Summary: What does it mean to work out our salvation?
Sunday, April 7, 2002
I brought along a little object lesson this morning. However, it was not for its role as a yoyo. It is for the convenience of its shape to illustrate a pendulum.
In my fifteen years of ministry experience I gave observed that the church often swings back and forth on its views on different issues. For example, if our different sides of the pendulum represent the extremes of human responsibility and the sovereignty of God we can see how when one swings to one extreme or the other then we run into difficulty.
If we swing to the extreme of human responsibility one can reach a position which says that salvation depends on man. The ultimate conclusion ends up being that man must work for salvation.
If we swing to the opposite extreme, then we can remove man from the equation entirely. If God chooses then we don’t need to evangelize. God will get those people saved without us.
Now the temptation with this illustration is to say that we need to keep a balance somewhere in the middle. However, I want to suggest to you that this is the improper picture. You see we are still saying that there is an answer we can reason out somewhere in the middle along the continuum from one side to the other. The Bible doesn’t teach that however. The Bible tells us that both points are true and even though we can’t figure them out in with our finite mind, they are both equally true in the mind of God.
Today in the book of Philippians we come across one of the most dramatic examples of this tension in the New Testament.
One theologian wrote "Nowhere is the paradox of divine omnipotence and human freedom in the New Testament more strikingly formulated than in these verses."
1. Reminder of the context.
We have just come through the most theologically beautiful passage in the entire book - 2:5-11.
In that passage there are two actions described to Christ that are connected to the present context.
Humbled himself - back to verses 1-4 - the beautiful theological passage is all an illustration of the humility that we need to live in order to have the unity Paul calls for in 1-4.
Became obedient - looks ahead to verse 12. If Christ who is God in human form was obedient to the Father, then obedience is expected of us.
2. The human responsibility. Verse 12
a. Work it out - not figure it out, not work on it, not work at it
The salvation that God has worked in you, now work it out. Live it!
Put off the old man - put on the new man
Show your faith by your works.
Produce the fruit of the spirit.
Context - humility for unity also verse 14 - no arguing or complaining
B. Continue - this is an ongoing process
Eternal security versus perseverance of the saints.
C. Fear and trembling. - basis for assurance is the out working of your faith.
3. Divine sovereignty. Verse 13
a. God who works in you - even as we think it is all of us - it is God
- doesn’t that promote a fatalism - no a confidence - if it depended on me I wouldn’t have salvation - if God is working in me then good will be produced
b. Will and act - the extent
both the desire to work out our salvation and the ability to do so come directly from God.
We love because he first loved us.
Back to the pendulum.
We have fallen on times when working out our salvation has been neglected. We are glad to accept the free message of salvation.
But we need to hold both truths simultaneously.
I need to trust in God to who alone is able to give me the desire and the ability to serve him.
I also need to strive with everything in my being to possess the salvation that he has promised.