Many believers take the fact that they are Christians for granted. They think that being born again is all there is. They think that once they are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, that is it, the Holy Spirit will do the rest. All they have to do is just relax and enjoy a wonderful ride to heaven. They thus, do not make effort concerning their Christian faith as they should.
A major consequence of this lack of effort is ignorance of the ways of God, and lack of advancement in their Christian character. Many remain infantile when they should be maturing.
Let us see how we can begin to improve in this area today by trying to answer the question:
How are you working out your salvation?
Those who are already saved are commanded to work out their own salvation:
“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.” (Phil 2:12)
The whole of this chapter two of the epistle to the Philippians is about the believer in Christ becoming Christlike. So today, we begin to look at the practical ways of becoming like Christ.
We shall therefore use Philippians 2:12 as our learning station.
Wherefore is saying, therefore. It tells us that this is the beginning of a new section and connects this new section to the previous. It is referencing or referring to the obedience and humility of Christ (Phil 2:8), as an example for all believers to follow.
My beloved is a term of endearment showing his love for the Philippians. It shows that they belonged to the same faith as himself.
The believers in Philippi have always obeyed the word of God in the presence of the apostle. The apostle acknowledges that they had always (not occasionally or often), but always obeyed in his presence. That is, he was an eyewitness to their obedience to the apostolic teachings, and thus, obedience of God. This seems to be a commendation and it would have encouraged the Philippian believers.
Do you commend to encourage or to flatter?
We should develop the habit of true commendation for those who are making effort to live true to the Christian faith, and we should resist the urge to flatter.
Genuine commendation shows a person that he is truly appreciated. It will therefore encourage that person to put in more effort to be better.
The usual obedience of the Philippian church was even more important in his absence when he was not there to encourage and instruct them. His presence in addition to encouraging them, would have made it more difficult for those who would otherwise discourage these believers from continuing in their faith.
Does your presence make it easier for other Christians to continue to believe, and live true to the word of God?
Or does your presence make it more difficult for believers around you to continue in faith because you are always negative and do not walk through to the faith?
To “work out your own salvation” is a much misused, and much misunderstood verse of Scripture.
And so, the question arises, “What does it mean to, “work out your own salvation?””
Some have interpreted “work out your own salvation” to mean that a person can earn salvation by doing some work. Some have taken it to mean that whatever you consider as salvation is what God will accept for your salvation is determined by you!
But these and many other ideas of man concerning salvation are far removed from salvation as taught by the Holy Bible.
Remember, this letter was written to those who have been saved. They were already believers in Christ. They were already obeying God. So, salvation here does not mean to be born again or to come newly to the Christian faith for they were already Christians. Thus, this verse is not saying they should do something to earn or merit their salvation.
“The kindness of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit 3:4-6).
So, if they were already saved (which they were), how were they to work out their own salvation?
The gospel/the word of God is complete
The gospel is a faith delivered once-for-all complete to believers. It is a body of knowledge concerning God, His Son, His Holy Spirit, man, and their relationship.
Nothing can be and should be added to that body of knowledge. They were exhorted to “work out”, not to “work for” their salvation. The believer in Christ “works out his own salvation” by studying that body of knowledge and putting what he discovers there into practice in his own life.
He makes time and effort available to avail himself of opportunities to increase in that knowledge, and to be renewed, and be transformed by the Holy Spirit through the instrument of the word of God (Rom 12:2; Eph. 4:23).
A major goal for the Christian in this world, and as demanded of him by God, is to become Christlike.
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.”
In other words, walking in obedience, wholeheartedly lending his members to works of righteousness rather than works of unrighteousness, is working out his own salvation. The believer is thus commanded,
“even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Rom 6:19).
“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Rom 6:13).
Rather he is commanded,
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5).
No one works to save himself/herself
Again, we are told,
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8; see also Eph. 2:5; Rom 3:24).
No one works for their salvation for it is God’s free gift to those who are saved.
These believers in Christ in Philippi were to put into practice what God was working in them by His Holy Spirit. But as children of God they were not obeying and doing works of righteousness to earn their salvation. They were already saved.
Similarly, to them, as children of God, we are not obeying and doing works of righteousness to earn our salvation.
No child of God works to earn his salvation.
Rather, all genuine believers engage in works of righteousness because they are already saved and are children of God. In doing good works, believers are thereby manifesting the character of God, their Father in their walk of obedience to him.
Hear what the word of God says:
“5 and beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pet 1:5-8).
When you see a child, you see a semblance of his parents in that child.
Similarly, when you see a child of God, you ought to see a semblance of God in him/her.
Can someone see you and see a semblance of Christ in you?
The Lord commanded those who believe in him,
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 5:16).
- This is a life-long journey of continuing and increasing renewal and transformation.
- It will not be completed in our present existence, so we cannot claim to have attained, but it will be completed at the final glorification.
Let us emulate the apostle Paul who said,
“12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-14).
- Do not think that you have attained anything.
- Do not think you are now perfect.
- Redouble your effort to understand why you have been saved.
- Understand what is expected of you by the Lord.
- Do not think you understand everything now.
- Forget those things that are past (both successes and failures).
- Reach out or make strenuous efforts to do or engage those things set before you.
- And press with all your strength, and purposefully towards the finished line of the race the Lord has set before you.
None of us is left to go on this journey alone, and on our own. But the lord Himself, His Holy Spirit, the written word, and other genuine believers are there alongside us to help us along the journey. And they will be there until we each run and finish our course in victory.
The phrase, “with fear and trembling” is not suggesting that the believer should live in the fear and terror of God. Far from it.
Remember, fear has torment, and is not of God. But perfect love, which is of God casts out fear (1John 4:18).
Fear here refers to the fear of the LORD which is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10; Pr. 9:10).
- It is very important to realise that, having knowledge of the holy is understanding.
- And all those who do God’s commandments have a good understanding of Him.
- Hence, we need to make effort to increase in our knowledge of God and of His word.
Love is not above other attributes of God
Many unbelievers and Christians alike tended to over emphasis the love of God over His other attributes especially His righteousness and justice. Because of this perversion, many do not fear God. Many do not think God will punish the wicked.
Many think the wicked, the disobedient and rebellious will somehow escape punishment because “God is love, and God loves.” So, they continue living contrary to God and in rebellion unmindful of the soon-coming wrath of God upon the ungodly. They are the deceived.
God is bound by His Word, by His character
However, we should remember that, though God is Love, and truly loves, He is also righteous and a just judge of the whole earth. He is bound to love as well as to judge righteously.
As he is bound to bless the obedient, He is also bound to punish the disobedient and rebellious. This is amply demonstrated on the pages of Holy Scripture:
The generation that lived in the time of Noah; The people of Sodom, Gomorrah and their environment, Israelites in Egypt, in the wilderness, under the Judges, and in the promised land, Prophet Jonah and the people of Nineveh come to mind.
His whole harmonious character demands that He always lives up to His word. He is faithful even when we are not faithful, and He cannot deny Himself (2Tim 2:13).
Genuine believers reference God
The true believer knows that though he is a member of the house of God and as such he uses family language like Father, child, son, daughter and the like, that God is infinitely higher than himself. He would not and should never become so familiar with God or claim that level of familiarity that makes him equate God with his own earthly parents.
There should always be that understanding that though God is our Father, he is to be respected and honoured at all times in a way that no other human should be. That devotion and reference should come from our love for God as our Father who created us out of love, saved us out of love and all for his pleasure and glory.
Hence, all believers live in referential fear of Him. They know though He is love, that God can be severe too.
They know that, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
Hence, they tremble at His word. Yes, those who are of God tremble at His word (Ezra 9:4; 10:3). That is, they hear Him, and promptly obey.
When they do anything amiss, they know, they do not rationalize or put the blame elsewhere. Rather, they promptly confess, repent, and get back right with God.
Hence, “with fear and trembling” is not living in terror of God. Rather, it is recognizing His sovereignty, His majesty, referencing Him, seeking His will and obeying Him all the time.
Those who do not obey Him, those who lack the fear of Him have not known Him, no matter how much they claim to know or belong to Him.
It is always, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And to those who love God his commands are not burdensome.
As we are told, “For this is love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1John 5:3). And so, they obey promptly.
It is very important to understand that this verse is not teaching that salvation can be earned in any way.
Simply put, salvation is not by works but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You work out your own salvation by obeying the word of God in all circumstances as you make pleasing and glorifying God in all you do a lifestyle.
As you obey what you know, God gives you more grace to resist temptations, and to obey Him more.
Begin today to work out your salvation!
Please, notice that this passage,
“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.” (Phil 2:12) is speak to believers in Christ.
Those that have been save by the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are not yet saved, you have no part in what is written here yet. But you can change your status now, you can acknowledge that you are sinner. You cannot save yourself. Then pray that the Lord Jesus Christ should save you now. Please, do not delay becoming a child of God any long. Come to the Lord now.
Remember he is the one calling you,
“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).
May God keep you in his love in Jesus’ Name, Amen.