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.
Paul encourages the Philippian believers to continue obeying in his absence and to keep pursuing Jesus, even without him there.
It is fairly common for followers of Christ to put a lot of confidence in whoever it was that led them to Christ or shepherded them first. Paul knowing this, encourages them by teaching them that faith in Christ is bigger than him. He doesn’t want them to only be engaged when he is there and then go back to the way it was before, when he isn’t. Though Paul might have led them to Jesus, it is the responsibility of each of them individually to continuing working out the salvation granted to them through Christ.
A few things…
-As a leader, intimate attachment to the people you lead is common. However their pursuit of Jesus can not be dependent upon the presence of the one who shepherded them. They must be able to pursue Jesus without the leader present.
-Obedience to Christ is not circumstantial. It isn’t something that is expected only when the stars align and everything goes as planned. Obedience to Jesus is in all circumstances. The love of Jesus doesn’t have conditions. Therefore, obeying him shouldn’t either.
-It has always been God. Paul reminds them that it was God who was working in and through them. Yes God used Paul, but it was always God who was rescuing, redeeming, and equipping. Therefore, regardless of Paul’s location in the world, God was and still is always with us. Same is true for me.
Father what a great reminder to a shepherd. They are your people. They are called to obey you. It’s always been you. Thank you Jesus!