Philippians: Work Out Your Salvation
By: Natalie Wiesen
October 6, 2017
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
The same man who wrote the verses above also wrote, “by grace you have been saved through faith. . . it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So why do we need to work out our salvation when works do not save us?
Because though we are saved by God’s unconditional grace through the gift of faith, works are a natural outflow and evidence of true faith. It is God’s will for those who are in Christ Jesus to bear fruit, to grow in Christian maturity, love, holiness, faith, and knowledge of Him.
When we begin our journey with God, He wants us to “abide” in Him- which means walk with Him, stay near to Him, keep in close company and fellowship with Him. He desires for us to exercise our will towards His will, so that our hearts, thoughts, attitudes, and actions are being conformed more and more to His. God saves us by His great love so that we are empowered to love Him in return, feeble as it may be. True love is not passive, but active, hard working, always moving toward the object of it’s affection.
These two verses are a beautiful, harmonious picture of our will acting in accordance with God’s will. God is working in us so that we can work it out. He is always the first and primary agent of all that is good and lovely and pleasing in our hearts and lives, which is good news. Because God has awakened your heart from spiritual death and given you the gift of faith in His precious Son, you now have the spiritual faculties to walk with God and towards God. You now have spiritual eyes to see and know God, spiritual ears to hear Him, a spiritual mind and heart to commune with Him. You have the ability to mourn over sin, repent, and live for God rather than this world. These are all pure gift and pure grace. The only thing we bring to God is our spiritual bankruptcy and sin. But now from Him and through Him and to Him we can work out our salvation because of His work in us.
And why does Paul tell us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Because this is the Great and Holy God we are talking about. In chapter 1 of his book, Knowledge of the Holy, AW Tozer addresses the great problem in our day of having not just low views of God, but altogether wrong thoughts of Him. He says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Do we think of God as He truly is, as He has revealed to us in Scripture? Or do we conceive up thoughts and ideas of Him, thinking of him as in our human image? Tozer says, “A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God.” As God says to the wicked man in Psalm 50:21, “you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you.” Furthermore, Tozer explains how the essence of idolatry “is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him…The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.”
But God IS. He is holy – wholly other, altogether above, distinct, and set apart from His creation. He alone is God, and He alone is the Sovereign ruler and authority over all of creation. We do not decide who He is, or what He is like. We are only given the great gift of discovering who He is and what He is like. And so we go about this awesome task of discovery with fear and trembling, with thanksgiving that God has revealed Himself to us so that we can know Him.