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Work out your salvation, for it is God who works in you…

July 21, 2006

I need to get writing a sermon for Sunday, so I figured I’d just post an old sermon excerpt today.  I’m posting my sermon on Philippians 2:12-13 “…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.” because it relates to yesterday’s topic of obedience not being by osmosis. 

Unfortunately, back in June 1997 I wasn’t writing full manuscripts yet.  So the notes are sketchy.  If you have time you can listen to the sermon here.  

But here are the sketchy notes… 

I. Work–Because God Works in You  the complex question that verse 13 raises is this:  If, as this book so clearly teaches us, salvation is a work of God from beginning to end, where does my will fit in?   

How does my work and God’s work fit together? 

2 wrong answers.

1) God will help out, but ultimately it’s all up to you.  You score the goal, God gets the assist.  common view of grace, Paul would gag. God’s grace is not “help available in case you need it” as you skate through life.God’s grace surrounds us, it is underneath, and behind every action we do. God’s grace inspires the action and God’s grace empowers the action.  God in his grace is the alpha and omega, beginning and the end of our salvation. (cf. 1:6)

Both to will and to act.  God works both the will and the work.  He is behind your first impulse toward the gospel,  and he sustains and empowers your perseverance.  Both the willing and the doing are his work.  God gives you the will and the power. 

Many will give God the glory for one and not the other. 

God works power, but not will.  Enables all to be saved, but up to you to will yourself into it.  not what 2:13 says. 

God gives first impulse, but doesn’t complete the action.Draws all men, but you have to act in response.  not what 2:13 says. 

In any human action there are two parts, the will and the power.  Both of these Paul ascribes to God.  What is there left for man to glory in?  Nothing.  But in heaven we will sing the song of Isaiah 26 “All that we have accomplished, you have done for us.” Or as NAS “Thou hast also performed for us all our works.” 

Wrong answer #2) You don’t work at all.  Work will get done if you just let go and let God.first error minimized God’s work, second error minimizes man’s work.  

indicative and imperative, truth and command. v. 13 is a truth in text, but those who say let go and let God have made it a command.command is in v. 12.  The fact that salvation is God’s work from beginning to end doesn’t mean that you don’t exercise your will.  You do.  But God works in your will.God can change your will.  It happens every time someone gets saved.  God changed their wills.  God can cause you to will what he wants you to.  Does that make you feel uncomfortable?  loss of autonomy?  It ought to be something you praise God for bc the worst thing he could do to you is leave you to your own free will.  If God just said, here’s what you have to do to be saved, now it’s all up to you, I’m not going to get involved. I’m not going to influence your free decision.  If he had done that, every single one of us would choose to hate God and reject Christ, because our hearts are sinful.  In fact he did do that in the old covenant, and sure enough, all mankind rejected him.  But what makes the New covenant new is that now God not only demands holiness, not only demands love for God, but he enters our hearts by his Holy Spirit and produces that love and holiness in us.  Ez 37:26-27 cause you to walk, but you still walk. 

right answer.  read 2:12b-13.  for.  We work because God works.  God’s work causes us to work, but we still must work. Murray quote.  1 Cor 15:10.   

That’s the theological foundation.  incredibly important that we know that salvation is God’s work in us, otherwise we boast in our works.  Verse 13 guards us against thinking that our works earn us salvation.   But now that we have refuted this error, the question remains: So what do we do?  The answer is not let go and let God.  The answer is  

II. Work out your salvation–With Fear and TremblingWe must not dull the force of this statement: This salvation that Paul strongly teaches is God’s work from beginning to end is nevertheless something we must work out.            

Now I have already said that God’s work of grace does not mean that we do not work.  Now we ask the opposite question: How can we understand this command to work out our salvation in a way that does not minimize God’s work, that does not threaten the doctrine of salvation by grace alone.   

key to practically living in this tension: means of grace.  Your salvation is all a work of grace, but grace works through means.  The way that grace works in you is by stirring you up to work out your salvation through the practice of spiritual disciplines.  Prayer is a means of grace.  Meditating on the Bible is a means of grace. 

God works in you the will to pray and to read the Bible and through these means you receive more and more grace to act according to his purpose. 

(End of sermon excerpt) 

P.S.  At this point in the sermon I went into a long exhortation about spiritual disciplines that included some harsh words from me towards those who discourage us from having quiet times lest we come into quiet time bondage.  That’s pretty funny since I just posted an article to this blog last month called “quiet time guilt”.   People change.   If you struggle with quiet time guilt and it causes you to shrink back from drawing near to God, go back and read that quiet time guilt article.  But if you’ve already read the article and you’ve been using it as a license to prayerlessness, then maybe you should listen to the young punk preach at you in the sermon linked above.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2006 10:56 am

    You’re starting to sound like Solomon!

  2. July 21, 2006 11:37 am

    Hopefully I won’t end up like Solomon.

    I assume you mean that Solomon often seems to be contradicting himself in Proverbs?

  3. Ellie permalink
    July 21, 2006 12:36 pm

    So I was thinking really hard about obedience and excellence and cost and the fulfillment of the law with love, in regards to all your previous posts, and I was getting stressed out (the way I do…sigh) because I am not very obedient, nor was I sure how to get that way. THEN I came to the part that goes “God works in you the will to pray and to read the Bible and through these means you receive more and more grace to act according to his purpose.” AND HE DOES! HE DOES THAT! Whew. That’s a good promise. I just have to keep remembering that, and not “turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world.” I am glad to have been in suspense for a while there with all the questions, so I could appreciate the answer more. : D

  4. July 21, 2006 3:05 pm

    is the “young punk” demarcation 30? Not like it matters, I ain’t gettin’ there any quicker. :)

  5. July 21, 2006 3:45 pm

    I was still 29 when I preached this one. At age 30 you shave off the goatee.

  6. egana permalink
    July 22, 2006 4:44 pm

    do not despise the days of small beginnings…

    and young punkishness…

    Paul gives us the example of “striving in all the energy which He mightily inspires within us.” interestingly enough, it is in prayer that we are encouraged to strive, not with the vain striving that rails against God or tries to serve Him as if he needed anything…

    This has refreshed my desire to prayer-walk in the morning again. I have been snoozing in my bed instead of striving in His presence. No wonder I am cranky!

  7. July 24, 2006 4:58 pm

    Yes, I was referring to the apparent “contradiction”.

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