Once we all – both the Jew and the Gentile – were imprisoned in disobedience. This imprisonment first occurred when Eve was deceived by the serpent in the garden of Eden; and Adam foolishly put his wife before God. Adam took Eve’s offer, likely not fully believing that the fruit would make them equal to God. Both were at fault, but the serpent bore the brunt of God’s punishment. After all, no salvation awaits the ultimate enemy of God. His destiny is the lake of fire, which burns eternally.
For Adam and Eve, imprisonment in disobedience began. They were banished from the garden of Eden. Work for food was suddenly necessary and hard. Childbirth was painful as was the raising of children. Life was no longer easy.
God, in His mercy, chose for Himself one man, Abram and one woman, Sarai and through them created a nation for Himself. Yet, this nation – this people – He also bound in disobedience.
“For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.” “So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16)
Jesus speaks of coming to earth in order to provide us – first for the Jew, but also for the Gentile – life; and that life is to be abundant. The life we live, we live to God. “Therefore,” writes Paul, “by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Paul says, “You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for His own chosen purpose.”
Here Paul shows the unique cooperation which occurs in the Christian life between us and God — we work out our salvation while God simultaneously works out our salvation. We believe while He provides the faith. We love because He first loves us. Without God, there is no salvation.
In Eden, God has already decided the means for our salvation — He even warns the serpent that Eve’s child will crush Satan’s head while Satan will only bruise the heel of her Son. God has a plan — a plan He demonstrates repeatedly throughout history until the birth of His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.
Who works out our salvation “in fear and trembling?” The person who feels and displays the greatest “fear and trembling” for our salvation is Jesus as He kneels in the garden of Gethsemane wrestling with His dread of suffering, death and separation from His Father. What could be more terrifying? Nothing we experience can compare to the fear Jesus feels that night and on that cross. Whose purpose is being fulfilled? God the Father plans everything out to the last detail. He knows all; nothing takes Him by surprise.
For our part, Paul exhorts — “Show yourselves guileless and above reproach, faultless children of God in a warped and crooked generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world and proffer the Word of Life.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
“The earth is full of Your never-failing love,” O Lord. Nowhere we might go, nowhere we might hide can we escape God’s love. His love finds us out.
Adam hides from God in the garden of Eden after he and Eve sin; and God finds him. Moses runs away after he kills in anger, and God finds him. Hagar wanders into the desert after Sarah threatens her, and God finds her. Jonah winds up in the belly of a great fish after refusing to preach to Nineveh, and God finds him.
We are incapable of successfully hiding from God. Even in our darkest hour, God is watching.
“For nothing is hidden unless it is to be disclosed, and nothing put under cover unless it is to come out into the open.” (Mark 4: 22)