Read Text, Phil. 2:12,13. To many people salvation seems a one time event in which they have little or no role. Non Scriptural doctrines such as Calvinism and "Once saved always saved" only add to the confusion about what is required of the believer concerning spiritual growth. Worst case scenario is that such doctrines can create an excuse for sin and an abuse of God's grace.
The church at Philippi was a good church. They had love for each other and God. They were generous in meeting the needs of Paul. They cared deeply for one another. However, it is obvious that Paul felt that they might be taking their spiritual growth lightly.
So after presenting Christ as their model for humility and service to God (Phil. 2:5-11), Paul encourages them to "work out their own salvation in fear and trembling." (v.12) When we see this statement there are two questions that we realize need answered. 1.) What is meant by this admonition, and 2.) How do we do this? This will be the focus of this lesson.
First, we need to understand that salvation is spoken of in the New Testament in three tenses: past, present and future. Literally each tense is indicative of a phase of our salvation.
Past tense speaks of the salvation event. This phase is often referred to as the point of our justification. This is the point at which God forgives us of our sins and we stand justified in the eyes of God. Mk. 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." is an example of referencing salvation in it's past tense.
Salvation as Paul speaks of here in Phil. 2:12 and in 1 Cor. 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." In both instances salvation is presented in present tense or still occurring in the life of the believer. This phase of salvation is commonly referred to as sanctification. The word means "to be set apart". At this phase we are becoming "set apart" for God's purposes and we are learning how to live a life pleasing to God. It is in this process that the Holy Spirit leads you and speaks to you through the Scriptures. It is the maturity process that God expects us to participate in.
It is in this process that new and better qualities are showing up in our lives. Peter in 2 Pe. 1: 5-11, speaks of these qualities that we must add to our lives. It is a serious business, this becomes more apparent when you read v.10, "Therefore brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will not stumble."
Then there is the future tense of our salvation; often referred to as our glorification. This is as Peter says in 1 Pe. 1:9, "receiving the end of your faith- the salvation of your souls." It's the day that our faith becomes sight. We have persevered and remained faithful until death. (Rev. 2:10) Another verse that speaks to this final reality of our salvation is found in Rom. 13:11.
So logically Paul cannot be speaking to the salvation event of the brethren in Phil. 2:12. They have already been saved through obedience to the Gospel. Obviously they are still in the flesh here on earth, so they cannot be in the future tense of their salvation either. So the current phase of salvation in which they are "working out their own salvation" or their sanctification is what Paul is speaking of. Knowing this, we now address our second question: "What must I do to assist in my sanctification?"
The good news is that God partners with us in this process. He has done His part to assist you. He has given you His Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) You received Him when you were baptized. He has also given you the Scriptures; this is what Peter speaks of in 2 Pe. 1:3,4, "as His Divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him, Who called us by glory and virtue, by which we have been given these exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may become partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." The Holy Spirit will lead you, He will speak to you through the Scriptures and He will also "enlighten the eyes of your understanding." (Eph. 1:18)
But you still have to do your part. You should pray that God might "incline your heart to Him." (1 Kgs. 8:58) You must study the Scriptures that you know how Christ wants you to live. You must make living for Christ your first priority. (Mt. 6:33) You must commit yourself to helping other members of the Church. (Gal. 6:2) You must strive to be an example; a light to the world, showing God's love to all those whom you come in contact with. (Mt. 5:14-16)
This is how you do it. There are no short cuts. This is how one becomes spiritually mature in Christ. In this process you will go from "believer" to "disciple" and then to "servant". It's what God desires for each of us. He has done His part. Will you do your part?
1. What are the three phases of salvation that one goes through?
2. Paul's statement "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" is an example of salvation in ______________________ tense.
3. Solomon in 1 Kgs. 8:58, asked God to _______________ our _____________ to Him.
4. When does the believer receive the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:38?
5. In 2 Pe. 1:3, "God has given us all things that ______________ to godliness and __________
6. What is the child of God's obligation to the world in 1Kgs. 8:60 and Mt. 5:14-16? (In your own words)