Summary: When it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship with God - We Do Something and God Does Something.
TITLE: THE PARADOX OF GRACE
SCRIPTURE: PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13
No two verses in the Bible have been discussed and debated more than these together. Throughout Christian history, these two verses, this passage, has provided comfort and affliction to numerous Bible readers. Among the many biblical scholars, theologians and church leaders who have struggled with the passage and commented on it are -
• St. Augustine
• Martin Luther
• John Wesley
• Jonathan Edwards
• Dietrich Bonhoeffer
• Scottish theologian Donald M. Baillie
Some would suggest the whole Gospel is expressed in these two verses—in a nutshell. But for many Christians it has been and remains a tough nut to crack. That’s because of its Paradoxical Nature—two truths that seem to conflict with each other and yet are inseparable. Here’s the Paradox of this passage:
• Salvation is both Gift and Task
Probably no truth of the New Testament is as difficult to grasp as this.
• It seems Contradictory
• On the one hand, Salvation is all of God, a sheer gift that cannot be earned
• On the other hand, Salvation is something we work at, we have a role to play in it
We spend so much time in our Preaching and throwing out this particular scripture – work out your own salvation.
• We Shout
• We say Amen
• We stand on our feet
• Ultimately have no idea what the Scripture texts means or what it suggests
Throughout Christian history, and still today, this Paradox has given rise to two opposite and equally mistaken interpretations. The pendulum swings between two extremes. Some people think of Christianity as just a personal belief system. People are comfortable with this as long as our personal belief system doesn't affect how we relate to other people. This is especially true in politics. It is OK to be religious as long as you don't bring your religious values into your position. Of course, the problem is this is impossible.
• Our personal belief system always affects what we do
• This is especially true of Christianity
• The Christian faith is meant to be intensely practical
• It is meant to impact the way we live
It does not make sense to be Saved and nothing changes in our life, but we are Saved though. When one becomes a Christian, things change. We need to get on board with God. The salvation experience demands change - permanent change. Our will must give way to God’s will. With God’s help, we are required to adopt the kind of change that affects our lifestyle and attitude. Our behavior must be different and aligned with God’s direction for our lives. It is not enough just to broadcast that we are now Saved.
• It should show up in your Walk
• It should show up in your Talk
• It should show up in your Thought
How silly it is that some believe since they are saved by Grace, they can continue to sin without consequence since Jesus paid the price for their sins. The salvation experience requires a new allegiance, a change of heart. We are no longer “Slaves” to sin. God is now our Master – Leader – Guide - and we must obey Him.
• We have been set free from the stronghold of sin
• Old ways of behavior give way to new behaviors
• We will want to do what is right
• This is the kind of change that affects the whole person, both Outward and Inward
• The change is obvious
• Others see it
• God Honors it
Salvation is extended by a free act of God's Grace. We did not and cannot do anything to earn it. But, once we are saved, the new life that Christ plants in us should result in a new way of living. We have said it many times before. The unchanged Christian is a contradiction in terms.
• If a person is unchanged they are not a Christian
• If they are a Christian they are in the process of changing
• There will be times of rapid growth
• There will be times of apparent standstill
• But over the course of the years real change will be evident
So, the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians to "Work Out Their Salvation." Now be careful as you read these words. He is not telling us to work for our salvation. It is so important that you hear these words. We are surrounded by people who are working for their salvation.
• They are trying to earn enough points to get in
• They are like the student who is working hard to be accepted to a college, or to gain a scholarship
• They are like the salesman who is trying to meet a particular sales quota