Work Out Your Salvation

...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 fulfill his good purpose. Phil. 2:12b-13

From Guest Blogger Jim Wiebel:

Work out your own salvation doesn’t mean “by your own effort,” as some have interpreted it. Paul’s saying, “Now that I am no longer present with you, you don't need to rely on my insights and counsel. Begin to walk without my assistance, for you have God’s Spirit at work in you, and that’s all you need!” In other words, stop leaning on me. Start applying these things yourselves. This is a necessary stage in Christian growth.

I recall teaching my youngest son how to drive. He had a learner's permit that required that I be with him in the front seat of the car. As we were driving, he’d sometimes give me a questioning look as a driver pulled out in the road or something developed ahead of us. Then I'd say to do this or that. He was relying on me. But the time would come when I moved out of the front seat and in faith committed him to what he had learned. From then on, he had to “work out his own salvation with fear and trembling,” even with me right there with him in the back seat!

Now “salvation” here doesn’t mean settling our eternal destiny, as we frequently find it used in the scriptures. A better translation would be the word “solution.” Work out your own solution, because what Paul has in mind here is working through the problems and trials and difficulties presented in ordinary daily life. He’s saying, use your mind and your will in solving your problems, in the confident expectation that in doing so, God is also at work in you to conform it all to both his will and his good pleasure. That’s a marvelous statement of the Christian's experience of being led by God.

But we’re not robots, simply responding to the pushing of buttons by the Spirit within. It's true we have another life within: God's life — Christ living within us! But our lives, hearts and wills are involved in this too. It’s true that we’ll never be saved apart from him. But it’s also true that he’ll never save us apart from ourselves. We do the living and the choosing and the acting, but we know a secret — that all along it’s he who’s living, acting and choosing through us!

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for allowing me to be used by you to show others how you are working in me by the power of your Spirit to lead a life which pleases you. Amen.

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