WORKING OUT OUR SALVATION – Philippians 2:12-13
WORKING OUT OUR SALVATION
Read and pray through Philippians, chapter 2, specifically, Philippians 2:12-13.
Reflection | Previously, Paul has been encouraging the Philippians to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). He elaborated on this by teaching on unity, harmony, and, specifically, humility – all gifts of grace lived out through our yielding to the Holy Spirit. As an illustration of this distinctive lifestyle, Paul highlighted the witness and the example of Jesus, who, though he reigns over all things, came among us to serve – even to the point of sacrifice, “to death – even death on a cross!” (2:8).
In light of all this, Paul tells them (and us) to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12). Now let’s be careful as we read these words. Paul is not telling us we’ve got work to do in order to obtain OR to maintain our salvation. Despite the gospel of grace, too many of us continue to live as if we must produce and/or keep producing in order to remain “in” with God. We motivate ourselves out of fear rather than being motivated by the Lord’s forgiveness. We keep trying to prove ourselves to God instead of living out of the proof of God’s love for us in Christ.
But Paul doesn’t call us to work FOR our salvation. He invites us to work OUT our salvation.
The word for “work” used here means to work to full completion, like working out a math problem. Like a math problem, the answer to the problem is already fixed. We are not creating the answer. We are discovering, experiencing the right answer. In other words, we are to allow our salvation – the new life we have received in Christ – to come to practical expression through how we live. And much like a math problem where the answer is already fixed, we check our work along the way.
Paul directs us to do so “with fear and trembling.” At first glance, that may seem an unusual phrase to connect with the salvation granted by the grace of God. But if we dig a little deeper, what Paul is driving at is, first, the kind of awe and wonder that results any time when one realized he or she is being loved, but particularly when we grasp how much we are being loved by the Creator of the cosmos. Secondly, precisely because it is God who is loving us, we ought to quiver in worship like King David once did in Psalm 8 when he mused, “What is man that you are mindful of him?”
Before the scale of the adventure Paul invites us to experience – of working out our faith in Christ into our everyday living, we might be intimidated. After all, we are imperfect creatures. Often weak and inconsistent. Works in progress in working out our salvation. But thankfully Paul follows his challenge with this important reminder: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose” (v. 13). This invitation is also a promise. The God who loved us from the first is the One who continues to renew in us the guidance and the strength to be loved, changed, transformed, as well as equipped to love others, to dare great things, and to strive for all that is good.
Every human life has great potential. And God desires for us to realize our potential—that is why He came to be with and for us in Christ. Through who Jesus is, what he has done, we are invited not only to be loved and forgiven, but also to be empowered and changed. Paul directs us here to actualize this new, transformative relationship with God in Christ.
In answering this call, we are not working alone. Working out our salvation is not about us being, getting or doing better by ourselves. Through the Spirit, God energizes and empowers us, “to will and to act”—motivating change both in our thoughts and practices in order to bring us more into step with Jesus. In others words, the Gospel is not merely about people getting “saved,” it’s about how “saved” people live out this good news in and through their lives.
Consider & Discuss | Are you still working for your salvation in Christ? Is your daily life still driven by the conviction you haven’t done enough for God? Are you still haunted by your failures even as you embrace God’s forgiveness in Jesus?
What if you viewed your salvation, your relationship with Christ less as something you have to earn or justify and more like a crop in a field that, through the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit, you get to sow and reap? How would viewing your life in Christ as something you are invited to harvest in abundance change the way you think, speak, and act?
Prayer Focus | God of the Harvest, You are the One who has sown the seeds of our salvation in Christ. What do we have that is not first given by the work of Your hands? You call us not to labor for something but to work out what You have already prepared for us. Lead and empower us to work out and live into our salvation, our everlasting relationship with You, through Your Spirit and by Your grace and love. Give us the desire, the determination, and the will to love and serve others and commit ourselves to all that is good. Amen.