We continue with our discussion on the believer “working out your own salvation.”
We know from our previous post, “How are you working out your own salvation?” that “working out your own salvation” does not mean that a person can earn his own salvation by doing some work. Rather salvation is by grace through faith.
But that “working out your own salvation” means the believer in Christ aspires and strives to be Christ-like walking in obedience according to the light he receives from the Lord in his daily living.
Put another way, to the level that the believer aspires, and strives to be Christlike, walking in obedience according to the light he receives, in his daily living, is he “working out his salvation.”
We have looked at what it means to work out our own salvation. See the previous post, “How are you working out your own salvation?” We saw what it is to do this with fear and trembling. We have seen that what is required of us is much, and if care is not taken, we can feel overwhelmed.
However, no one is more aware of our fallen nature, limitations and vulnerability than our God Himself. He has thus made available the means whereby we may work out our own salvation to His satisfaction.
And so, the question we need to ask ourselves, and try to answer is, “What are the means of working out your (our) own salvation?”
Again we shall look at a verse of Scripture from the book of Philippians.
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
The “For” that is, because connects this verse with the previous. What is said and required in Philippians 2:12 will be possible because of God. Ordinarily, the requirement to work out one’s salvation could be overwhelming, and lead to discouragement. Hence, the need for the truth in this verse.
It is God who is the one in charge. God has already begun the good work of the new creation (2Cor 5:17) in the life of the believer (Phil 1:6) and continues that work powerfully. Though the apostle was absent, and to us is even now no more, God was, is, and will always be present with His people.
The work is in the believer. God works effectually in and through the believer in Christ. It is not alright to just be running around doing all sorts of things in the name of work while not achieving anything of worth in the eyes of God. But God works effectively through the believer.
The Holy Spirit continues His work of ongoing sanctification of the believer, transforming him/her ever, and ever closer to Christlikeness. Accomplishing any task involves both the will to decide to want to do the task and the actual capacity to carry out the proposed task.
Understand that to want to is “to will”; To desire to do or not to do. It is the capacity to make decisions as to what to do or not to do and follow through with such decisions.
It is obvious that many of us heard the gospel many times, ran away and would not embrace the gospel for a while, often for several years in many cases. Apparently, we eventually were saved by the Lord, need I say, in spite of ourselves! And so, we cannot of ourselves embrace the gospel of grace. Hence, “the will” (Ps 110:3; 2Cor 3:5) comes solely of God’s gift to whom He will (John 6:44, 65).
Numerous verses of Scripture testify to the truth that it is God that makes the believer to will or desire something good and to do it.
Here is a sampling of the Holy Scripture:
“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness From the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.” (Ps 110:3).
“not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” (2Cor 3:5).
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44).
“And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:65).
God also gives the power “to do” that is, “to work effectually”, the ability to do something effectively and accomplish what is desired. That is, effectual perseverance to the end, is wholly of God. It is God’s gift:
“being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6).
“make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Heb. 13:21).
The will, desire and delight of the believer continuously conforming to and obeying the commandments of God, so much so that, more often than not, he desires or wills to obey God than to disobey is one sign that he is growing spiritually.
Further, the Holy Spirit, assigns duties and tasks to the believer. He then gives the believer the needed gifts and other essentials to accomplish those duties and tasks.
Hence, God works in both the will or desire to conform, and the capacity to accomplish what the believer has been assigned.
God works in and through the believer by the presence of His indwelling Holy Spirit in the believer, and the instrument of His word.
God works in the believers in Christ for “His good pleasure.” God is a God with purpose. He is not doing things arbitrarily without thinking.
For example, He purposed to save and has done so and continues to save. And having saved you, or rather, He saved you, in order to carry out His sovereign purpose towards you.
We are thus informed:
“5 having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Eph. 1:5-6).
“having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he had purposed in himself.” (Eph. 1:9).
God is the God of joy. We are informed that in the presence of God there is fulness of joy and at his right hand there are pleasures for ever more (Ps 16:11).
God created all for His glory, and for His pleasure. He knows what His pleasures consist of. He also knows how the believer can be enabled to desire and to do things according to that His good pleasure.
This would then mean that the believer can know the will of God for himself/herself. He/she can desire to obey and be enabled to accomplish whatever God desires of him/her.
The Lord said He is the good shepherd. He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him and do hear Him. That His sheep will also recognise the voice of the stranger and will not follow that stranger (John 10:3-4, 14, 27).
Pertinent questions for you
- Do you hear the voice of the Lord?
- Do you know the voice of the Lord?
- If you don’t know the voice of the Lord, how will you know when He speaks?
- How does the Lord speak to you?
- How does the Holy Spirit lead or guide you?
- Those that are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom 8:14).
- If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfil the works of the flesh (Ga 5:16).
- In the presence of God is the fullness of Joy, and in His right hand are pleasures forever more (Ps 16:11).
- We are created for His pleasure and for His glory (Rev 4:11).
Pertinent questions for you
- Is your life glorifying God?
- By your life, can you be said to be an object of pleasure to the Lord?
- Can the Lord count on you, and be pleased with you in your current state?
- Can you identify areas of your life that need improvement so as to conform to His will and good pleasure?
- “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
That this verse is not saying people don’t or can’t do things on their own. Rather, as far as God is concerned, He enables His people to will, to desire to, and to do effectively those things that please God, and to take delight in continuing in such things continually.
Without God being the initiator and the one who sustains, you cannot do anything that will please Him, be acceptable to Him, or receive His commendation.
How we participate in what God wants done
It is very important for us to understand the relationship between how God works and how we work.
God has by His grace first worked in us and still continues to work His salvation in us. The same grace now continues to encourage us to make full proof of and carry out to the end that salvation which He has first worked in us.
Hence, our will does nothing without grace. What God produced is our own acts. It is not that God does some, and we the rest. Rather, God does all, and we do all.
God is the only proper author, we the only proper actors. Thus, the same things in Scripture are represented as from God, and from us.
God has His part, but there is a personal responsibility demanded of each believer
God makes a new heart, and we (the believers), are commanded to make us a new heart; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty.
Numerous passages of Scripture testify to this.
Carefully meditate on these few:
“19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh: 20 that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezek. 11:19-20).
“31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” (Ezek. 18:31-32).
“22 that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24).
“26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezek. 36:26-27).
Hence, the Philippian believers, and by extension all Christians down the ages and including us today,
- are commanded to, and are able to work out our salvation
- because our ever present and all-powerful God enables us to, and continues to enable us to do so,
- and so, it will continue unto the day of the Lord.
This should be an encouragement and motivation to the believer: that he is not left on his own but the means to achieving the purpose of God is made available to him. The believer will be able to obey and do the will of God because it is God that gives the enablement to be able to do so.
- God takes the initiative for He originally initiates, then sustains, and ultimately will complete all the work of the believer by His indwelling power.
- The means of working out your salvation is by divine power through the Holy Spirit.
- Because God empowers us to do His good pleasure, He rightly demands of us things we cannot do on our own.
- This is so we can then avail ourselves of the means He has provided for our needs, and use.
Determine today to avail yourself of the means God has provided for you to work out your own salvation:
- His Holy Spirit;
- His written word; and
- Fellow believers around you.
If you are not yet saved. If you are not yet a born-again believer in Christ
But the foregoing presupposes that your already saved and that you are endeavouring to please God.
But what if you are not yet saved? If you are not yet saved, you are a none-starter. The above do not apply to you because you cannot begin to work out the salvation you do not have.
But there is hope for you. You can be saved. You only need to heed the call of the Lord. Yes, the Lord is Calling you now.
“28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30).
And you should heed His call. The word to say is with you now.
9… if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom 10:9-13).
There you have it. Act now by praying to the Lord to have mercy on you and to make you one of His own.
May God keep you in his love in Jesus’ Name, Amen.