Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose. – Philippians 2: 12-13
If we are saved by Christ’s blood, what does it mean when it’s said “work out your salvation”? Is God’s grace not enough to save me? Do I still need to do something to be saved? Paul tells Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. His statement has a deep meaning. It is something that we need to take note of and put into practice. It is not a light statement!
God’s word often tells us not to fear, not to worry and not to be anxious. But Paul tells his fellowmen to fear and tremble! Most of the time, we worry about the things that only God can handle and vice versa. We are supposed to be worried about our own actions and deeds. What are we doing, saying and thinking?
Our righteous works are like filthy rags
It tells us clearly that we cannot earn our own salvation through our good works. It is Christ who saves.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. – Isaiah 64:6
Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags! Then what really do we need to do to work out our salvation? Christ has done His job – He came, He lived, He died and rose again. And according to God’s promise in John 3:16, anyone who believes in the name of Jesus is saved.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
So what is it to work out one’s salvation?
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. – Philippians 2: 14-16
Hold firmly to the word of God
What is it to hold the word of God firmly?
Obedience, of course. Doing what the word tells you is the basic step towards salvation. Rest everything falls into place. Now the question arises, what does the word tells you? There are so many commands given by God. Open the word of God and prepare a checklist, or you can simply follow the command that takes care of the rest – to love one another just like Christ loved the world. Sounds difficult, right? We can’t love that stupid colleague at work, that irritating relative and so on.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
It’s interesting – Let’s just think about it for a minute – if we love one another how things would be around us? Would you steal, murder, rape or molest if you knew love?
Love in action
Loving is not a passive word. It’s an active word. To love is to care for a person – his or her well-being, emotions, state of mind, health, mental peace and happiness. If you really loved a person, you would take care and not say anything to hurt him or her. If you loved a person, you will not ruin his or her reputation by gossiping or twisting his/her words. To love means to purposely think purely about people around us – to encourage them about all the good things, share in their joys, not to harm them in any manner, not to do anything that could hurt them physically, mentally or emotionally.
Loving one another is not just about helping on occasions or lending money in need. Christ-like love has to be compassionate to begin with, and then gentle, faithful, forgiving and pure. It is easier to love people around us if we look at Christ and try to imitate Him.
Christ never gossiped, ridiculed, envied or abused anybody. He never played favourites. He did not treat people according to their status in the society or how one appeared. He was ready to befriend anybody with a pure heart.
Faith followed by obedience
So what does working out one’s salvation mean? Believing in the name of Jesus is the first step. Next is to follow Him. You wouldn’t just believe in any name unless you agree. It’s only through faith and agreement with Christ that we believe in Him. If we didn’t consider Him God’s Son, we wouldn’t believe in Him either. We know deep down in our hearts that Christ is truthful. We know that He is sinless, thus, we believe in whatever He’s said in His word.
So if we believe in Christ, why wouldn’t we do as He says?
Each one of us has to work out our own salvation – we have to live according to the word. We have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling – we need to be careful that we don’t get carried away in our worldly ways. We need to be firm. We need to be conscious about displaying Christ’s love through our talks, words, choices, behaviour and attitude. Even if everybody is lying, we have to be honest. Even if it is the world’s way to crack obscene jokes, to abuse, to ridicule, to criticize, to manipulate and to pull somebody down, we have to be firm and not follow the world’s ways because Christ did not teach us to do so.
How do you interpret ‘working out one’s salvation’?