"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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."
The "wherefore" is introducing a conclusion based upon the previous example of Christ. With such knowledge of Jesus' servanthood, sacrifice and superiority, it is only fitting that every believer be called to righteous actions. Paul's tenderness is may be felt in the phrase my beloved. A call to obedience is often received more humbly if it is given more tenderly.
Paul acknowledges the past obedience of the Philippian church. It is always good to offer appropriate praise when it is due. Rebuke is biblical and necessary; however, praise is often just as important. The man who refuses to praise will find that his rebukes are far more likely to be ignored or misunderstood. The administration of praise reveals to people that their efforts of obedience have not gone unnoticed; and when the time for rebuke comes, those same people are far more likely to receive the correction in a profitable manner. When giving His rebukes to the seven churches, the Lord prefaced five of the seven rebukes with an acknowledgment of that particular church's obedience. Christians should follow this example.
The Philippian church's obedience was not dependent upon apostolic presence. As previously mentioned, true obedience is demonstrated in the absence of a godly influence. The Lord wants His saints to do righteously regardless of the presence or absence of holy peer pressure.
The command to "work out" one's own salvation is not teaching salvation by works. The command is simply challenging the believer to live out practically the salvation which he has been given positionally. When a man is inducted into the military, positionally speaking, he is a soldier; however, practically speaking, he must perform the part.
Each believer is responsible to live out his own salvation. No man may live it for him. Some professing believers act as though they desire their spiritual friends and teachers to live the Christian life for them, but such is not possible. Each saint is individually accountable to God. The personal responsibilities of Bible study, prayer and Christian conduct may not be delegated to a pastor, teacher or any other individual regardless of the depth of his Christian walk.
Fear and trembling are to characterize the Christian's lifestyle. In the original text, the phrase with fear and trembling is emphatic. A word for word translation would render, "with fear and trembling, the of yourselves salvation work out." The holy example of Christ should move a believer to sobriety, not foolishness. Much modern-day Christian service is performed in a spirit of carelessness and silliness while a healthy fear of God is noticeably lacking. Youth groups, worship services, special events, visitation and many so-called church activities are all too often characterized by pride, disrespect, sacrilege, apathy, folly and many other carnal attitudes and actions. Such things are fleshly products, not biblical patterns. Being afraid to fail Christ and others is a good thing. Fear of disobedience's consequences can help to keep a person on track.