Obeying God 

Philippians 2: 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (NKJV)


Paul is writing to the believers at Philippi, shortly after A.D. 60. He is writing from a Roman prison. 

He refers to the Christians at Philippi as “my beloved”, “agapetos” in the Greek from “agape”, Christian love. He is reminded how they have always obeyed God, and they should continue to obey, which he describes as working out “your own salvation with fear and trembling” (v.12). 

To “work out” in the Greek is “katergazomai” which means to produce or accomplish. The word fear in the Greek is “phobos” meaning fear, terror, respect, or reverence, from which comes our word “phobia”. 

So obedience to God produces salvation, through a certain amount of “God phobia”, a reverence of His power and what it can do. People who choose to not obey God have no fear of God, which does not produce salvation. 

In verse thirteen the word “for”, means because. “Good pleasure” is the Greek word “eudokia” which means goodwill, favor, pleasure, or desire. So, we continue to obey because God, the Holy Spirit, is working in us according to His pleasure. The Holy Spirit indwells us at the time of salvation, and our continued obedience comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us. This, then, is how we can “do all things without complaining or disputing” (v.14). 

This is not our nature, but we can accomplish Paul’s command through allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us. This leads to us being shining stars, “blameless and harmless”, in a “crooked and perverse generation”, the world (v.15).  

We continue to shine by sharing the word of God, the Bible. Paul will therefore have reason to boast on the day of the return of Christ, the rapture (v.16). In conclusion, Paul writes that even if he is martyred by that time he will be glad and rejoice with us, and we should do the same with him (v.17-18). 

There are some who interpret verse twelve as meaning that salvation can be earned by works. Proper interpretation disputes that conclusion. Verse thirteen is a continuation of verse twelve that gives us the “how” of verse twelve. 

Verse thirteen tells us “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” “Will” in the Greek is “thelo”, meaning to decide, while “do” is “energeo”, from which comes energy. “Thelo” obedience produces salvation in the first place when we make a decision of will to be obedient to the tug of God. “Energio” obedience is the continued action of allowing God, the Holy Spirit, to continue to work through us. God is the source of both types of obedience. 

Since God is the source of both types of obedience, to will and to do, this obedience comes from a yielding to God and not from our good works. Good works are a result of salvation not a path to salvation. God is our path to salvation when we yield to Him, allowing Him to work through us. 

Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary