How are works related to salvation?


“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” (Philippians 2:12)

I can’t begin to number the times I have either heard someone, or read what someone wrote on this verse of Scripture using it out of context, and out of character, in an attempt to prove that God saves sinners by what He does, and by what they do. This is a favorite of those who are depending on their own performance of good works to gain favor with God and to hopefully be finally saved in the end.

A text out of context is often a pretext! If only we would take the time to see how a passage fits into the fabric of the whole  much of our erroneous conclusions would disappear. This verse is one of those Bible statements that is abused and wrongfully used.

Paul sets the tone of the book in chapter 1 where he wrote:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3-6)

How could Paul have “been sure if this” if the salvation and security of the Philippian believers depended on their performance? In chapter 2 this idea is reinforced even more. He has reminded them of their partnership with him in the gospel and instructed them about how they are to live with each other and then says:

“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…” (Philippians 2:12)

Why Paul? So we can stay saved? And Paul gives the answer in the very same breath.

“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

What? God is working in a believer, willing what should be done and doing the “work“! This is an absolute scandal to the self righteous who are depending on themselves and not on the finished work and worth of Jesus for salvation or keeping that salvation. But, alas it is true anyway. God saves, God works, God keeps. In light of this Bible truth how are we to respond to God’s lavish love and grace?

Live your lives with each other before a watching world so that you can never be blamed for wrong doing. Expect suffering while you hold to the word of Life. Be unselfish, looking out for the good of others and model your lives after Christ who humbled himself and became a servant of others.

How are works related to salvation? How we live, (especially among other believers) exposes who we really are. Every one who is born from above will live a life of good deeds as God designed. (Ephesians 2 10) None of us will follow perfectly. Sometimes we stumble, and sometimes fall, but always we are God’s own possession and we are safe in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What precious promises and blessed encouragement for believers! Yet, only condemnation for “make believers”. The old song “Trust and Obey” is so true. Trust Christ and then obey.

Don’t depend on how good you can be, rather trust the one who lived perfectly and presented that life to God on your behalf. Rest from your labor and learn to cooperate with God who is at work in you. Love and loving acts are as natural as breathing when you rely completely on Christ in you the hope of glory.

for Jesus,

7 comments on “How are works related to salvation?

  1. Royce, this is excellent! Plus your timing is impeccable for me. I appreciate your putting your inspired thoughts down for others to feed on.

  2. Good comments. I know one person in particular who will do a good deed and then comment that he has made another deposit toward getting into heaven, “getting credit from God,” is what he calls it. I never know how to respond, especially since he considers himself considerably more knowledgeable than I and always wants to teach me, including teaching me how to “get credit.” I don’t believe I need to “get credit.” I think we are all born with it already, and God will use us for His needs, for the works that He wants us to do, not the other way around. But, I am told, I have it all wrong. So, I sigh and don’t say much. I might share your blog, though! 🙂


    Men and women like you and I and your friend are only reconciled to God by the sacrificial and substitutionary work of Jesus. The Bible record is consistant, none of us is righteous by birth or experience, everyone of us is by nature ungodly.

    You and I had to be taught to tell the truth, be unselfish, and obey our parents. By nature we were rebels, told lies, and would take things that were not ours. Every kid who reaches maturity will at some point do the wrong thing even though they know for sure it is wrong. That is sin and it is an affront and an offence to the glory of God who is holy.

    Jesus lived the perfect, sinless, always obedient life and sacrificed that life for you and me as our represenative. He died a cruel death as payment for our sins. Now both God’s desire for perfect obedience, and His need to punish sin have been fully satisfied by the man Christ Jesus who is now in heaven advocating for every person who trusts Him.

    Credits? Hardly! Jesus alone has any credibility with God the Father. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. That is the scheme of redemption in a nutshell.

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope your blogname is tongue in cheek.


  3. I’m not sure we have great minds just because they think alike, but I’ve been pondering thoughts like these off and on now for some time, and usually under my gracefaithworks sandwich label.

    Somehow before, I had completely missed the relevance of Philippians 1:3-6 – thank you for that key insight!

  4. Hi Royce,

    Actually, my blog name is not tongue-in-cheek. I spent 5 decades as an atheist who was spoiled by God in many ways; in fact, I had a friend who would comment as I experienced a deus ex machina resolution to one problem after another that God was spoiling me again. Then God reached out and shook me into being aware of His presence, pretty literally. I was quite shocked. And I was not alone, so I was not the only shocked one. (I believe that was deliberate, so that I could not come up with some alternative reason for what happened.) Anyway, now I am a blest believer. It just took 5 decades.

    Thanks for the clarification and welcome to the family!

  5. Royce I’m really tired of men explaining how they had seen the light and they had done what ever their tribe had said was necessary to be part of the chosen and now they expended all their energy serving God, “making every effort ……to be holy….”thus fulfilling Peters reminder from Leviticus to “Be holy because I am holy”. What they acknowledge they couldn’t do prior to justification they now have the knowledge and tools to complete with no strain. Fifteen years after salvation I took my inheritance and went into the far country for twenty-three years. I knew I was in rebellion, I knew not only what was on page two of stone, I knew the penalty required more stones. Grace never left me, Grace called me to the alter of repentance time and time again but I protected my reputation confessing only to God and continuing to be lord of my life.
    Even then Grace called me. Today I know who Grace is, Jesus my Lord and savior,
    God the ever loving Father, Holy Spirit gently guiding (and rebuking). Paul, in his letter to Titus, has made it clear to me where any measure of obedience that I hunger for today comes from to redeem and purify. Two or three times a week I drive His Spirit out to RCC and He uses my voice to express His love and my arms to embrace His Son’s that my brothers will know Grace as we, my brothers and I, get to experience an answer to Jesus’ prayer in the grove just before His arrest. He lives now and forever and because He lives I live. He doesn’t need me. But I’m dead without Him……………bee

    Thanks Bee. Your unselfesh love for those inmates speaks volumes about what God has done in you. You are a “grace man”, one after God’s own heart as you make Christ known in a dark place.


  6. Although we disagree on the role of Baptism, I think this post is right on the money. I plan to read over more your you post and comment as time permits. I have TRIPLTES at home, so finding time can be a challenge.

    Take care,

    Welcome Randy, thanks for your comment.

    I am a grandfather of twins and have an associate with trips as well. You and your wife have your hands full!

    Thankfully full agreement is not what makes us one in Christ but rather our trust in Him.

    Boys, girls, or other?


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