The Hard Work of Salvation

We work out our salvation, not for it.

Therefore let us seek above all to root out the vices and plant the virtues; let us root out pride and sow humility, let us pluck up wrath and lay down patience, let us prune envy and plant good-will.

  - Columbanus, Sermon II, Irish, 7th century[1]

Therefore, my beloved, as you 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 who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

  - Philippians 2.12, 13

Salvation is hard work. Not to gain it, but to enjoy it. We work out our salvation, not for it. And if we’re not working hard at our salvation, then we’re depriving ourselves of the full and abundant life for which Jesus has saved us (Jn. 10.10).

In redeeming us freely by His grace, God loaded our souls with the abundant joys and blessings of His Word and Spirit. He opened a Spring of Living Water for exceedingly abundantly more of life than we’ve ever dared to ask or think (Eph. 3.20). That River of Delights runs deep in our soul, flowing to refresh and renew us day by day (Ps. 36.7-9).

But we have to immerse in that River and drink of those Delights, and that takes effort on our part.

Precious and very great promises are ours to enjoy, so that righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit can increasingly be ours, and we may partake of the divine being (2 Pet. 1.4).

We should expect to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His power for witness and spiritual fruitfulness (2 Pet. 3.18; Acts 1.8; Jn. 15.8-11).

But this great boon doesn’t come easily. We have to work at it, through study, prayer, repentance, and walking in the path of holiness marked out by the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19). We must give ourselves to the hard work of rooting out, plucking up, and pruning, as well as of sowing and laying down with patience, and planting.

The law of sin within us will try to keep us from succeeding. So will the devil and his minions and all the temptations and trials the world can throw at us day by day.

But the true believers will persevere; they will work hard to unpack the gift of salvation and be clothed with the glory of Christ (Eph. 4.17-24).

Enjoying the full benefits of our salvation comes neither naturally or easily. We have to work it out.

God will transform us by His grace, for His Spirit is at work within us to will and do for His pleasure. But we must put our hands on the plough and walk the hard rows of sanctification. If we do, and if we persevere, abundant blessing will be increasingly ours.

But no fruit of full and abundant life awaits those who will not work out their salvation in fear and trembling. If we are complacent, lazy, or indifferent to growing in the Lord, then not only will we never know the full joys of our salvation, we may discover (may it not be too late) that we have been drifting from our great salvation, or that in fact, we have no salvation at all.

We rest in our salvation; but we do not rest on it, as though, having arrived to a saving state, we’ve reached the end of our journey. In fact, having come to saving faith in Christ, our journey has only begun, and we have much work to do if we are to realize the full blessings and power of this new relationship with Christ.

Are you working out your salvation, or resting on it?

Psalm 34.8, 9, 12-14 (Alleluia [Lowe]: Mighty God, While Angels Bless You)
Taste and see how good is Jesus; blessed are all who in Him hide.
None shall lack for any blessing who in Christ will e’er confide.
   Magnify the Name of Jesus! Let us lift His Name in praise!

Who loves life?  Who longs for goodness?  Keep your tongue from evil ways.
Turn to good, from wicked wand’ring; peace pursue through all your days.
   Magnify the Name of Jesus! Let us lift His Name in praise!

Lord, give me grace to pray, study, and strive to obey in everything, so that I…

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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Walker, p. 69.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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