Friday, October 8, 2010

Work Out Your Own Salvation

Therefore, my beloved, as you 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 who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

When studying this passage of scripture, it is important to remember that "Therefore" ties this verse to the previous section where Paul desires the Philippians to respond positively to his admonition to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2: 5–8). The command is to the entire group since the word you is plural. The subject is their mutual, corporate salvation (Philippians 1:19, 28; Luke 22:24–30).

The Apostle Paul goes on to tell the Philippians to "work out your own salvation." Now be careful as you read these words. Paul is not telling us to work FOR our salvation. It is so important that you hear these words. We are surrounded by people who are working for their salvation. They are trying to earn enough points to get into heaven. They are like the student who is working hard to be accepted to a college, or to gain a scholarship. They are like the salesman who is trying to meet a particular sales quota.

I would venture to say that a majority of people feel that they must produce BEFORE they can be "saved". They spend their lives fretting over any mistake. Those who feel they "have a good shot at Heaven", desperately fear that they are going to do something wrong which is going to get them booted out of Heaven at the last minute. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible tells us that we are forgiven and made new not because of the good we have done to counterbalance the bad . . . but because Christ paid for our sin on the cross. We don't work FOR salvation; but we are to work OUT our salvation. In other words we are to work at godly living BECAUSE we are saved.

So what does Paul mean when he tells the Philippians to "work out your own salvation"? There are several things involved in working out our salvation. Here are a few that come to mind: 
  • We are to work at making sure that our hope is truly grounded in Christ and not on our own efforts
  • We are to work at taking advantage of the ways that God has given us to help us grow.
  • We should read the Bible, pray, worship, serve, give, fast and so forth.
  • We should work to make a break with sin. We are not to just sit back passively, but are to work at repentance and renewal.
  • We are to work at adopting and applying the positive behaviors that the Bible admonishes. In other words we are to work at love, compassion, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, endurance and others.
  •  We are to guard against the influence of the world. In other words we will adjust our friendships, our amusements, and our use of time in order to combat the real presence of sin in our lives.
Working Out our salvation means that we are to bring our salvation to a practical expression. We are to live on the basis of what is true in our lives and heart. Paul reminds us that living out the Christian life is serious business. We all like to have fun in our journey . . . but that doesn't mean that ours is a trivial pursuit.

As Christians we need to be serious about developing our faith for several reasons. First, we are serious because we are in a battle. We know that we are fighting a formidable foe in the Devil. We must be serious, because he is serious. Peter tells us that our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8). Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take a stand against the devil's schemes (Eph. 6:10-11). The Devil is taking this contest seriously and we had better take it seriously too.

Therefore, we too must be careful about what we believe and how we live, especially when we are on our own. In the absence of cherished Christian leaders, we must focus our attention and devotion even more on Christ so that we won't be sidetracked. To be like Christ, we must train ourselves to think like Christ. To change our desires to be more like Christ's, we need the power of the indwelling Spirit (Philippians 1:19), the influence of faithful Christians, obedience to God's Word (not just exposure to it), and sacrificial service. Often it is in doing God's will that we gain the desire to do it (Philippians 4:8-9). Do what He wants and trust Him to change your desires.

What do we do when we don't feel like obeying? God has not left us alone in our struggles to do His will. He wants to come alongside us and be within us to help. God helps us want to obey Him and then gives us the power to do what He wants. The secret to a changed life is to submit to God's control and let Him work. Next time, ask God to help you want to do His will.

References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.


Wanda said...

Great explanation of this first. It's awesome that God first gives us the desire to obey and then the power to obey Him. We just have to cooperate with Him.

PJ said...

LOVED your post! I love it when someone speaks the truth. So many believe that all they have to do is mutter the words "I take Jesus as my Savior" and then they are free to do as they choose. They don't realize that yes, it was a "gift" but at the same time (now this is My way of looking at this) I look at Jesus' gift two-fold. He says we were "bought with a price". To me, this means 2 things. (1) Jesus paid the ultimate price for our salvation, and (2)in exchange, we live completely for Him. I think we got the best end of the bargain. We receive a place in heaven at His throne, we have the comforter in us while here on earth (if we let Him in and live for Jesus), we have the blessings of God to rain down upon us and on and on. There is no end to what God will give and do for us if we just live for Him. Oops! See what a good post does for me? It gets me on my soapbox!

Thank you and God Bless!

MTJ said...

Hi Lloyd,

"Working Out our salvation means that we are to bring our salvation to a practical expression." -- I especially like this sentence because it expresses the need to apply genuine biblical faith in my daily living.

Blessings and peace.


Mari said...

Wonderful post! I like the part where you state that - We are to guard against the influence of the world- That is our constant battle. Thank God we have him and his angels on our side.


God bless

dfish said...

Excellent post. We don't obtain or keep our salvation by our works, but we demonstrate it. As James says, faith without works is dead.

Arts&Disability said...

We have such appreciation in your attitude, Lloyd & how you gracefully organize & explain. It IS a "constant battle" .... I also love how our Lord allows us each our own time in working everything out with Him... & that we can do everything... but not everything is good for us. This is a learning curve and magnificent journey.
Love in our Lord,
His Sonshine

---& thank you for your follow-ups on commentary from your previous post. God Bless you!

Dee said...

The Lord is a good teacher by letting us figure things out for our self but helping us when we get stuck!

RCUBEs said...

When I was reading the title before coming over, "fear and trembling" immediately followed in my mind.

That reverential kind of fear we must always have, even in His temporary absence. Thank you for the great reminder. God bless and protect you and your family always.

Sydney said...

May the desire of our hearts be to make it to His glorious presence.

Be blessed.

Pet said...


Lan said...

HI Lloyd. Thank you for sharing your blog site with me. You are God's instrument of blessings and truth. Thank you for visiting my blog. I love taking pictures of God's beauty and proclaiming it! Have a nice day.

Ian Curtis said...

Thank you for the input on this misunderstood passage, brother. I know a pair of Christians who could certainly benefit from "working out their salvation." If you (and anyone else willing) would pray for them, their names are Heather and Izzy. I have counseled them with love and care for months, but they seem to be content to possess only a knowledge of God's word rather than obedience toward it. I won't judge the validity of their confession of faith; but I fear for their casual resistance to God's revealed will. Thanks for the post, and keep them in mind if you will, Ian.

Shoshi said...

Love your reply, PJ! How true.

Sydney - what you say makes me think that you believe that "working out our salvation with fear and trembling" means that we have to do this to "make it to His glorious presence." We WILL make it to His glorious presence! This is His promise, and what it means to be saved (justified). What we do from the moment of our salvation onwards will not change that. It will change the REWARDS we receive, though. It is our WORKS, not ourselves, that will be judged at the Judgement Seat of Christ. As Lloyd so rightly explains, we work to do good BECAUSE we are saved, not to get there.

Lloyd, this is such a good post, and explains the passage so well. May God bless you always!

Thank you for yet another beautiful comment on my blog! You are a real encourager. I am glad you enjoy my blog so much! I am humbled by how many hits I've had since I started it in May.

Scott said...

Howdy Lloyd! and God Bless!
Great Word! The "working out" of my salvation is really more like the "out work" of my salvation. It is just the natural outflow of the sanctification He is doing in me. My salvation is assured by faith in His completed work, but the actions of my life do require a conscious effort to live out my life in the Spirit He gave me and to crucify this flesh daily, I could never "earn" my salvation, but neither do I want to grieve His Spirit. The most precious praise I could give is to live out His Spirit here and now. From Glory to Glory, His image.

One Heart said...

Perfect reminder as usual. I love how I'm usually familiar with the teachings you share, Lloyd, and how sometimes a little conviction pops out in the midst of the broader teaching. God is so detailed. Thank you for visiting and for sharing.

Love and blessings!

Miawa said...

It is so easy to fall short here, and so rewarding to study and live as Christ would have us do.
Wonderful and gracious post.

Saint Shellie said...

Amen! So many people get this confused! You explained it well!

Blessings to you and thanks for visiting my blog.