I hear much talk of different isms: Calvinism, Arminianism, Methodism, Catholicism, Baptist(ism), New Evangelicalism, etc. Where does it all comes from? Our carnality. Even so, most “isms” of our day have strayed far from what Paul and Appollos was preaching. Sure there is much truth in some and less in others but; even in our current divisions, there are divers errors that divide us within our errors.
While we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:11-13), we should consider the verse below. If this applies, there is yet much work to be done on a personal level. No one can work out their salvation on a corporate level, so it doesn’t really matter what your church organization believes. It can’t save you. Only the word of God living and working in you can do that.
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1 Corinthians 3:3-5).
If we are not working out our salvation with fear and trembling, I plead with you reader, please go back to the Bible and see what was missed . . . because something was.
“Trembling for fear lest you miscarry and come short. Be careful to do every thing in religion in the best manner, and fear lest under all your advantages you should so much as seem to come short . . . Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:1,11).
Here is an excerpt from Matthew Henry Commentary that explains this concept further.
I. He exhorts them to diligence and seriousness in the Christian course: Work out your own salvation. It is the salvation of our souls (1 Pet. 1:9), and our eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9), and contains deliverance from all the evils sin had brought upon us and exposed us to, and the possession of all good and whatsoever is necessary to our complete and final happiness. Observe, It concerns us above all things to secure the welfare of our souls: whatever becomes of other things, let us take care of our best interests. It is our own salvation, the salvation of our own souls. It is not for us to judge other people; we have enough to do to look to ourselves; and, though we must promote the common salvation (Jude 1:3) as much as we can, yet we must upon no account neglect our own. We are required to work out our salvation, katergazesthe. The word signifies working thoroughly at a thing, and taking true pains. Observe, We must be diligent in the use of all the means which conduce to our salvation. We must not only work at our salvation, by doing something now and then about it; but we must work out our salvation, by doing all that is to be done, and persevering therein to the end. Salvation is the great thing we should mind, and set our hearts upon; and we cannot attain salvation without the utmost care and diligence. He adds, With fear and trembling, that is, with great care and circumspection: “Trembling for fear lest you miscarry and come short. Be careful to do every thing in religion in the best manner, and fear lest under all your advantages you should so much as seem to come short,” Heb. 4:1. Fear is a great guard and preservative from evil.
Are you working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Or are you already confident? Think about that for a moment. Don’t seek guidance from others (or me for that matter) who will reinforce your confidence or current belief system. Who knows how much ism has already crept in. Rather, seek to understand the whole council of God unencumbered by preconceived bias. I am trying hard to do this and some of what I am coming up with is not popular even among my Christian brethren.
Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles spoke a great deal about why people should have fear and trembling, namely Hell. In the New Testament, the realities of Hell was primarily spoken to the religious, followers of Christ, believers, and those who perceived they were following after God. Hell was not spoken much to unbelievers. That reality in and of itself should cause us to ponder.
The Biblical concept of working out our salvation by implicit definition means; it is not yet complete.