“…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
The admonition from Paul is to work with fear and trembling, but why face life with fear when God sent His Son out of love, and made men His own for mercy’s sake? Those who can answer this question correctly from the heart and not just the head are true believers and not false professors.
True believers are those who come to know Jesus intimately, and believe that apart from His substitutionary death for their sins they are worthy of eternal punishment, not in theory but in reality. When the love of Christ is a reality a reverential respect for God and fear of displeasing Him become the norms.
In many churches that profess to be evangelical today there is not a fear of displeasing God because they operate outside of His revealed will. This truth can be seen in such things as watering down the Gospel not to offend, dismissing the Gospel as insufficient in light of psychological therapy, and supplanting the Gospel by lowering the Biblical standards by which Christians are called to live. These errors can be caused by deception, which is to say that not all who partake in such practices are lost, but they are walking on shaky ground.
The reason Paul gives for working out our salvation with fear and trembling is God, who is at work within His people, and it is His will and work that are in view not their own. God does not save people so they can go on living life for their old lusts and desires, seeking their own honor, and ends, neither are they saved to substitute good for evil and yet retain the same wrong motives and attitudes. The Christian reality is life out of death, which we see in Paul’s words, “I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
People can fake Christianity if they like for a while, however, the day is fast approaching when all the pretenders will be revealed for what they truly are, as J C Ryle suggests, “The time is fast coming when nothing but authenticity will stand the fire. Authentic repentance towards God–authentic faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ–authentic holiness of heart and life–these, these are the things which will alone stand the judgment at the last day.”
The ten most awful words ever to be heard by men will be, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’ from Matthew 7:23, words clearly spoken by fakes, phonies, frauds, and false prophets.
The evidence that Christ has justified someone is a change of mind toward God, His law, will, and authority, not to perfection but willing correction!