Working From God’s Power, Not For It
Written by Micah Maddox (First 5 Ministries)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
There are some people in our lives whose actions shine with great brilliance. Their work for God and others leaves a mark on those around them. Maybe you can think of someone in your life whose passion for God truly makes a difference in the world around them.
This is the kind of “work” Paul spoke of in Philippians 2:12. It’s the practice of knowing what God’s Word says and living it out. Working out our own salvation isn’t about earning our way to be saved to an eternal destination; it’s about living from the salvation we already have through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 2:24)
We can look at verses like today’s reading and come to untrue conclusions if we only read them at a surface level. But if we dig deeper, we find in God’s Word that salvation does not require any other work than the work Jesus did on the cross. The “work” Paul spurs the church toward here, is a reminder that no matter if Paul is present or not, followers of Jesus should continue to actively pursue obedience to God alone.
This obedience isn’t in order to gain God’s approval, it’s to give God glory for the approval He has already gifted through Jesus. This is the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we accept the free gift of salvation, (Romans 5:8; 6:23) we express our salvation through our actions. We love God so much that we choose to follow Him, listen to Him and obey Him, no matter what the culture around us says, because of what He has done in our hearts. It’s the fruit of the root of salvation.
The promise of God doing the work in us is found in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you” (emphasis added). This gives followers of Christ a reality check that our work is not dependent on us or because of us. It always begins and ends for and because of God Himself. In Philippians 1:6 we are reminded that God is the one who begins the work and completes the work in us. When you see this kind of work being done in a friend’s life, or experience it for yourself, you know it is because of the work of God.
This is why some Christians seem to really be in tune with God. They are actively pursuing practical Christianity by simply choosing obedience to God and allowing God to work in and through them.
Our obedience to God is not going to get us to heaven, it’s the fruit we live out because we are headed to heaven. Paul calls it “spiritual worship” in Romans 12:1. It’s the service we know we should do, but we sometimes need a reminder to do. We don’t work for our salvation, but rather from it.