What it means to work out your salvation (part 2)

by Nov 25, 2009

(Continued from Part 1)

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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

We’re called to “work out” our salvation, and in this passage Paul gives us a few signs that our salvation is in process:

1. Continual obedience

Another way to translate this verse is, “Work out your own salvation continually.” In other words, “You’re on the right track, but don’t get complacent about your faith! Your obedience to Christ should always be growing.”

There’s a simple question to ask yourself that will tell you whether that’s happening or not: “Do I look more like Jesus than I did a year ago?”

2. Spiritual independence

Paul talks about obedience, “Not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence.” He said the same thing in Philippians 1:27, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

He’s telling the Christians of the Philippians church that they should lean on each other, but that their faith shouldn’t depend on each other.

It seems like a fine line, but there’s a big difference.

Standing firm in one spirit, bearing one another’s burdens – these are all healthy ways that the body of Christ supports each other. The problem comes when our individual faith is completely dependent on other people. Many Christians rely on a preacher to learn about the Bible, and rely on a worship leader to praise, never working out their own salvation.

3. Holy fear

Paul says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This isn’t fear and trembling at the thought of God punishing you. God already poured out his judgment at the cross. This is the kind of fear Abraham exhibited – the willingness to give up anything and everything for God.

After Abraham had waited decades for a son, God finally blessed him with Isaac. But since even God’s gifts can become idols we worship, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as an offering. It was only when Abraham’s knife was raised in the air, ready to kill his son as an offering to the Lord, that God said, “Stop! Now I know that you fear me.”

Working out your salvation in fear and trembling means being willing to give up anything in your life that you lean on for comfort, status, pleasure, or security rather than God.

For comfortable, first-world Christians like us, that describes just about everything in life. So how do we do it? Stay tuned.