Philippians 2:12 KJV
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.
There is a principle concerning obedience here that needs to be more often emphasized; obedience isn’t only what is done in the presence of an authority or of others; obedience is what is also done when no authority is there to make us and no others are there to inspire us. Genuine obedience is summed up in the words, “always obeyed”. Any other form of obedience is not actual obedience.
- The child who only cleans their room when a parent is watching
- The employee who only does his job when a supervisor is pushing them
- The student who only studies the material when the teacher is looking over his shoulder
- The adolescent who only behaves when a guardian has him on a leash
These are not truly obedient. They are only ever compliant.
The word “obeyed” in this verse is one that means “to hear under” or to “subordinate oneself”. It is to place ourselves below another in rank or order. The Apostle Paul would have been the first to insist that he was above or better than no one else. It wasn’t obedience to him, but obedience to Christ he sought. By such obedience as to subordinate ourselves to Christ in all things and at all times we “work out [our] own salvation.” Not that we are not that we are saved by this obedience but that this obedience is an expression of our salvation.
 We might view Paul, or any other preacher, similar to how we would view a work foreman. The foreman does not own the business but is hired by the owner to see that other employees do their jobs. By obeying the foreman the employee is actually obeying the owner.