The Work of Salvation

We do not work for our salvation, but we must work it out.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

   - Philippians 2.12, 13

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

Salvation is hard work. Not to gain it, of course, but to enjoy it.

In redeeming us freely by His grace, God has loaded our souls with the abundant joys and blessings of His Word and Spirit. Precious and very great promises are ours to enjoy so that righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit become increasingly ours (2 Pet. 1.4; Rom. 14.17, 18). But this great boon doesn’t come naturally, as all that was necessary for our lives to flourish in Christ were the passage of time. Nor does it come easily. We have to work at it, through study, prayer, repentance, and walking in the path of holiness and witness marked out by our Lord Himself (2 Jn. 2.1-6).

The law of sin within us, the strong remaining fabric of our lost and rebellious ways, will try to keep us from succeeding (Rom. 7.21-23). So will the devil and his minions, and all the temptations and trials the world can throw at us day by day. We must work out or salvation against forces and odds which prevent most people from ever even knowing the light of life.

But we must persevere; we must work hard to unpack the gift of salvation and be clothed with the glory of Christ. He will transform us by His grace, for His Spirit is at work within us to will and do for God’s 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 promise 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 no salvation at all (2 Cor. 13.5).

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

Psalm 37.38-40 (Neumark: “If Thou but Suffer God to Guide Thee”)
Salvation comes from Christ our Savior; He is our strength in time of need.
On us does He bestow His favor, who all His holy judgments heed.
He is our help in troubled times; our refuge He, in Him we hide.

Give me grace, O Lord, to work at working out my salvation from day to day. Help me to shake off comfort and complacency, that I may increase in You.

T. M. Moore
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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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