Q&A: What does it mean when it says to work out your own salvation?
Good question. Let's look at the actual quote from God's Word:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)
Working out one's salvation does not mean working FOR salvation. Rather it speaks of making one's salvation functional in all areas of life. Quite honestly it speaks of inviting Jesus to be Lord in more and more areas of everyday living.
You've probably noticed that when we come to Christ we have only begun to walk with God. From there the Holy Spirit encourages us to go deeper and deeper into the life of Christ — as far as we are willing to go. To do this He speaks to us about new and different areas where we can surrender control to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Our marriage, our work, our daily speech and even our thoughts — nothing is off limits. And as we concede more and more of these areas of the self-life and turn them over to Jesus, we are said to be working (i.e. walking) out our own salvation.
So think of Philippians 2:12-13 as an exhortation to go deeper into Christ, and to allow Him to have a greater place from which to rule and reign in our hearts.