A Work of Salvation

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

There has been confusion over the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in the matter of salvation and sanctification. There are those who say that our salvation is by the sovereignty of God. Salvation comes by His grace and excludes any human responsibility.  It is Jesus who saves and we those who are saved have only God to thank. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (John 6:37) Others have stressed human responsivity to the point of excluding divine sovereignty. It is man who must believe and if they remain un-saved they have only themselves to blame. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) It is by God’s grace that we are called and it is by our faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Our growth in salvation is not a passive experience. We are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) The Work of sanctification is the work of the Spirit. It is not a work that we can do of our own. But we must believe and walk in faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and obey His lead. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Galatians 5:16-17)

Placing this text in its context we seen that is a conclusion to that which precedes. The text begins with “so then,” which is a phrase that calls for a summation. Starting in the last chapter at verse 27 Paul has been talking about life in Christ and living in a way that is worthy of our calling. Neither is Paul speaking to an individual but to the Church at Philippi telling them as a Church they should live in the example of Christ’s humility. They are to work together in the practical implications of their salvation in their relationship with one another. It is the power of God in His Holy Spirit that He is able to work with them in their midst. They must lay aside their personal desires and work together in humility and serve one another. By doing this they will be lights of truth in a dark and selfish world. “So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

The Church of Jesus Christ cannot be an effective witness to the world if in itself cannot get along with one another. A Church in opposition to itself can only expect the world to laugh off any message that it has in regards to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Setting aside their own personal wants and showing concern for each other above themselves is more important than advancing their own personal desires. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Ephesians 2:3)

Paul’s message here is that as a Church we need to work together to work out the practical implications of our salvation as God Himself is working in our midst. There are four points that we need to understand in order to do this good work. We must possess salvation before we can work it out. Salvation is the work of God. Even so it requires a diligent effort on our part. Salvation has practical relational implications.

Because of the wage of sin anyone living without a faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior is perishing. Jesus is the vision that each person needs to reach eternal life. Without that vision that person will suffer the second death, separation from God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” (Provers 29:18 KJV) Those in this world who do not recognize Jesus as their Savior are in a hopeless state of death. God in His love knew this from the fall of man in the Garden of Eden and sent His Son to pay the worlds wage for sin. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Salvation does not mean a happier life here in this world but that we have been transferred from the kingdom of Satan’s domain to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son Jesus. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

We have to remember that Paul was writing to the Church who were people who had already begun the good work of their salvation. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Salvation is not something that we can earn by our good works, as it is the free gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) We receive our salvation through our faith in Jesus Christ and by allowing Him to live through us. There are two truths that we must keep in mind about our salvation. Salvation is God’s work from start to finish and it also requires a diligent effort on our part.

The Church at Philippi needed to work out their own salvation because God was at work among them, “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” That sounds contradictory but the Bible puts both these together.

We are not saved because we choose God but because He willed that we were to be saved. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) It is God who wills us to be saved for His own purposes. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” (James 1:18) Sinful man by himself will choose to go his own way. Salvation depends on God’s will and drawing by His grace according to His good purpose.

Salvation is not established by any human effort. It is the work of God who in His power imparts spiritual life to those who are dead in their sins. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (Ephesians 2:1-5) As a result of the will of God the repentant sinner has become a new creation. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Not only from the beginning but throughout the whole of salvation it is the work of God. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We cannot life the Christian life in our own strength and effort. Our Christian life is a daily walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation from beginning to finish is the work of God.

Here is where it might sound a little confusing. In the natural state of man he is dead in his sins, he is held in bondage to his sins and there is no way to escape. Yet we are called to be saved and we are called to tell others of God’s free gift of salvation. The question becomes how can we exhort someone to be saved when they can’t by their own effort or will? Let us think about this verse. “Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” (John 5:8) This man had been unable to get up and walk for 38 years. If you had been bedridden for that amount of time who many times do you think you would have tried to get up? Yet a man named Jesus comes along and tells you to get up and walk. You could have said I have tried many times and cannot do it and remained unable to walk. But Jesus empowered you to get up and walk if you would only obey His command. The man in the illustration did obey and he got up and walked.

If we hear the call of God in our spirit and have doubt, then you will remain lost. We all must have a desperate concern for their eternal well-being. If we feel the call in our spirit then we must be diligent to obey that call. “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:10) Do not allow doubt to rob you of an eternal home in the Kingdom of Heaven. Where did that voice come from, where could it have come from, it must be God calling you. “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen.” (Matthew 21:21) If you are uncertain about your standing before God, then give no rest to your soul until you know that God has saved you.

Jesus is our refuge and if we are outside of Him then God’s wrath will surely come and we will suffer the wage of our sins. God has provided His Son as our refuge from the wages of sin and if you have not already sought Him as your refuge right now is the acceptable hour of your salvation. “For He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) In that way coming to salvation requires our diligent effort.

A continuance in growth towards or salvation also requires our effort. We must always strive against sin. “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4) Paul wrote to Timothy that he must fight the good fight. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) And Paul ran the race that he might win the prize. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (2 Corinthians 9:24) Our text says with fear and trembling which means a reverent feat of God and an awareness of our propensity towards sin. We each are responsible to work out the implications of our salvation each day. We are to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and His power and not on the flesh but we must work as Paul says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

It is Paus main point that we are truly saved by God working in us. Then our obligation is then to work out our relational differences by following Christ example. Christ example of self-denying love. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) We then should learn to die to self and live for others for the sake of Jesus. We must learn to live together in a Christ like mindedness in humility and love.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 8, 2016

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