21 September 2017

The ‘Ins and Outs’ of Our Salvation

Philippians 2:12-18

Mark Twain wrote, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” A good example can often be impressive but can also be very intimidating.

One of the most annoying things about a good example is our inability to accomplish the same pattern in our own lives. Admiration may impress us but it cannot enable us unless that exemplary person could enter into our lives and impart the very same qualities to us. It takes more than an example on the outside; it takes power on the inside.

In this chapter Paul presents the Lord Jesus as our great Example with His submissive will and selfless mind. We might wonder how we could ever be as selfless as Jesus was or ever hope to achieve what He achieved. It might even seem presumptuous to suggest that we dare to be like the Lord Jesus.

However, as we continue to read what Paul wrote we find that he was not asking for the impossible. Rather, having set before us the divine pattern for Christ’s submissive mind, he now presents the divine power and provision to accomplish what God has commanded. “It is God which worketh in you…” We do not accomplish His pattern by imitation, but by incarnation, “Christ living in me” (Gal. 2:20).

These verses give us important information about how we can live a joyful and victorious Christian life every day. We tend to think that the Christian life is a series of ups and downs, but the truth is that it is a process of “ins and outs” – God working in us and us working out what He has worked in us.

1. Here is a great possession we treasure (Phil. 2:12)

“Work out your own salvation…” This little phrase indicates the great possession of salvation.

(a) We received salvation. This makes it a very personal possession. When I was a young man I received Jesus Christ as Saviour. I had no idea how great this salvation was. I found out later that it takes care of my past, my present and my future. It is so great it will take all eternity for God to unfold it to us.

(b) God conceived salvation. Salvation did not begin with us. Psalm 96:2 “Show forth His salvation from day to day…” When Jonah was down in the belly of the great fish he declared, “Salvation is of the Lord.” God the Father planned salvation in eternity. On Calvary’s cross salvation was procured and paid for in full in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit God now makes salvation real in our hearts.

2. Here is a great purpose to achieve (Phil. 2:12, 14-16)

“Work out your own salvation” This does not suggest that we work for our own salvation. Paul was writing to the “saints” (Phil. 1:1). They had already trusted Christ and had been set apart by Him and for Him. We cannot earn salvation. Salvation is a free gift.

At the same time, we cannot work something out until it has been first worked in. Paul wrote, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you…” (Phil. 1:6). God began the good work in you. The Bible says it is our responsibility to work it out.

(a) The activity of working out our salvation. “Work out” carries the meaning of “work to full completion”. In Paul’s day this term was used for “working a mine,” – getting out of the mine all the valuable ore possible; or “working a field” so as to get the greatest harvest possible.

God’s purpose for us is Christ-likeness, “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” There may be problems in life, but God will help us to work them out. Like the latent treasure in a mine, so there is tremendous potential in our lives and God wants us to fulfill that potential.

The phrase “work out your own salvation” probably may have reference to the particular problems in the church at Philippi; but it also applies to the individual Christian in all circumstances.

(b) The attitude of working out our salvation. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This does not suggest being afraid of God. We are closer to the true meaning when we say ‘the reverence of the Lord.’ We do need to reverence the Lord. In the Tabernacle there was an atmosphere and attitude of reverence for the Lord for He is holy. We should not be flippant in our language about God or attitude to the things of God.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (2:14). Murmuring describes a bad attitude, expresses itself in constant grumbling. “Disputing” was a legal term and may refer to these Christians taking each other to civil courts. Complaining and arguing are completely opposite to Christ’s attitude, which believers are to emulate. Rather, like our Saviour we are to be fearful, joyful and faithful.

(c) The ambience of working out our salvation. God’s purpose can be achieved in us “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Paul contrasted the life of the believer with the lives of those who live in the world. People around us may be “twisted and distorted,” but the Christian should stand straight because he measures his life by the perfect standard of God’s Word. The world is dark, but Christians shine as bright lights. The world is empty, but the Christian holds out the Word of life. Luminous living is reflected light like the moon to the sun.

3. Here is a great power to receive (Phil. 2:13)

God never does work through us until He works in us. There are three works of God in relationship to the believer. God’s work for us provides salvation. God’s work through us results in service. God’s work in us is sanctification.

God works in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The word translated “worketh” suggests energy. God’s divine energy is at work in us and through us! The same Holy Spirit who empowered Christ while He ministered on earth empowers the believer. The energy of the flesh and of the devil is also at work against us, but greater is He who is in us. Because of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, God’s divine energy is available to us.

(a) God works in us through His Word. “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).

God’s divine energy is released in our lives through His inspired Word. The same Word that spoke the universe into being can release divine power in our lives. These Thessalonians not only appreciated the Word, they also appropriated the Word – “they received it.” God’s truth is to the spiritual man what food is to the physical man.

(b) God works in us through Prayer. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). Prayer is a divinely ordained source of spiritual power. According to Acts 6:4 the Word of God and prayer go together.

4. Here is a great promise to believe (Phil. 2:16-18)

Joy comes from submission. The world’s philosophy is that joy comes from aggression: fight everybody to get what you want. The example of Jesus was different. He never used a sword or any other weapon; yet He won the greatest battle in history. He defeated hatred by manifesting love; He overcame lies with truth and by surrender He was victorious. We must dare to believe His promise, “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

There is a twofold joy that comes to the person who submits to the Saviour: joy here and joy hereafter – “rejoice in the day of Christ” (v.16). God will reward those who have been faithful to Him. Therefore, we are to shine for Him in a dark world, serve Him in a crooked world and sacrifice for Him in a selfish world.

Victor Maxwell