There is a divine dynamic revealed in Philippians 2. An apparent partnering of man’s determination and God’s direction, of human effort and holy enabling. A matter of individual pursuits and Sovereign pleasures. Chewing this morning on the implications of working it out while He works it in.
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.
(Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
What’s the “Therefore” there for? Paul’s just exhorted the believers to be of one mind and one accord. To do so by deferring to one another–counting others as more significant than themselves and looking out for the interest of others above their own. In short, to have the mind of Christ. So, in light of how Christ manifested such an other-oriented life–by making Himself nothing and humbly being obedient even unto death on a cross–therefore, Paul says, work out your salvation.
Not work for your salvation. That work was finished on the cross, nothing we can do adds to it. But work out your salvation, the ongoing work of realizing the fullness of the redemption secured in Christ. A redemption that not only puts to death the old man, but which also gives life to walk as a new creation in Christ. Beyond being declared holy because He is holy, actually living in a holy manner because He lives in us and through us. Having been saved by Him, ours is now to figure out what it practically means to walk in Him. In the case of the Philippians, it was dealing with whatever was causing interpersonal friction within the church, and instead allowing the mind of Christ in them to enable the love of Christ through them. As in, putting away selfish ambition, saying no to self-interest, and pursuing a harmony that only comes through a willingness to submit to one another.
And so, they were to work out their salvation. But only because it was God who was working in them.
They were to work it out with “fear and trembling” while God worked it in “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And that supernatural partnering, it would seem, is the divine normative for all believers.
Thank God I am not left on my own to work it out. That I’m not dependent on my own cognitive abilities and wisdom to know the will of God. And that it’s not reliant on whatever effort I can gut out.
Thank God that it is as God works in me that I can work it out. That as His Word is read, His way is known. That as His Spirit leads, His power actively enables. And all this, for His good pleasure.
To be sure, I need to be engaged. But to be equally sure, I am never alone when it comes to working out my salvation. Not left to my own devices, but wondrously equipped and enabled to participate in the divine nature.
Another encounter of the divine kind.
Working it out while He works it in. By His grace. For His glory.