Summary: This message examines God's side and the believer's side of the sanctification process using Phil. 2:12-13. Without the grace of God operating in our hearts, all our efforts. . . .
TEXT: Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”1
I. IN THOSE TWO VERSES we have a CONDENSED STATEMENT OF HOW SANCTIFICATION WORKS.
A superficial reading of the text might leave us wondering if the two statements are contradictory. Do we work or does God work to bring about our sanctification? The answer to that question is yes—we work and God works. Without God’s work of grace our efforts would be completely futile. But God calls us to cooperate with Him, therefore we work toward His same goal of conforming us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). “It is God who works in you...” But we are told in this passage to work diligently in cooperation with Him.
There are three phases to your salvation: justification, sanctification, and glorification. The first phase was completed when you were born-again. Powerful, wonderful, eternal things were accomplished at that split second.2 You were regenerated or born-again. At that second you received a new nature. Your spirit was joined to the Holy Spirit and made perfect (1 Cor. 6:17). You were not only born into the family of God that day, but you were also adopted into the family of God. Paul refers to this new birth experience in Rom. 8:15-16: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” This new birth planted the divine seed of God in your inner-most being. In a moment’s time you were transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. In this first phase, you were also justified before the court of God. You were declared not guilty by virtue of your union with Christ. More than that, the filthy rags of your sins were exchanged for the righteousness of Christ. By the decree of heaven, you were given right standing before God. All of this comes as a gift, and it is all based on what Jesus did for you on the cross. The Bible goes to great lengths to make sure we understand that our justification before God is by grace alone, not of works lest any man should boast. In the early chapters of Romans Paul teaches this grace message. In Romans 5:1 he summarizes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A person comes into this gift of life by simply placing his faith in Christ and what Christ has done for him on the cross. God offers His mercy freely to anyone who will humbly receive it. Eph 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” It is essential that Christians understand how this comes as a gift of grace. That is the first phase of your salvation.
The second phase is often called sanctification. To sanctify is the Greek word hagiago. The noun, hagios, is usually translated holy or saint. That’s the word Peter uses in 1 Peter 1:15-16,
“but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written,
‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” Its root meaning is “to be set apart.”3 The sacred furniture in the temple
was sanctified or holy because it was set apart for that sacred purpose. God’s people are holy
because God has set them apart as His own. They are called saints (hagios) because they are set
apart from the world as His children. Every child of God is a saint because he has been set apart
unto God through the new birth. In the New Testament the word also indicates moral purity: 1
Pet. 1:16. “be holy in all your conduct.” The scholar, Leon Morris, wrote: “The essential idea in
sanctification is that of being set apart for God, but there is also the thought of character involved
in such separation.”4 So, sanctification has a fairly broad meaning.5 But for convenience we refer
to the second stage of salvation as sanctification. Our text today specifically addresses this stage
of our salvation.
The third and final phase is glorification which happens at the Resurrection of the Just. It
happens when we receive our glorified bodies and our salvation is made complete. Paul points to
this phase in Romans 8:22-25. “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with