How Do You “Work Out Your Salvation?”

How do you work out your salvation?

Paul called on the church at Philippi to take on the mind and attitude of Christ and to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). As Christ had given up His privileges for the sake of sinners, Paul wanted the church to show the light of Christ within them to a dark world.

Over the centuries, the church has debated exactly what Paul meant. Did he mean that salvation is by works? Or, did Paul mean for the church to take the salvation they had already received in Christ and work it out in the world?

I take the second view for the following reasons.

First, to interpret it differently would be to negate everything that Paul had written to the Christian churches. Paul emphasized salvation by grace through faith. In fact, in the letter to the Ephesians he said that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8). This is consistent with all that Paul taught. He repeatedly emphasized justification by faith alone.

Second, the Greek word for “work out” means “taking something to its completion.” The word was used for working out a mine, meaning taking every bit of precious metal out of the mine. It also was used for working out a field, meaning that you wanted to get as much production as possible from the field.

Paul wanted the Philippian church to take their salvation to its fullest extent into the larger world.

Third, in the next verse (Philippians 2:13) Paul reminded the church “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God was already in the believers. They didn’t need to work into their salvation; they needed to work out their salvation in a lost world.

Finally, Paul wanted the believers to use their salvation to be shining lights in the darkness. They were to work it out and use it for God’s glory.

We face the same need. Our world needs to see the light of Christ in us.

Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

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About Waylon

I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. — 1 John 4:16 (NIV)