Work Out Your Own Salvation

Work Out Your Own Salvation

I.  Introduction

Our passage for today is:

Phil. 2:12  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,

Not only can we save ourselves, we must!  No one can do it for us. To illustrate this point, think about the trapped miners who were recently rescued in Chili several years ago.

After part of the mine collapsed, 33 miners were trapped at around 2300 feet down.  To give you an idea of how deep that is, the tallest building in America, the Sears Tower, is about 1450 feet tall.  So they were another 900 feet deeper than that building is tall. Way down there. No way out. No way to save themselves.  Totally dependent on help from above.

But they had things they had to do.  First, they had to stay alive. Then they had to cooperate with the rescuers, remove rocks, and receive materials constantly.  And finally, they had to climb, one at a time, into a custom made capsule to be lifted to the surface. If they had failed to do any of these, the work from above would not have helped them.

The people above could drill and lower the capsule, but they couldn’t force the miners to get into it.  The miners had to save themselves by following the instructions they were given.

Today, mankind is trapped in a cave.  Buried by miles of the rubble of sin. No light, no way out.  But God has pierced the darkness and provided us a way out. But we have to follow his instructions.  This doesn’t mean that we have merited salvation, or that we have somehow found a way to do it on our own.  But we do have an individual responsibility to act by faith and take advantage of God’s grace and mercy that he is extending us.  

As we examine this passage today, I want to emphasize the personal responsibility each of us has regarding our salvation:

  • Find the truth

  • Respond to the truth

  • Remain in the truth

II.  Find the truth

Each of us has the responsibility to find the truth.  This is a tough one, because there is so much ignorance in the world.  There is so much false teaching.

  • Kids in school are taught a worldview where everything can be explained without God.

  • When it comes to God, the world is covered in false religions.  

  • We are surrounded by false and twisted views of Christianity.

What about all the people out there who were brought up being taught something false?  How can they know the truth?

These are hard things to think about, but the fact is each of us has an individual responsibility to find the truth.  And Jesus promises that it can be found:

Matt. 7:7-8  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

But notice that in order to find the truth, you have to ask, seek, and knock.  You have to go looking. Each of us.

Jer. 29:13  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

And David told his son, Solomon:

1 Chron. 28:9  And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

This may take some effort.  It might not be easy. But we can do it.  Consider the example of the queen of Sheba:

Matt. 12:42   The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Now, for many of us, we were blessed beyond description by being raised in a home where we were taught the truth from childhood.  We should thank God every day for this blessing.

We’ve probably all daydreamed about being born into a royal family.  Or an extremely wealthy family. But nothing compares to the benefits of being born into a Christian family.

However, that doesn’t mean that we still do not have a personal responsibility.  At some point, our faith must become our own. The Samaritan villagers in John 4 are a good example of this:

John 4:39-42  Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."

We each have to come to that same point in our faith where we can say, “It is no longer because of what you said.”  

III.  Respond to the truth

Once we find the truth, we each have to decide how we will respond to it.  No one can believe for you.

John 1:12  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Regardless of the evidence, everyone will have to decide whether they believe or not.  With the truth staring them in the face, many people still rejected him, as the case of Lazarus’ resurrection shows.  

John 11:43-47  When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.

The same thing is true today.  The truth is here. The evidence is here for everyone to see.  We must decide, each of us, whether we will believe or not. And not just believe, but whether we will obey and be saved.

Acts 2:38-39  And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

And in the next verse he shows the individual responsibility we all have when we hear the truth:

Acts 2:40  And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."

Not everyone there responded to Peter’s pleas.  

Acts 2:41  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

3000 sounds like a lot, but we don’t know how large the whole crowd was.  Probably much larger. Regardless, it was only those who received the word who were saved.

IV.  Remain in the truth

There is more to being saved than simply being baptized.  Being saved requires a lifelong dedication. That is really what Paul seems to be speaking about in our passage today.  Continuing obedience:

Phil. 2:12  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,

This is something we must all do.  We can encourage each other and hold each other accountable, but I can’t obey for you and you can’t obey for me.  We all have to work out our salvation by continuing in the faith.

A.  Work

A big part of working out our salvation is “working.”   Abounding in the work of the Lord. We have to keep on keeping on.

Gal. 6:9  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

In some ways, being a Christian is a team effort.  We as a church work together, worship together, edify and admonish each other, etc.  But when it comes to judgment, we will be judged by our individual actions:

Rom. 14:10-12  Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Like the parable of the talents shows, each man was judged based on his own efforts.  That’s why we have to all keep working and not give up or grown weary.

B.  With fear and trembling

Phil. 2:12  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,

This is an interesting statement.  Why should we have fear and trembling?  I suggest it is because we realize what is at stake.  What happens if we do not continue to obey? What happens if we do grow weary and give up?  

Heb. 4:1  Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

When we consider eternity, the seriousness of our commitment to Christ and the danger of falling away becomes clear.  Even someone like Paul recognized the possibility of being disqualified:

1 Cor. 9:24-27  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to other I myself should be disqualified.

Paul is saying he works out to maintain discipline.  We, too, must never become complacent or overly-confident in our salvation.  Yes, you’ve been saved.  But you can still be lost.  

Now here’s the challenging part.  Does this fear and trembling mean that we cannot be assured of our salvation?  Not at all. Listen to what Paul says:

Rom 8:38-39  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So how do we make sense of this?  How do we have comfort and yet fear and trembling at the same time?  

I’m not sure I completely understand it, but I think the key may be in where we put our trust.  Paul recognized weakness in himself, but not in God.

2 Tim. 1:12  which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

And back in our original passage, notice what the next verse says:

Phil. 2:13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We’re not in this alone.  God is working in us. We don’t have to fear that God will let down his end.  All we have to do keep working on our end. 

Bottom line, Paul is saying that God will accomplish his purpose as long as we don’t quit.  And if we recognize that it is God who is working in us, then we will see that there is nothing we can boast about.  We are simply being what God wants us to be, and the glory goes to him, not us.

V.  Conclusion

Like those miners, the means of our salvation has been made available to us.  We just have to follow instructions.

As we stated earlier, one day every one of us will answer for ourselves:

2 Cor. 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

At that day, it won’t matter what our spouse did, or our parents or children.  It will matter what we have done.

Have you found the truth?  It’s out there. Have you responded to it?  Are you working out your salvation?



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