Wednesday, 10th April
READING: Philippians 2:12-15
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…
Many of us find it difficult and confusing when we read these words from Paul whom we consider to be the “apostle of grace”. For many, especially for those of us in the Evangelical fold the idea of working out your salvation brings up horror images of folk trying to save themselves through works.
For others the idea of having to do something about sin is apparently a meaningless exercise. There’s really nothing we can do about sin and salvation in our lives…It’s all up to God and our responsibility is simply to rest in his grace. Was it not Paul himself who said that cannot save ourselves?
It is true that Paul wrote in many of these letters that we are saved by grace through faith and not through anything we do (Ephesians 2:8). But note that Paul does not command the Philippians work “for” their salvation. The Greek word for the phrase “working out your salvation” is katergazesthe, which carries with it the notion of working to finish something, to bring something to completion.
When Paul calls on the Philippians to work out their salvation he is not saying anything different from what he wrote just a few words earlier in the same verse: 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 (Philippians 2:12).
Paul’s call on the Philippians to work out their salvation is nothing but a call to obedience which is a critical for the Christian life. Early in the same letter Paul writes…”For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…(Philippians 1:29-30). The Christian life is one of active participation that involves standing firm, striving and suffering for the gospel. We are not saved only to become the frozen chosen.
Paul also adds that they can work out their salvation because God is at work in them. God “energizers” them as he works both the willing and the working for his good pleasure. It is the Spirit of God that empowers his people to discern and desire to do God’s will. John Wesley said you can work because God works in you.
Lord help us to be more aware of your work in us, more aware of your holy nature, and more eager to grow in you by the myriad small decisions we make each day. Father help us to always seek You and Your strength that we may be able to work out our salvation with fear and trembling before You and shine Your light to our generation. Amen.
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