Work Out Your Salvation (Philippians 2) – Part 2
April 30, 2012, 11:02 am
Filed under: Lordship Salvation

by David Bishop

Philippians 2:12-16  Therefore, my beloved, 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.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Christ obeyed His Father perfectly by dying on a cross.   By this perfect obedience unto death, He satisfied not only the law’s demand for His people’s death, but also the law’s demand for their obedience.   It is paramount I understand this, for apart from this truth, I will find myself like the Galatians, staring at the tip of my nose rather than at the Christ who was crucified for His people. 

Christ not only satisfied the law’s demand for my death, He also satisfied the law’s demand for my obedience.  Christ earned a righteous standing with God by obeying God perfectly.  This is the only righteousness God will accept, because it comes as a result of perfect obedience.   Christ merited this righteous standing.  He merited it by His perfect obedience.

When God imputes this righteousness that Christ earned to a member of His elect, He is imputing a righteousness that Christ earned by perfect obedience.  It would be a slap in God’s face then, to argue that this righteousness is not only that which Christ alone merited, but also that I too merit.  Such an argument defeats the premise!  It accuses God of lying either by declaring that Christ’s obedience was not so perfect as to alone merit the righteousness, or that the righteousness which Christ did merit is not enough by itself to save.

It is only in the light of this truth that I can understand what Paul meant by “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Work out your salvation begins with gospel certainty.  In other words, I am certain that I am Heaven’s based solely upon what Christ accomplished for His people.  Only when I am certain I am Heaven’s can my sacrifices to God then be considered Heavenly.   Otherwise, if I am not certain I am Heaven’s, than I will inevitably look to the tip of my nose for assurance.   Work out my salvation does not mean that I sweat to achieve what I hope will one day be mine.  Rather, work out my salvation means I give my salvation a work out.

While the Greek word “katergazomai” does indicate the production of something, as in a cow producing milk, Paul’s use of the word does not advocate a works-salvation or a works-evidence definition.  How could it, when he so clearly spells out in chapter 3 that Christians put no confidence in the flesh?!

In the light of the gospel message communicated in Scripture, work out your salvation is to be understood in somewhat a similar sense that a body builder or power lifter understands muscle; the difference being however, that a body builder exercises his muscles in order to build more muscle, whereas a Christian exercise a salvation that has been fully accomplished for him and now only awaits the day of Christ’s return in order to be realized in the flesh.

As a body builder throws himself into a strenuous, iron-pumping workout, so also a saved person is to throw himself into striving alongside his brothers for unity and peace.   That is, he is to give his salvation a work out while placing no confidence in the flesh.  Salvation is not found in the tip of my nose!  It is found only in the cross of Christ!

Paul’s message is clear; put your salvation into production.  Give your salvation a work out.  In other words, bring your behavior to agree with what Christ has accomplished for you by His grace alone; keeping in mind that the behavior and the effort, or lack thereof, proves nothing.

Philippians 1:27-28  “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see your 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, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.  This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

Reading this epistle, I get the impression pretty quickly that the Philippian believers were not of one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Instead, they were striving independently of one another for the faith of the gospel.  Ironic, I know, but there it is.  Some were preaching Christ sincerely, while others were preaching from jealousy, hoping to outdo their brethren with bigger crowds, and a greater number of converts and disciples.  Most were frightened by the Roman opposition, and most were certain Paul would soon be executed.   Few were standing firm in one spirit, while most were grumblers, questioning the sincerity of the others.

It was to these people, these believers who understood and agreed that Christ had accomplished their salvation that Paul said, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will – Ephesians 1:5

Fear not little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom – Luke 12:32

Christ is God’s good pleasure!  And by extension, all those who are in Christ by election and righteousness are God’s good pleasure.  Unlike the unrighteous, their sacrifices are pleasing to God precisely because their sacrifices are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

When He said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law) then He added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.”   He does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:8-10

There is only One in whose righteousness He delights, and that One is Christ Jesus.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand – Isaiah 53:10

God is pleased with Christ’s sacrifice of His body on the cross.  God purposed it, God accomplished it, and God is pleased with it.   Any other sacrifice that attempts to finish what God has already accomplished in Christ alone at the cross for His people is an affront to God, and He is not pleased with it.  God takes no pleasure in sacrifices offered apart from faith alone in Christ alone, nor do His people take pleasure in offering sacrifices to Him apart from faith alone in Christ alone.   Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. 

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:16

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