This is what God gave me today in his word:
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 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 2:10-13)
It appears Paul, in the space of two verses, has contradicted himself. First he tells them to work out their own salvation, then he says God’s working in them to will and to do his good pleasure, which in essence would mean he’s the one saving them instead of them working for their own salvation. So which is it? Do we work for our salvation with trembling and fear, or is it God who works in us? – Actually, the correct answer is that both are true; through God enabling us to, we are able to “work out our own salvation.” But here’s where it gets tricky; isn’t Christ dying for us enough to save us? Yes, it is! … Notice the phrasing of the sentence (in the above verse):
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.
There are only really two possible meanings that I can think of at the moment for “work out your own salvation”. Either God wants us to bulk up and lose weight in order to be saved; or (the more likely of the two), Paul is referring to mentally “working out” how they are saved. But then he say’s they should do it “with fear and trembling.” Why’s that? Because as they work it out and realize that it’s not by their own works they are saved, and what good works they do, do, are only done through the power of God. They’ll realize just how weak Spiritually they are, and how great God really is. – But what about the other part of the verse? Doesn’t that seem to say that Paul is in fact referring here to working our way into Heaven?
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
No, that’s just Paul expounding on what he already said; that they should “work out” their own salvation. He’s giving them a hint that it’s not so much them saving them self, as it is God’s power working through them.
It’s pretty much the same today, though we no longer have Paul to tell us to do so, we too must look at how we are saved and try to decide if it was by our own filthy rags (good works), or by Christ’s saving grace. – Here’s a hint; it’s by Christ’s saving grace.
You are loved!