• RLIM, Japan


This series is the report of issues raised by a gentleman who vehemently expressed his hatred for the doctrine of eternal salvation or the teaching that, when God saves a person he is saved forever. In the previous series, I wrote about his untold confession, about his perception of unfairness in the doctrine of eternal salvation, about his inability to differentiate between salvation and spiritual growth.

In the part 3, we explained what "faith without works is dead" meant. Today we shall take another doctrinal confusion he expressed, "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling." In the book of Philippians 2: 12- 13, it is stated that: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

His understanding of the above scripture is that after we are saved, we are expected to work or do what is right to maintain our salvation and that if you don’t live right and commit sins, you shall lose your salvation and miss heaven. So to him, Jesus has offered us salvation and our role is to maintain it with right living. There is nothing wrong with living right, it is an act we strongly encourage all believers to manifest.

However, what we have to know is that the salvation offered to us by Christ is a perfect gift, a gift that does not need any maintenance on our part. The word of God in 1Peter 1:23 says, Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. Now that is an evidence of how imperishable our salvation is. Born of an imperishable seed.

It is an evidence that even before our good deeds come in, we already have a salvation that is imperishable, a salvation that nothing can corrupt. That is the nature of our salvation. We do not need good deeds to maintain it, it is already embedded with all it takes for it to remain pure and undefiled, and that is why it is described as imperishable or incorruptible in other versions.

And that is not to say because our salvation does not need maintenance with good deeds, it is therefore not necessary to do good deeds. No. We are to manifest good deeds but we must do good deeds simply because it is the right thing to do and also because it shows our maturity in Christ.

If Christ offered man a gift of salvation that needed maintenance via our conduct, I assure you, none of us will be able to maintain his salvation, because no man is perfect in his conduct. That will imply that the moment you mess up, you lose your salvation since we link the maintenance of our salvation with conduct. Admittedly, if that is how it is, it will be impossible to maintain it.

Now let's consider our reference bible text. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

His obvious error in his explanation was saying what the bible never said and ignoring the context of the passage. The bible text never said WORK FOR your salvation, it said WORK OUT your salvation. They are not the same. To work for something is different from to work out something. To work for something connotes the idea that you do not have the thing in the first place and so you work till you get that thing.

No man can work for his salvation. Salvation is the work of Christ. We only received what he worked for us by faith in the gospel of Christ.

We were dead in sin and out of God’s love, Jesus took our sin, died on the cross all by himself and rose again for our salvation. Man had no contribution to the salvation work that was done. Our only part is to accept the salvation made available to us all.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Let us now look at the context in Philippians 2 from verse 12 to 13: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:14-15 "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” From this brief text, the meaning of working out your own salvation is clear. It is talking about obedience, it's about not murmuring and disputing, it is about shining as light in this world in the midst of crooked and perverse nation.

It went on to say that it is God who works in you to will and to do of his good pleasure. Therefore, the issue of working out your salvation in this context is not about doing something to obtain eternal life or going to heaven. No. It is about bringing out or showing forth good virtues as a believer, being a light in a dark world where evil abounds, it is acting right in the midst of challenges or persecution.

This verse is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5: 16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The word salvation does not always mean eternal life or going to heaven. The context it is used defines the word. Apostle Paul used the word salvation in different contexts.

Philippians 1: 19 "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ". Here salvation was used to mean deliverance from trouble and not eternal life or going to heaven.

Working out your salvation is making your light shine before men. This light in you is the work of God, that is why it went on to say that, it is God who works in you to will and do of his pleasure.

“Fear and trembling” here does not mean an attitude of insecurity or fear of something negative. It is talking about reverence. Let’s see where such figure of speech was used by the apostle Paul. 2Corinthians 2: 15 "And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him".

Ephesians 6: 5 "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Fear and trembling as a figure of speech often used by Paul always mean reverence.

Working out your salvation with fear and trembling will therefore mean showing forth the fruit of your salvation or bringing out good virtues as a believer, making your light shine, out of much reverence for God, knowing that it is God who gives you the strength to will and do according to his pleasure.

Nowhere in the new covenant was the believer asked to work to complete or complement the work of salvation or eternal life Jesus offered. Salvation or eternal life is fully the work of the saviour not the saved.

# Disseminating the truth

# Bringing freedom

# Perfecting the saints

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