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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life;
For many years, there has a been a pink little bunny that runs around hitting a drum that is powered by a certain type of battery. It just keeps going and going and going! Seemingly, never-ending, signifying the battery will last a long time. In reality it eventually wears out and a replacement is needed. But there is a power that continues to come and will truly never end: God working within the believer.
The highlighted verses above are well-beloved and yet often overlooked and forgotten. Paul reminds the readers that obedience is a good thing and he further defines it as working out salvation. The Greek for that action is one that literally means to “work out,” not in the sense that we need to figure out our salvation, but that we need to exercise it; we need to use it. But he doesn’t just leave it there, he adds a reason why.
The “for” at the beginning of verse 13 is the signal that the following statement is the grounds or reasoning for the previous statement: God is working within the believer. The verb in this instance has the same root as the one translated “work out” in the previous verse. The difference is that instead of the preposition “out” as in verse 12, here in verse 13 the preposition is “in” allowing for the basic translation of “work in.” The transliteration of that verb in basic form is energedzo. Look familiar? It should, it is where we get the English word “energize.”
So, putting the two verses together, God energizes the believer, so the believer is now enabled to utilize his salvation for the purpose God bestowed it upon him: worshipping God. Again, in that same verse, Paul uses energedzo a second time, which is translated this time as “to do.” So, for God’s good pleasure, He energizes the believer to obey His commands by exercising his salvation. It doesn’t end there, though. The next statement provides the attitude the believer is to have while exercising. One without grumbling or fighting; one without blame and pure; one without rebuke, even though the circumstances around the believer are not the best. Next, Paul defines what the believer does in straightforward words.
The verb in the latter clause of verse 15, translated “ye shine,” is in a middle or passive voice in the Greek. The two forms are identical, and it is dependent upon context to determine which is correct, if a choice needs to be made. In this instance, both have a strong case, and it makes sense that it is both. If the middle voice is translated it would be “you shine yourselves.” If the passive voice is translated, it would be “you are being shone,” with God carrying out the action, since in the previous verse, God energizes the believer.
Due to the fact that God created man with the ability to choose obedience or disobedience, the middle voice makes sense in that man has a part in the whole situation because he must choose to obey. But the passive voice makes perfect sense too, as God works within the believer to enable him to obey and be used as that light in a “crooked and perverse” world. Both voices have their place in the circumstances; man’s choice to obey is enabled by the energy he receives from God for the purpose of shining, being shone, as a light in the world that is in such need of that light.
How is your obedience? God works within us to enable us to exercise our abilities, our salvation, in an effort to shine and be shone around the world as a light because we have the “word of life” that this darkened and dying world needs. God has the power. There is no question of that fact, but will you shine?