Work, For God Works For You
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good intentions.( Philippians 2:12-13)
Work out your own salvation, such as God has meant it to be- a walk in all good works which God has prepared for you. (Ephesians 2:10) Study to know exactly what the salvation is God has prepared for you, all that He has meant and made it possible for you to be, and work it out in fear and trembling. Let the greatness of this Divine and most holy life, hidden in Christ, your own absolute impotence, and the terrible dangers and temptations besetting you, make you work in fear and trembling. And yet, that fear need never become unbelief, nor that trembling discouragement- for it is God which works in you.
Here is the secret of a power that is absolutely sufficient for everything we have to do, of a perfect assurance that we can do all that God really means us to do. God works in us both to will and to work.
First, to will. He gives the insight into what is to be done, the desire that makes the work pleasure, the firm purpose of the will that masters the whole being, and makes it ready and eager for action.
And then to work. He does not work to will, and then leave us unaided to work it out ourselves. The will may have seen and accepted the work, and yet the power be lacking to perform. The renewed will of Romans 7 delighted in God’s law and yet the man was impotent to do, until in Romans 8:2-4, by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, he was set free from the law of sin and death; then could the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in him, as one who walked not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
The idea of the concept of “work out your own salvation” has probably been one of the most misunderstood and misused phrases in the Bible. Usually it is quoted to justify a variation of Christian values and lifestyle as though God has left it up to the individual to determine Christian conduct. The meaning of the phrase does not give liberty for us to take on ourselves such authority. What Paul is saying is that salvation must work in each individual and God works in them and through them bringing to pass His will and desire for them. Each of us are unique and we all start from different places in life on our faith journey. Some begin as children long before they make devastating choices. Some begin later in life having lived a decent moral life. Some begin from the bottom and the pit of deep sin and despair. All of us must come to Calvary and in repentance bow before the Lord in humble surrender. No matter whether we have sinned great sins or whether we have lived a moral life, every human is lost in sin without Christ. The Bible is clear that we have all sinned.
As it is written and forever remains written, “ There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. “ There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God . “ All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one .”
So for each of us the work that is necessary for God to work in us is different from anyone else. That work is to form us into the image of Christ so that when we stand before Him He sees in us the reflection of Himself.
Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory].
1 John 3:2
Since this is the will of God revealed to us that we should be formed into the image of the Son, we work toward that goal in a sincere and heartfelt desire. We do not flippantly assume that the love of God and the grace of God permits us to live as we might choose. Instead we comprehend the seriousness of conforming ourselves to the image of Christ. We do not dare compare ourselves to others, only Christ is qualified to be the example. We dare not justify our conduct by comparing it to the conduct of others. The fallacy of unbelievers and even the church is this comparison of self to other humans and either to justify their reason fo not following Christ or to live in self-righteousness. The truth is that we who have received Christ are a work in process. Those who have not accepted Christ are still in their sins and whether or not they ever find a good model of Christianity, they will not be able to excuse themselves for not receiving Christ.
As believers we often see other believers who disappoint us in their conduct and yet we dare not compare our righteousness with theirs and especially as a means to excuse our own behavior.
When we see our own hearts in the light of scripture and in view of Christ, we find that we are often far short of what we ought to be. Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard we try to live for God, our old sin nature hinders all our effort. We cry out as Paul does in Romans, “Who shall deliver me from this condition?
It is in this understanding that we come to see that it is God who creates the desire to live holy and it is God who gives us power to do so. All our own righteousness is filthy rags and our best effort isn’t enough. So we come to the Lord and cast ourselves down before Him and He gently picks us up and begins to work in us. He sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and then He provided the means of forgiveness and transformation from us being sinners to becoming the children of God. He provided the faith for us to believe for salvation according to Ephesians 2:8-9.
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].
And God doesn’t save us and leave us to try to figure out how to live for Him. Instead He begins the work in us.
For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].
This working out of our salvation is nothing more than our submission and cooperation with the Holy Spirit as He convicts and works to conform us into the energy of Christ. It is the individual working of God in each life as He takes each vessel and molds it into the thing He has designed and desired it to become.
This work will never cease as long as we stay on the potter’s wheel until that day when God completes His work in us.
I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].
Dr. John Thompson