Is there just one proper gospel-centered rationale for holiness? Should we, in speaking about sanctification, avoid threats and warnings and coming judgment and focus simply on our acceptance in Christ? How many motivations does the Bible have for godliness?

I see at least twenty. In the three chapters of 2 Peter alone.

1.    We pursue holiness so that we might become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

2.    We make every effort to grow in godliness because God has already set us free from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Pet. 1:4).

3.    We grow in grace so we will not be ineffective and unfruitful  in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:8).

4.    We pursue Christlike character so we will not be blind, having forgotten that we were cleansed from our former sins (2 Pet. 1:9).

5.    We work hard at holiness in order to make our calling and election sure, so that we will not fall (2 Pet. 1:10).

6.    We practice these godly qualities so there will be richly provided for us an entrance into the eternal kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11).

7.    We pursue godliness because Jesus is coming back again in great power, and we know this to be true because of the glory revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration and because of the prophecy of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:16-21).

8.    We walk in obedience to Christ because those who wander into sensuality are condemned and will be destroyed (2 Pet. 2:3).

9.    We are serious about holiness because we believe God knows how to judge the wicked and save the righteous (2 Pet. 2:4-10).

10.    We turn from ungodliness because those who revel in sin are ugly blots and blemishes, irrational animals, unsteady souls, and accursed children (2 Pet. 2:10-16).

11.    We pursue holiness because sin never delivers on its promises (2 Pet. 2:17).

12.    We pursue holiness because those who live in their sin again are like those returning to slavery, returning to mire, and returning to vomit (2 Pet. 2:19-21).

13.    We must remember to be holy because in the last days scoffers will come following their own sinful desires (2 Pet. 3:3).

14.    We make every effort to be godly because the world will not always continue as it does now; the heavens and the earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Pet. 3:4-7).

15.    We must take Christlikeness seriously right now because we do not know when the Lord will return (2 Pet. 3:10).

16.    We pursue holiness because all our works will be exposed on the last day (2 Pet. 3:10).

17.    We pursue holiness because whatever we live for in this life will be burned up and dissolved (2 Pet. 3:11).

18.    We strive to walk in obedience and repentance because in so doing we may hasten the coming of the day of God (2 Pet. 3:12).

19.    We living in righteousness now because we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell forever (2 Pet. 3:13).

20.    We pursue godliness so that Christ might be glorified both now and to the day of eternity (2 Pet. 3:18).

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100 thoughts on “How Many Motivations Are There for Godliness?”

  1. Don says:

    Tim.. explain Phil 2:13 for me… that verse will drive thae following verses.

  2. Tim Mullet says:

    I believe every word in the bible and if someone puts forward an interpretation I do not agree with, I consider it my obligation to provide a BETTER interpretation. I would hate to be found to be arguing with God. These are his words. He gave them to us for a reason. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend he didn’t speak.

  3. Kenton says:

    Mark, I assume you’re addressing me when speaking of 2 Cor 15.

    Paul is very clear: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10 ESV)

    It’s the same as what he says in 1 Cor 3:

    Let each one take care how he builds upon [this foundation]. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV)

    Or as Peter says, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” and, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 1:17 and 4:17 ESV)

    I think the biblical evidence is clear: “WE must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” When your theology and doctrine are at odds with the Scriptures, the Scriptures must take precedence. And the Scripture is clear in this regard. “There is no condemnation.” But there is a judgment. We ourselves must appear before the throne. And if we are founded upon Jesus, then we will be saved, whether our work is burnt or endures the refiner’s fire. If it does not endure that fire, though we will be saved, we will suffer loss. That’s clear. Do not empty God of His words.

    “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7 ESV).

  4. Don says:

    Kenton… Gospel means ‘good news’… Show me verses that you consider commands of judgement is good news.

  5. Don says:

    TIM… so you want to interpret Phil 2:13 for me?

  6. Tim Mullet says:

    Here is my interpretation. If you don’t like it, you’re obligated to explain the details more clearly. If you refuse that, you may want to consider whether or not it is God who you are arguing with. Maybe you just don’t like what he has to say?

    Philipians 2:12-13

    Have the mind of Christ (2:5)
    Christ’s mind is characterized by humility
    Christ’s humility is demonstrated in his incarnation (2:6-7) and death (2:8)
    For Christ obedience to the Father is more important than life (2:8)
    God has exalted Christ because of his obedient life which culminated in his death (2:9-11)

    Since we have the mind of Christ, which is characterized by humility, which is demonstrated by his obedience unto death or perseverance…

    -my beloved-

    -as you have always obeyed-
    should not just be characterized by past obedience

    -so now-
    but in the present

    -not only as in my presence-
    are characterized by the sort of obedience that does not just obey when people are looking

    -but much more in my absence-
    but also obeys when no one is looking.

    -work out your own salvation-
    We are responsible to work out (bring to completion) God’s plan of salvation for us.
    In other words, we are responsible to persevere in the Christian life.

    -with fear and trembling-
    This persevering obedience should be accompanied by a healthy fear of falling away from the faith,

    -for it is God who works-
    and with the full knowledge that the same God who has begun a good work in us, and is faithful to complete that work (1:6), is actually at work

    -in you-
    inside us

    -both to will and to work-
    not only influencing us to desire to obey, but also influencing us to actually obey him

    Above and beyond

    -his good pleasure-
    His good pleasure

  7. Kenton says:

    DavidB and Don:

    “law and grace” is not the same thing as “the Law and the gospel”. It’s not that simple. And while I respect the Reformed confessions, this isn’t a biblically accurate understanding of either the Law or the gospel. Again, the cases in point are the several verses that detail the *gospel* as the standard and basis of judgment (see Romans 2:16) . The gospel is something that can be obeyed and disobeyed (see Romans 10:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, and 1 Peter 4:17). In order for the gospel to be obeyed or disobeyed, it must include within in some command. And it does:

    “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand… Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:2, 8 ESV)

    “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 ESV)

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (Acts 2:38, 40 ESV)

    “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19 ESV)

    “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 ESV)

    “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 ESV)

    These are just examples of the command of the gospel. Yes, the commands of the gospel are based on God’s prior action (opening access to the kingdom through the preaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus), but they are commands, and they are not of the Law. They are of the gospel, which is the proper context for understanding the “law of Christ.” And this is what it comes down to:

    Paul states, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. “(Romans 2:6-8 ESV)

    We are always working, we are always doing, we are always seeking, we are always obeying. The question is, “What sort of works do we possess? What are we doing? What are we seeking? Who are we obeying?” No Scripture says that we are resting now. We are working, through the power of the Spirit, by the grace of Christ, to the glory of God. One day, we will rest. But it is not now:

    “So then, there remains a [future] Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV)

    And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 ESV)

    I hope I’ve made the point clearly. The Scriptures show that the gospel includes commands, and under the gospel, commands remain. Grace-initiated, grace-empowered, grace-sustaining commands, supported by both promise and warning. “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)

  8. Don says:

    KENTON… IT appears you are mixing our justification(which is by faith THRU HEARING OF THE GOSPEL) with our sanctification (which is the Spirit of God working the love of God in us so that the love of neighbor flows out of us)…. The good news of the Gospel is that God is doing a good work through us. If there is no evidence of this faith working itself out through the love of God’s word and love of others, then faith is likely missing… NO GOSPEL, NO FAITH, NO LOVE…. NO GSOPEL, NO FAITH, NO LOVE… NO GOSPEL, NO FAITH, NO LOVE.. ……

    Some other verses you pointed to:
    Romans 2:16 points to Paul’s Gospel which is what?

    Rom 1:16.. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who BELIEVES, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from FAITH for FAITH, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by FAITH.

    Romans 10:14-18
    15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

    “Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

    John 3:18-19 “He who BELIEVES in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, BECAUSE he has NOT BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “This is the JUDGEMENT, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.…”

    2 Thes 1:8 In flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who odo not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

    2 Thes 2:13-14 “… God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification BY THE SPIRIT and BELIEF IN THE TRUTH. To this he called you through OUR GOSPEL….”

    1 Pet 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? …(NOTE: John 15…IF YOU TRULY KNOW GOD YOU WILL LOVE HIM, IF YOU LOVE HIM YOU WILL OBEY HIM, IF YOU OBEY HIM, YOU WILL ABIDE IN HIM… )

  9. Don says:

    TIM… It’s real simple, Phil2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for ihis good pleasure. As I told Kenton, it appears you are mixing our justification (which is by FAITH THRU HEARING OF THE GOSPEL) with our sanctification (which is the Spirit of God working the love of God in us so that the love of neighbor flows out of us)…. The good news of the Gospel is that God is doing a good work through us. If there is no evidence of this faith working itself out through the love of God’s word and love of others, then faith is likely missing… NO GOSPEL, NO FAITH, NO LOVE, NO GOOD WORKS …. NO GOSPEL, NO FAITH, NO LOVE, NO GOOD WORKS … NO GOSPEL, NO FAITH, NO LOVE, NO GOOD WORKS…. It’s that simple…. The fear Paul is speaking about cannot be the fear of condemnation if verse 13 states that God is working in us. Gal 2:2 0 is another good verse.. THAT SAID, Paul is writing to people who already are ‘SAINTS’ (Phil 1:1), THUS, this phil 2:12 cannot mean what you suggest he means. Paul is saying work out your salvation, not work FOR your salvation. As far as verses 14 nd 15 are concerned, Paul is comparing the life of a believer (someone who has faith) to the life od a non-believer who are constantly complaining, twisting, distorting, … QUESTION, in Phil 2:16, DID PAUL SAY, hold fast to your works or to the WORD OF LIFE?

  10. Don says:

    Sorry for the typos…

  11. Kenton says:

    Don, my point is that the gospel is not good news devoid of imperative. It is something that must be obeyed, that calls us to a certain lifestyle, to turn away from the world and to God through believing and following Jesus. I understand the gospel, which is able to save those who hear and believe.

    My point is that the gospel is not to be juxtaposed against commands and warnings, because they are given in the New Testament. They exist. They’re a fact. A theology that cannot account for them is not biblically faithful to the Scriptures. “To this he called you through our gospel.” To what? Salvation through sanctification and belief.

    The dichotomy between the Law and the gospel (not to be abstracted) is not between working and resting, nor between commands and assurances, but between obeying the Torah with its bodily regulations and curses and obeying the Messiah’s gospel with its Spirit-empowered “law of Christ” and fulfilled promises.

    Yes, justification (being brought into the Messiah’s covenant as one of “The Righteous”, as God’s sons) precedes obedience and sanctification. But the point is that the covenant contains imperatives, with conditional warnings and promises. And left to ourselves we would probably fail it as well. It is a higher standard than the Law. But, it does not contain the curses of the Law, and our Lord has in fact already fulfilled this covenant, such that he by his power upholds us through the Spirit. And through this, God works in us both to desire and to perform that which pleases Him. So we work, we do good, we strive with all His energy that He so powerfully works within us. We run with patience, looking to Jesus who has already completed the race and in doing so obtained the reward.

    And note here (Hebrews 12:1-3) – Jesus having already run the race doesn’t mean that we don’t have to run the race. It means that we CAN run the race, looking to him as the one who began and completed our faith, relying on his sanctifying power by which God shapes us through His Spirit into the image of His son, making us partakers of His divine nature, sons made ready for their Father’s holy and majestic presence. We strive to enter the divine rest of the kingdom of God because God has set it freely before us through the death and resurrection of His son.

    That is why He warns us of falling away from the grace of God, of turning back to the world which is to be judged under God’s wrath. And as many have said, the warnings in the NT, real as they are, are part of the grace that keeps our eyes fixed on Jesus. This is the fear of the Lord that coupled with the love of Christ and the promises of God guards our hearts and minds. These are the means by which God through His Spirit keeps us from falling. And therefore we’d do well to take heed to them, having been given divine power for godliness.

    And that is why I think the “law and gospel”/”law and grace” dichotomy is harmful, not because there is no distinction between law and grace, but because the way in which that distinction is expressed casts commands as negative and something to be avoided.

    But what does Paul say about the distinctions between the Law and the gospel?

    First, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:19 ESV)

    Then, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6 ESV)

    And finally, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16 ESV)

    Keeping the commandments of God, faith working through love, the rule [Gr. kanon, standard] of the new creation: these are what replace the Torah and its regulations. These are those which pertain to the gospel, and as imperatives, they do not constitute “law” in the pejorative. These are those good works that please God.

  12. Don says:

    KENTON….Hopefully you will agree with me that if there is NO hearing of Gospel, there is NO possibility of faith in God, which means NO love for God or love for others, which means condemnation…. Let me ask you this Kenton, if you have not been in God’s word for over a month, are you more or less likely to disobey God’s imperatives? And vice-versa, if you are in God’s word daily(absorbing God’s gracious works & promises), are you more or less likely to obey God’s imperatives?… I bring this up because it is the whole of my argument. The Gospel of the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ is the motivator of our love for His word and His imperatives.

  13. Tim Mullet says:

    Once again… what does the fear part mean? Not what doesn’t it mean?
    I didn’t say we obey out of fear of condemnation. I didn’t mix justification with sanctification either… funny you should accuse me of that… I guess you are accusing Paul of both of those things because you do not seem to like certain parts of Scripture. If you give me your address I’ll send you some scissors. Either way, you should stop pretending you believe the Bible. You only believe certain verses and ignore others. If you won’t attempt to explain verse 12, then I won’t be wasting anymore words on you.

  14. Don says:

    TIM…. U appear to be an angry person ….. where’s the love for brother my friend? Why the constant sarcasm and attack? Try to keep it civil my friend. You still keep avoiding the very next verse. Phil 2:13 states what? Also, I stated earlier, Paul calls his audience saints. So they are considered already saved. right? don Carson writes, “the text does not say, work to acquire your salvation, for God has done his bit and now it is all up to you.” nor does he say, “You may already have salvation, but now perseverance in it depends entirely on you”. Still less does it say, “Let go and let God. Just relax. The Spirit will carry you.” Rather, “Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, precisely because God is working in us both to will and to act according to his purpose”…. So back sically Tim, It’s all about pleasing God for he is worthy to be pleased. OUR MOTIVATION is that he is worthy…. Why? … Because what Christ has done for us. …. it all comes back to the GOSPEL again.

  15. a. says:

    Sinclair Ferguson spoke so very beautifully yesterday and (paraphrasing, as recalled): we do not fear that God is working His righteousness in us but His love; probably why we prefer to debate it rather than choose to yield to the Spirit, for our flesh knows and says-it’s too costly

    We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

    may the word of Christ/Christ Himself dwell more and more richly in our hearts through faith

  16. John says:

    Brothers and Sisters… when we dig into our respective positions, challenges to think broadly AND exegetically can be construed as an attack. Phil 2:12-13 clearly teaches that a healthy fear of God is a motivation for our sanctification. Other verses attest to this truth as well (cf. 1 Pet 1:17; 2 Cor 7:1). But Phil 2:12-13, as well as the other verses that teach us about fearing God, are not the only motivations, nor are they the PRIMARY MOTIVATION.

    Jesus told us that the greatest commandment/motivation is to love Him supremely (Matt 22:37-38). And surely the Gospel is what enables a sinner to love God (1 John 4:19; Rom 5:1-8). The continual sighting of Christ’s glory in the Gospel is what also sanctifies us (2 Cor 3:18) because His glory empowers us to love Him. From this love flows the desires and motivations of our hearts to obey ALL the commands of God, which are not burdensome at all (1 John 5:3).

    But fear apart from love falls short of the totality of God’s paradigm for our obedience and holiness. Duty apart from love is not love (1 Cor 13:1-3). Love for God must be the fountain from which all other commands are obeyed (John 14:15). Without it, then we can easily drift into outward observances of the law, which is what the Jews were doing and is so dangerous for our souls.

    So let us love God with all of our hearts through the powerful truth of Christ’s glorious Gospel, and then let us obey His Word with fear and trembling, with the desire to please the Lord, with the expectation and hope of future rewards, and all other motivations which follow.

  17. Ben Black says:

    What a vibrant discussion! If I might be so bold (and I’m not accusing here) I would like to commend a great posting I read by a fantastic author/pastor/theologian that might help further guide our discussion here

  18. John says:

    BEN BLACK… you are a wise brother.

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  20. Tim Mullet says:


    My intent is not sarcasm, I promise you. I am being serious.

    Satan’s primary attack in the garden was to teach Adam and Eve to ignore scripture. “Has God said?” “God has not said”

    Kevin has presented you with a list of verses you do not agree with. I have presented you with one verse that you do not agree with. In either case, you haven’t given a better interpretation, you simply stated your conclusion over and over again. If you are going to disagree with someone’s interpretation of the Bible, you are morally required to give a better interpretation. If you will not even attempt to interpret a verse, how can a person not conclude that you simply do not like what the verse says and you are willfully choosing to ignore God’s words? There are clearly some people who do not like certain parts of the Bible and choose to ignore them. If you are not doing this, then please give me a better interpretation of your unwillingness to interact with Phil 2:12 and I will think the best of you and believe you.

    Either way, it’s a dangerous game you are playing. We aren’t free to disagree with the Bible, ignore parts we do not like, or teach others to do the same. God takes his words very seriously. He does not like it when we either add to his words or take away from his words. This is not a game. We need to joyfully embrace all of God’s words. You need to decide whether or not you believe all of the Bible and are willing to let the Scripture reform your views.

    In terms of Philippians 2:12-13:
    Why are you giving me those Don Carson quotes? I agree with everything he says. I already explained 2:13 in the long post above. Look at the second half. Here is a summary. We persevere in the faith with the knowledge that God is at work in both to will and to work for his good pleasure. He began a good work he will complete it. We work on the basis of his work.

    Please interact with 2:12 or stop disagreeing until you come to a better interpretation.

    (insert explanation)

    -my beloved-
    (insert explanation)

    -as you have always obeyed-
    (insert explanation)

    -so now-
    (insert explanation)

    -not only as in my presence-
    (insert explanation)

    -but much more in my absence-
    (insert explanation)

    -work out your own salvation-
    (insert explanation)

    -with fear and trembling-
    (insert explanation)

  21. mark mcculley says:

    David Scaer: “Other Protestant denominations see sanctification, the working of the Holy Spirit in Christian lives, in synergistic terms, another Greek derivative, which means that a thing has two or more causes. Believers are required to play a part in developing their personal holiness by living lives disciplined by the Law and by special ethical regulations set down by the church. Christians can and must cooperate with God’s grace to increase the level of personal sanctification. Cooperation, a Latin derivative, is a synonym of synergism, and also means two or more things or persons working together.

    Scaer: “These confessions think that God alone justifies, but that sanctification is a combined divine-human activity, which even though God begins, each believer is obligated to complete. In this system, the Gospel, which alone creates faith, is replaced by the Law which instructs in moral requirements and warns against immorality. Justification by grace is seen as a past event and the present focus is on man cooperating with God to reach a complete sanctification.

    Scaer: “Lutherans recognize that Christians as sinners are never immune to the Law’s moral demands and its threats against sin, but in the strictest sense these warnings do not belong to Christian sanctification, the life believers live in Christ and in which Christ lives in them.

  22. Don says:

    TIM … you state: “Satan’s primary attack in the garden was to teach Adam and Eve to ignore scripture. “Has God said?” “God has not said”.. Then you state: “it’s a dangerous game you are playing. We aren’t free to disagree with the Bible, ignore parts we do not like, or teach others to do the same. God takes his words very seriously. He does not like it when we either add to his words or take away from his words. This is not a game.”

    Listen my friend, I take offense of your constant digging that because I choose to step back and interpret a verse with more context because it has a ‘therefore’ in front of it and it has a ‘for’ behind it, that somehow that is demonic and worthy of damning my soul. I am done with you.

  23. Don says:

    WHY IS IT THAT other believers get upset when someone chooses to look at an imperatives in the bible and ask the question why is that imperative there? If the conclusion one comes up with is that God IS WORTHY and I am not, He is Holy, Holy, Holy, and I am a wretched sinner in need of grace and mercy, why is that ridiculed? EVERYTIME WE BACK INTO THE QUESTION OF WHY IS GOD WORTHY, DOESN’T IT BOIL DOWN TO WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US? Doesn’t the root of it all go back to the Gospel of the Grace of God in Jesus Christ? Why are people hear condemning those of us who look back to the cross for our motivation in every imperative?

  24. Don says:


  25. Tim Mullet says:

    I really do not wish to offend you for the sake of offending you. I am simply trying to force you to interact with the actual words of the passage. I have said in every post, please explain what it means to work out your salvation with “fear and trembling.” What does “fear and trembling” mean? I am saying it is a motivation for obeying the LORD, not the only motivation for sure, but a motivation. You are disagreeing with me. Therefore, please explain what “fear and trembling” means.

    Yes it is a dangerous game to ignore the Bible. How can I not conclude that you are ignoring parts of the Bible that you do not like, when you refuse to interact with the passage? If you can give me a more favorable reading of what you are doing, please tell me.

    Here is the verses:
    Philippians 2:12-13 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    So far you have talked about the therefore at the beginning. You have explained what comes before verse twelve. You have also talked about what comes after verse twelve by discussing verse thirteen.

    My conclusion is that you like this part of the passage:
    Philippians 2:12-13 12 Therefore… 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    But you do not seem to like this part of the passage:
    my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

    Please give ANY attempt to explain the details of the parts you have not addressed. What do they mean? Why are they there?

    How is this:
    Philippians 2:12-13 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Different from this?
    Philippians 2:12-13 12 Therefore… 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    People do what you are doing all the time:
    John interprets Ephesians 1 in a way that Stan does not like.
    So John admits that he could be wrong about Ephesians 1, but he needs Stan to give him a better explanation of Ephesians 1 so that he can change his interpretation. John does not want to be guilty of ignoring the parts of the Bible that he does not like. So, instead of Stan giving John a better interpretation of Ephesians 1, Stan talks about John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, etc. John then acknowledges that he likes John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 as well. He is aware of them, and has no difficulty with what they are saying. However, John explains to Stan that he really does not want to ignore Ephesians 1, he agrees that John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 are in the Bible, but Ephesians 1 is also in the Bible. So he asks Stan again, “can you please explain Ephesians 1 for me, because it really seems like you are not disagreeing with me, but disagreeing with Ephesians 1.” “I could be wrong,” John might say, “but unless you explain Ephesians 1 to me, then I really have to conclude that you do not like Ephesians 1. I don’t want to conclude this, but if you won’t explain what Ephesians 1 means, how can I not conclude that you just do not like it and are resisting what it is saying?”

    Consider that a parable for our conversation.

  26. Kenton says:


    I don’t know who David Scaer is (who he is doesn’t really matter either way), but he misfires on a number of points.

    1) Sanctification in biblical usage does not refer to progressive holiness of character or moral perfection. It means being set apart. How does one become set apart? By how they live. They are set apart in all their being and believing and doing.

    2) Sanctification as we use it has it’s parallel in Pauline language about maturity and growth in Christ. How does one mature? By the way in which he responds to and endures myriad situations. Hence, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

    Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12 ESV) Who remains steadfast? The man. Who gives wisdom and every good gift? God. Who caused us to be born again as His sons? God.

    As I said to Don, Christians are not idle. Therefore Christians are always doing and obeying, and all “good works” are is doing good rather than evil. As Jesus told the Pharisees when they opposed his work on the Sabbath, it’s not about working vs resting but doing good vs doing evil. You will do one or the other, and it is you who are doing it. Yes, “The Father who dwells in me does His works”, but Jesus himself was the one who was working. How can this be? How can the Father be the one doing the works, and yet Jesus himself actually physically doing the works? It is the same God who works in and through us. For, “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure”. If this is synergism, fine. But Paul is clear. You work, and it is God working in you.

    3) As to whether or not we have anything to do with our salvation, how do interpret these verses:

    Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)

    Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)

    But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15, 16 ESV)

    For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV)

    You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works ;(James 2:22 ESV)

    Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2 ESV)

    I’m not saying that we are the source or initiator or sustainer of our obedience, much less our sanctification, but to imply that we are idle participants is not biblically accurate. We will always be working, whether good or evil, until the Day in which we enter God’s rest.

    4) Scaer is plain wrong on the absence of warnings in the gospel (and by gospel I mean everything that results from the gospel, including the sum of apostolic teaching):

    But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:5 ESV)

    I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— (2 Corinthians 13:2 ESV)

    …envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21 ESV)

    Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28 ESV)

    For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that… no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 6 ESV)

    If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15 ESV)

    As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10, 11 ESV)

    See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25 ESV)

    I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, (Revelation 22:18 ESV)

    Neither Paul, nor Jesus, nor the author of Hebrews, nor John ever claim to be preaching the Law when they say these words. These warnings stem from the truth of the gospel! They are present in the text, they are frequent in the text, they are indispensable from the text. Yes, there is balance, but they are there, and therefore we must speak accurately about them, rather than dismissing them as outmoded or unimportant. Don’t let your theology get in the way of Scripture. Those who do so “twist the Scriptures to their own destruction.”

  27. Kenton says:

    Mark, when I said, “3) As to whether or not we have anything to do with our salvation, how do interpret these verses”, I meant to say sanctification, not salvation. The two are not the same thing, and it would be damning to think that we have anything to do with our salvation (whether it’s being justified and regenerated, or whether it’s our resurrection from the dead). As those who have been saved, we are active. And therefore what we do matters, hence:

    “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power… for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:13-14, 20 ESV) and, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV). “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

  28. mark mcculley says:

    John 3: 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

    Don’t forget the biblical category of “dead works”. This is not only Martin Luther’s warning because Hebrews teaches us that the death of Christ “cleanses from dead works”. “Dead works” are not necessarily acts of immortality, but all the works of dead workers who are attempting to gain blessing and assurance by means of works, instead of in Christ’s finished work.

    For neonomians, the “full gospel” is not about a distinction between law and gospel “defined narrowly as pure promise”, but instead has conditions and sanctions

    Since our duty is not based on our ability, the soundbite from Augustine (give what you command, and command what you will) is wrong if it’s understood to say that Christians now CAN obey the law at least enough to make it “congruent” or “fitting” for God to bless us.

    The Augustinian soundbite is also wrong if it is used to imply that God in neonomian fashion now lowers the standard of the law to the level of what we in the new covenant are now gifted to do.

    It is often the case that God does NOT give us to do what God commands. The law is not the gospel, grace is not the law, and the ability to keep the law is not grace. It’s still too late for justified sinners to keep the law in order to sanctified. Those who are already saints are commanded to obey the law.

    Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

    Freedom from the law as the only means of doing good works acceptable to God

    Galatians 5: 18 But if you are led by the Spirit,you are not under the law.

    Galatians 4: 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law

    Romans 6: 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

  29. mark mcculley says:

    Neonomians argue from the fact that Christ Himself was not left to His own abilities but was enabled by the Spirit to say that Christians are enabled by the Spirit “to cooperate with God in sanctification.” Except for the emphasis on sanctification instead of justification, the conclusion is not different from that of NT Wrights—– the work of the Spirit in us is Christ’s work also (for our final justification).

    It’s too bad that the Galatian false teachers could not explain to the apostle Paul that they were not talking about “salvation” but only about “sanctification”. It’s also too bad the the apostle Paul over-reacted to a disgreement about “ceremonial (not “moral”) law and claimed that those who disagreed with him would “have NO profit from Christ.”

    We must not confuse those who teach sanctification by the death of Christ (Hebrews 10) with the “hyper-grace” antinomians who deny the agency of the Christian, who say that Christ obeys in us for us. You will find that kind of language in the Arminians of the “exchanged life” view, but it is wrong to collapse a distinction between law and gospel into the idea that Christians are not agents who are commanded to obey the law.

    The distinction between law and gospel does not deny the function of law to command, but that antithesis also does not confuse the justification of Christ with the “sanctification” of Christians.

    The distinction between law and gospel agrees that Christians are agents commanded to obey, but it refuses the idea of “cooperation”.
    There is no need to bring in synergism now that we are justified, and looking for second and third works of grace. The warning against “dead works” is real, and we need to obey the law without bringing our obedience into the question of final salvation.

    Exchanging the law-gospel contrast for a “large commanding gospel” creates way more problems than it solves.

  30. Kenton says:

    Mark, I agree that there is a distinction between the Law and the gospel (both in substance and in what is included under each “system”).

    The Law brought condemnation based on the inability (and unwillingness) of its hearers to obey. The gospel brings righteousness and eternal life based on the faithful obedience of Christ in dying for our sins.

    The Law was weak because of our sinfulness and corruption. The gospel is powerful through the Spirit of God who dwells in us.

    The Law was not designed to give us life because of the mortality of all men. The gospel proclaims eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus.

    The Law was expressed in written ordinances. The gospel expresses itself through the Spirit who writes the law of God on our hearts.

    The Law provided temporary sacrifices that could never perfect its practitioners. The gospel reveals the eternal sacrifice of the risen Messiah that perfects for all time those who come to him.

    The Law was given from a mountain unable to be touched for fear of death. The gospel grants us eternal access to “Mount Zion and to the city of the living God”.

    The Law was a shadow of things to come. The gospel brings the reality of the things to come. More on this later.

    The Law was given to God’s people enslaved in sin. The gospel makes slaves into God’s heirs.

    There is distinction between the Law and the gospel, but that distinction has nothing to do with the presence or absence of commands and warnings. It has everything to do with the fact that the whole system of the Torah (Paul says ministry) was one that resulted in condemnation and death, whereas the ministry of the gospel (the Spirit according to Paul) produces life and righteousness.

  31. Kenton says:

    The point I want to press though, and this might seem like a diverging topic, is the Reformed view, stated above, that Christians “need to obey the law.” I disagree with this, actually. It is not the Law that Christians are to obey. Paul states, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 ESV)

    Food and drink, festivals, new moons, Sabbaths are obviously things that come from the Torah. Paul doesn’t say, “Some things you need to keep, but other things have been fulfilled.” Instead, all of these commands are shadows of things to come. But, the substance of these commands, their reality, belongs to the Messiah. In other words, in Jesus we have the reality of what the Law commands.

    So yes, we are to obey, but the law of God that we follow is precisely the “law of Christ.” Every NT command should therefore be understood as belonging not to the Torah, but to the Messiah. That is what Paul means when he says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:9, 10 ESV) And this is why we are to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:10 ESV) Christ’s nature as God’s son has become the standard of the people of God, which is why we are to be “conformed to the image of His son”, and why as a Body we are to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, 15 ESV)

    And this is why we are to cultivate Christlikeness. Because as we do so, we are being shaped by God (via this practice) into the mold of the Son of God. And that is why above all, Christ is to be proclaimed, not simply as the one who died for our sins and rose again, but as the one who we are to follow, and into whose image we are to grow. That why Paul can say, for example, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”,(Phil 2:5) and why the author of Hebrews can say, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

    This is why Peter can first say, “When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to Him who judges justly”, and then later, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV) It isn’t simply a case of a moral example. No. God our Father is actually molding us in these things into the image of His faithful son. So we are not only clothed in His son (justification), but we are also conformed to the image of His son (glorification) and we will reign with His son (glorification).

    Yes, these are our main motivations, the manifold, endless grace that God is showing to us. But the warnings, not apart of the Law but under the gospel, are also present as genuine warnings (not motivations for godliness, but checks against sin). And therefore our obedience is to be imbued with love but also carried out with a holy reverence and fear, knowing the weightiness of being called into the presence of the holy God, and knowing the vengeance that He will execute in wrath against the world.

    But we should be clear. The warnings are there for those who take their redemption lightly, and who toy with sin and the world. Love is the better motivator, as John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18 ESV) So there is a place for the warnings, for obedience with fear and trembling, in the church. But we know that if the love of God has been perfected in us (that is, love for God that stems from His holy, sacrificial love), then there is no need for fear of judgment, though a place remains for holy reverence, which is the fear and trembling that understands that God’s view of and response to sin hasn’t changed, only His relationship to us who have been purified and justified before Him.

  32. DavidB says:

    Kenton, I see you made a reply to me late last night, but I dont understand your response. You said “while I respect the Reformed confessions, this isn’t a biblically accurate understanding of either the Law or the gospel” — what is’nt? The Reformed confessions? Frame and John Murray? The points I made I think are quite the normal historical reformed position: Christians are under the law of Christ (in particular, his commands) (and under the law of the Spirit, and under God’s law (the 10 commandments))? We do have an *obligation* to obey these laws (`have to’), hence the threats and warnings (for Christians). I’m sure all this ground is gone over in Jones recent book on Antinomianism, but I dont have a copy. Antinomians, by definition, would be those who disagree with the last two sentences. (I am aware that Mark above will strongly disagree with these points, and I have read his arguments elsewhere and disagree with them. I’m mainly trying to talk to those here who hold to the historical reformed position and agree with the Reformed confessions on these points. Love the rest of you–I’m sure you are awesome guys in all other respects, but I am not talking to you).

  33. Kenton says:

    David, I was responding to both you and Don, but what I meant was that the hard distinction between the Law as commandment and the gospel as non-imperative grace isn’t a biblical distinction. As I said, they don’t differ over the presence or absence of commands (or warnings). The gospel itself comes with obligation, as I displayed above. But in subsequent posts I tried to make the point clearer.

    1) We do receive commands under the gospel. Jesus gives us commands and instructions. The gospel itself is something that can be disobeyed, and something that we can fall short of.

    2) No one in the New Testament describes their instructions as belonging to the Law. Rather, they “belong to Christ”, come from the Lord and the Spirit.

    3) As I argued above, Colossians and Galatians indicate that the Christian walks by a superior standard to the Law, which is that of Jesus. Christians fulfill the Law by being led by the Spirit in conformity with Christ.

    4) The New Testament commands (see Romans 12-15 for example) are some of what comprise the new rule by which we walk. They can be summarized in the same way as the Law: love God, love neighbor.

    5) This is what Paul calls the law of Christ in Galatians 6:2 and 1 Corinthians 9:20-21. It is the perfect expression of the law of God.

    6) The law of Christ is not the Law of Moses, though it does possess much agreement with it. That’s the point of Colossians 2:16-17. The Law of Moses appears as but a shadow compared to the “law of Christ”. I liken it to the comparison between prison rules and common law. They overlap significantly, but one controls every aspect of one’s time and forbids certain liberties, while the other is freer, yet broader and requiring wisdom in a variety of activities. Yet the two are distinct codes of conduct, not to be mixed.

    So the point is that the Law can provide support to the law of Christ, indeed what the Law says can give us wisdom in our own conduct. But it is not the Law itself that we obey. The law of God is now encapsulated in the law of Christ, which is why Paul can say:

    To those outside the law [the Torah] I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. (1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV)

    A Jew might have said that the Torah and the law of God were coterminous, even the same thing, but Paul here implies that the law of Christ is the law of God, extended beyond the boundaries of the Torah, reaching even the Gentiles, so that Jews and Gentiles, the one holding the Torah as custom and the other a stranger to it, are both under the same rule. The larger point being that the law of Christ stems from the gospel, and like the Torah, it possesses warnings against sin and curses against those who would distort and turn away from the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 16:22 and Galatians 1:8-9).

  34. DavidB says:


    Thanks. It sounds like we are basically saying the same thing, and it is important to say what `Law’ one is talking about at any given time; you are calling the kind of law that is in gospel by the name `rule’.


  35. Richard UK says:


    In many posts above you referred to Phil 2:12 alone, which suggested to me you did not read it in (sufficient) context with v.13

    1. We know that this passage is about sanctification. If it was about justification, it would say ‘Work for’.

    2. Although only part of an answer (so bear with me), if we are justified then why would we have anything to fear? It is still for you to explain to Don what, in your view, this verse achieves.

    3. Maybe ‘fear’ is not linked with ‘work out’ but with ‘for it is’. What do I mean?

    4. As one lives out every part of one’s life, knowing that God is intricately working on each and every sinew and synapse of that life – now that is a matter of supreme awe, trembling and fear (It is just that, instead, we cling to an Aristotelian non-Hebraic anthropology of man that suggests that we do have some part of us that is truly independent of God)

    5. It is like the verse “I tell you, Today you will be with me in Paradise”. The Greek does not have the punctuation to steer us so definitively. It would as well read “I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise”.

    6. So too we must not assume that the medieval editorial break between v.12 and v.13 reflects anything more than a possible man-centred bias of Santi Pagnini, the Dominican editor who first introduced NT verses (though perhaps these were among those subsequently changed by Robert Estienne – I would need to check)

    7. I know Kevin says Tullian’s approach ‘flattens’ out scripture’s redemptive schema down to one motive, but his own scatter-gun approach is simplistic and unhelpful. On face value, several of these (1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14 and probably 15) would appear to suggest that we obey to secure our salvation – which Kevin would at least say that he denies. Others (2, 7, 13 and 19) are not really about motives.

  36. Tim Mullet says:

    Hi Richard
    You said: “In many posts above you referred to Phil 2:12 alone, which suggested to me you did not read it in (sufficient) context with v.13″
    It is strange to conclude what a person has or has not considered on the basis of a selective quote. All quotes are selective. The purpose of those particular selective quotes was to get Don to interact with the word fear. What does it mean? To what does it refer?
    In terms of 1: I am fine with this statement so far as it goes. One possible way to shift the focus to justification would be to use a different verb. Instead of using katergazesthe (work out)… just use eargazomia and a preposition or a dative… I am not sure the relevance of this?
    In terms of 2: The point of Kevin’s post is that there are many motivations to holiness, not just one. Don disagrees. Therefore, I asked him to explain the purpose of Philippians 2:12. The Bible says to obey out of fear. If a person decides beforehand that there is only one motivation to obey, and that is love, then I am sure that they would be tempted to ignore Phil 2:12. They have already decided that it cannot mean what it says. Philippians 2:12 gives us another motivation to obey, fear of falling away from the faith.
    In terms of 3: You said, “Maybe ‘fear’ is not linked with ‘work out’ but with ‘for it is’.”
    This is not possible. The text says: with – fear – and – trembling – your own – salvation – work out… The main verb of verse 12 twelve is work out. Verse 13 is a dependant clause. You cannot borrow words from a dependant clause and put them into the independent clause (vs. 12). The dependant clause in verse 13 goes like this: God (Subject) – for – is (Equative verb) – the one working (Predicate Nominative) – in – you. God the subject is in the nominative case, “is” is the verb, “the one working” is a nominative participle, thus it is a predicate nominative which is linked to the subject by the equative verb “is.”
    If you were to try to do your suggestion, the text would end up saying,
    Philippians 2:12 ¶ Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation, for with fear and trembling God is the one working in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Despite the fact that this translation would make no sense grammatically, it would also be heretical. It would suggest that God is afraid that he might mess up the work that he is producing in believers.

    In Christ,


  37. Richard UK says:


    My replies preceded by ++++

    The purpose of those particular selective quotes was to get Don to interact with the word fear.

    ++++ All I really mean is that it was not fair to test Don to see if he knew of the significance of v.13 when it seems that you did after all

    They have already decided that it cannot mean what it says. Philippians 2:12 gives us another motivation to obey, fear of falling away from the faith.

    ++++ I agree we do not decide and then eisegete. But Phil 2 v12 cannot be used to show we can ‘obey’ ‘out of’ fear (at least in any way that is God-pleasing). It says ‘work out’ ‘with fear’. You cannot collapse ‘work out’ into ‘obey’. ‘Work out’ means so much more, including ‘go forth and live out your life knowing that you are a saved person’.

    The main verb of verse 12 twelve is work out. Verse 13 is a dependant clause. You cannot borrow words from a dependant clause and put them into the independent clause (vs. 12).

    ++++ I agree that v.13 is the dependent clause controlled by v.12. Therefore v.12’s ‘fear’ washes over into v.13. In your words, I am borrowing from v.12 for v.13 (legitimate) rather than the other way round. [If I write ‘God loves you – so respond towards him in kind’, then the dependent clause relies on the primary for every part of its meaning]

    If you were to try to do your suggestion, the text would end up saying,
    Philippians 2:12 ¶ Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation, for with fear and trembling God is the one working in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    ++++ Of course this makes no sense and of course God does not have fear. But I put ‘for’ immediately prior to ‘God’ as in the Greek, thus making it very different

    +++ So you believe we can lose our salvation, or more likely that we can never be sure of it until we have obeyed, at least sufficiently until our life’s end??

  38. Kenton says:

    If I may butt in, Richard,

    It seems to me that in 2:12-13, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is an expansion of “as you have always obeyed”. The motivation for such “working out”/obedience IS the fact that “it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” I don’t think this means that we are to work in order to secure God’s pleasure, but that our willing and working is what pleases God. That is, God desires that we will and work, so much so that He works in us to bring about this very thing – our willing and our working.

    Why fear and trembling, then? Paul uses this phrase three other times in his letters, and it is always connected to obedience (confirming that “work out” refers to obedience; see 2 Cor. 7:15; Eph. 6:5). Being on this side of the Reformation, we tend to connect fear to guilt. But I don’t think guilt has anything to do with this fear. Rather, we might describe this as reverence (as many have done). But this reverence seems to be one that acknowledges rightful authority, and the right of such authority to judge wrongdoing. For example, Peter says, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17). Fear in this case results from the recognition of God as Judge, and is expressed in a certain type of conduct (see 1 Peter 2:18; 3:2,14).

    This admittedly does seem to contradict 1 John 4:18. But before we go further, we must avoid valuing one passage of Scripture above another. We must, seeking the Spirit’s aid, hold these together equally. John states, “Fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” While the word is the same as used by Paul and Peter, it would seem that John has a specific type of fear in mind, the fear that results from guilt, rather than the fear that results from a true appraisal of God’s majesty. It is this fear that has no place in love, because by the love of God we “have confidence for the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).

    But the fear that every other NT writes of must have a place in the life of the Christian, because they indicate this. Even John, in 4:17, confirms that God is the Judge, and that He will judge the world. It is the acknowledgement of this fact, that the God who has become our Father remains the Judge of the world, that prompts the godly fear and trembling that characterize our obedience. How awe-inspiring is it that the Judge of all the earth works in us, so that we will and act according to His good pleasure (eudokias)? This is essentially the same word used when the Father declares, “This is My beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased (eudokesa)”, and it has to do with God’s own will, not with our pleasing him (that’s a different word). This also is no coincidence. Rather, because we are sons, it is God’s good will that we live like His son. And in His grace, He dwells in us and empowers us to accomplish this very thing.

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  40. Richard UK says:


    I’m sorry I missed yours of 26 May – I only saw it when ‘remodeling’ popped up

    I am busy but intend to reread the blog and reply

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

Kevin DeYoung's Books