This is one of the most profound mysteries of the Bible and of life as a follower of God. Paul is writing about working out our salvation, doing work to grow in Christlikeness as we live out our days waiting well for the return of Christ. But as hard as we work, we must always remember that God is the one who is working through us. It is important to realize this because it will cause us to pray for his help in this task, then it will cause us to buckle down and get to work ourselves on it. When we have completed a portion of it, we will then look back and thank God for what he has done in the process. A well-lived Christian life is repeating this process over and over again.
Working out our salvation (Phil 2:12) for Paul meant becoming like Jesus, who was just previously described in the letter by an explanation of his humility, particularly in becoming a servant of mankind and dying on the cross, though he had been a king in heaven. Paul then goes on to exhort them to become “blameless and pure” by “holding firmly to the word of life,” and doing everything without grumbling or arguing” (Phil 2:14-16).
Once we accept Christ by faith and receive the free gift of eternal life, repenting of our sins and turning to God, we become disciples, students of Jesus. God has a plan for each one of us according to his “good purpose,” and he will not fail to fulfill it.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Philippians 2:13
This statement follows, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Once saved, the work is to become like Christ, a goal that will be completed on the day he returns (1 Jn 3:2).
#2 “…it is God who works in you to will…”
Astonishingly, when we work toward godliness, it is God, by his Holy Spirit, who works in and through us. It is definitely by our “will,” but God works in us to will. We are to use our will to then “work out our salvation,” thanking God who has given us the will to do so.
#3 “…and to act…”
God works in us to “act” also. By what Spirit do we act? The Spirit of God. Who gives us the strength to act? God. We should ask him for his help in this, and we should thank him when he does it. All the while, understanding that we must use our will to act.
#4 “…in order to fulfill his good purposes.”
God has a plan in everything that he does through and in us. He has purposes and they are good. Everything that we go through in this life as we follow Christ, though painful sometimes, should be considered good because it happens according to his purposes, and all his purposes are good. Remember when you are going through something, God is doing something “good.”