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Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

One motive for believers' working out their sanctification is understanding the consequences of sin. Although God is loving, merciful, and forgiving, He nevertheless holds believers accountable for disobedience. Like John, Paul understood well that "if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8--9). Knowing that he serves a holy and just God, the faithful believer will always live with fear and trembling. Fear translates phobos, which describes fright or terror (cf. Matt. 14:26;Luke 21:26; 1 Cor. 2:3) as well as reverential awe (cf. Acts 2:43; 9:31; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1). Trembling is from tromos, which refers to shaking and is the word from which the English word tremor derives. Both of those are proper reactions to the awareness of one's own spiritual weakness and the power of temptation. The Lord seeks such an attitude in His children, as His words in Isaiah 66:2 indicate:"To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."

An important Old Testament truth is "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps. 111:10; cf. Prov. 1:7; 9:10). This is not a fear of being doomed to eternal torment, nor a hopeless dread of judgment that leads to despair. It is rather a reverential fear, a holy concern to give God the honor He deserves and avoid the chastening of His displeasure. Such fear protects against...

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