One of our blog followers asked a great question…and a common question. If our fear of God that is rooted in His punishment of us is eliminated (because He will no longer punish us) and replaced with boldness and confidence – what does Paul mean in Philippians 2:12 when he says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?”
First, the “work out” is an admonition to live out what God has already done in us. He has given us a new heart, a new nature, so live that out. Among commentators there seems to be no disagreement here.
I believe that the “fear and trembling” is not a fear of God, but a fear of ourselves…we still have our flesh and as Paul says in Romans 8:7 and 8, it is hostile to God, it cannot submit to God and it cannot please God. Kenneth Wuest in his Word Studies from the Greek New Testament expresses it this way, “This fear is a self distrust…it is vigilance against temptation…it is taking heed lest we fall…it is the caution which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Saviour.” As Wuest does, I connect this verse to Paul’s advice in I Cor 10:12 “…let anyone who thinks that he stand take heed lest he fall.”