembling is because it’s “God who is at work in you.” People in positions of authority have their place at God’s approval according to several passages in the Bible. Many times I’ve heard people claim to be spokesmen for God but in fact are only promoting their own positions and attaching God’s approval to something that He does not endorse. To say that God says something that God does not say, is a very dangerous position to take. It was a capital offense in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we are warned only to act out of “fear and trembling.” In his “Ethics for a Brave New World,” Feinberg asks if it is wise to pursue a course of disobedience because, “…disobedience to the law, even when justified, carries with it the genuine possibility that respect for law, even good laws, may be undermined.” We live Christ-like lives when we humbly obey those in authority whether in government, in the home, at school, on the job or in the Church. Realizing that God has placed these authorities in our lives will create the sense of respect, “fear and trembling,” when we contemplate rebellion.