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What Does Paul Mean by "Work Out Your Own Salvation"?

Posted in Devotionals
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“Therefore, my beloved, as you 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; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” -Philippians 2:12–18


1. First, let us observe our fearful responsibility.

Once again it reads in verse 12,

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Work out your own salvation?

Anyone who reads this for the first time, especially just after coming to the saving grace of God, might experience some confusion.

“Wait, I thought I didn’t have to work for my salvation. What’s this all about?”

It’s important to take notice that Paul does not say, “Work for your own salvation.”

No.

Work out your own salvation.

The word Paul used here for “work out” meant to produce something for presentation.

Or as I would put it, to show off.

Paul is not insinuating in the least that our salvation is on the hinges of our works.

Instead, Paul is telling us that our salvation is something we ought to be working out of our lives.

Show off your salvation!

Gloat? No. But make it readily visible to those watching you.

The New Living Translation says it this way:

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation”

The Apostle Peter said himself,

“So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.” -2 Peter 1:10

Can you see our responsibility here?

We are not called to sit around like lumps on a log until Jesus returns.

Make your salvation presentable to the world so that all might be convicted by your life and come running to God.

We ought to do whatever it takes to show the world the amazing grace which we so freely possess.

“I cannot conceive that he who hath one spark of saving grace… could possibly be drawn to oppose or refuse such a work as this.” -Richard Baxter


2. Second, let us notice the means by which we are to carry out this responsibility

“…Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

Fear and trembling.

Fear?

Trembling?

You heard it right.

Those are some intense words, and I don’t believe Paul was exaggerating or using a figure of speech.

When I was in the sixth grade, I recall being so ridiculously nervous for an oral presentation that I would actually shake and tremble in my desk from my unsettled nerves.

I say, if a young man can tremble at the thought of an elementary oral presentation, how can we not tremble at the thought of presenting our salvation to the world?

We must have a deep reverence for the responsibility we have.

It’s called humility.

Souls are eternally at stake -should we not tremble at that thought?


3. Third, let us not forget the Benefactor who empowers us for this responsibility

“…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

It is GOD who works in you.

Whew.

Take a deep breath.

We have to immediately realize that we do not have the power to work out our own salvation unless God first works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure.

We work out what God works in. We burn off what God works in.

He is our great Benefactor.

Just as we are called to do good works, we also are told that they have been prepared beforehand by God that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

Just as we love God, we are also told that we love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

God is always the One working in us to do those things which work out of us.

Our responsibility is motivated by Him.


4. Lastly, let us learn what things are stake if this responsibility is not taken seriously.

In the first place, the unity of the church is at stake.

“Do all things without complaining or disputing.” (v.14)

Complaining is a clear sign of a Christian life that has become stagnant and has forgotten the beauty of their salvation.

Disputing, on a similar note, is a clear sign of division and disunity within the Church.

If we truly care for the health of the Church, we will take up our responsibility to work out our own salvation!

In the second place, the reputation of the church is at stake.

“…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation”

Our ability to carry out this responsibility in humility will determine the our reputation to the world around us. We are called to be “blameless” and “harmless” and “without fault”.

This is only possible through humility.

In the third place, the effective outreach of the church is at stake.

“…among whom you shine as lights in the world…”

Lights.

If we are the light of the world, as Jesus very well said Himself, our salvation is the illuminator. But if we will not work out our own salvation, what will be the state of our light? It will be as useless as a dead light bulb, and our outreach will be rendered ineffective.

Jesus said it this way,

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:13–16

In the last place, the devotion of the Church to God’s Word is at stake.

“… holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

Holding fast.

Grip hard the Word of God.

How many churches have lost a grip and compromised sound doctrine for pretty messages, only to leave their congregation entertained but never filled!

“Oh what aggravated misery is this, to perish in the midst of plenty! -to famish with the bread of life in our hands…” -Richard Baxter

Only by taking heed to our salvation will we faithfully hold fast to the Word of Life -the Gospel itself.


What does Paul mean by “Work out your own salvation”?

It turns out, He means a lot and implies even more still.

Are you working out your own salvation?

Greg Stone

Author: Greg Stone

Husband to my beautiful bride. Father of 3 wild boys. Pastor. Owner of ChampKid Design. All For His Glory. Living in Bend, Oregon.

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