Monday, September 4, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 5) - What Does It Mean to "Work Out Your Own Salvation?"

Salvation, all of it, is by grace. None of it, is by works. It is a gift of God.

This phrase, "work out your salvation," comes from Philippians 2:12 which reads...

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, (Philippians 2:12 ESV)

Work out our salvation? It's not done? Fear and trembling? Fear of what? Condemnation? Fear of bringing up this verse because it doesn't seem to fit a salvation that is by grace?


Salvation by works? It can't be!

Salvation is a gift of God. Isn't it?

Salvation is not of works. Is it?

Yet, here is Scripture that seems to indicate works are involved, heavily involved, with fear and trembling no less. So, how do we resolve this phrase with a salvation that is by grace? Does this mean salvation requires at least some personal effort? Is grace conditional based on something I perform? Are we supposed to work for a gift? Is it initially given by grace as a gift, but then somehow maintained by works?

By no means!

This verse does not contradict with my opening assertion and previous lessons. It was the intent of this Salvation 101 series to show that, according to Scripture, salvation is indeed by grace, completely. In fact, grace and works cannot co-exist. Work earns wages, which cannot be counted as a gift.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)

Salvation is a gift of God, plain and simple, it is not of works (Eph 2:8-9). Jesus Christ already completed the work when He pronounced, "It is finished." (John 19:30) What began in the Spirit by hearing with faith cannot be perfected by the flesh (Gal 3:2-3).

So, why does Paul tell us to work out our salvation here?

What can this possibly mean?

Paul is communicating about having the proper attitude as a Christian in this chapter to the Philippians. An attitude doesn't get one saved, it gets changed and matures over time. Salvation is not even the subject, sanctification is.

That is, the subject is growing up in Christ. Now that you are saved, which does not require works, the goal is to grow up in Christ, which does require works: show up teachable to God's word.

First comes salvation by grace...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Then we learn why we were saved...

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

If you don't work, or you work on the wrong things, you're still saved.

That doesn't change.

If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:14-15 ESV)

But, there is treasure far beyond comparison to anything in this world in knowing Christ Jesus and the One who sent Him. That doesn't just happen at salvation. You need to grow into it. Just because you were born in the flesh doesn't automatically mean you'll mature as an adult. It takes effort.

In the same way, just because you were born of the Spirit doesn't automatically mean you'll mature to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-14). This is all about walking in the Spirit once you have the Spirit in you. And if you have the Spirit in you, you also have Christ and the Father in you.

Think of it this way. Salvation bought you a permanent membership at the fitness center. Use it! You won't lose your membership if you don't. But, you will miss out on the unimaginable benefits of regularly getting a cardio and muscular good workout.

We'll address the topic of sanctification another time, perhaps Sanctification 101. There's much to be said about this process, this spiritual journey. Most of what Paul wrote in the NT is about growing in grace: leaning forward in the chair, as it were, to focus more intently on the Instructor's voice, while eliminating the unproductive behaviors of the flesh that only grieve the Spirit.

For now, let's just know that when we're saved by grace, we're completely saved by the One who did all the work on our behalf. There is no other sacrifice required. Even if there were, there would be none qualified to do it. Only Christ could execute the Father's plan. The work of Jesus Christ completely satisfied the requirements of reconciliation with the Father, not only for us, but for the whole world, so that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV)

Amen!  And...

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)


Unknown said...

Hi Dwight

This is the first time I read one of your blogs. WOW! I appreciate the Word you are sharing, brother! Gerard

Dwight said...

Hi Gerard,

Thank you so much for the encouragement. Feel free to share this or any post(s) to your heart's delight.