Philippians 2:12-13. 12 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, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Sanctification 101: Position and Condition.
Our position: We are fully justified, forgiven, redeemed, regenerated, reconciled, adopted, and made new in Christ.
When you received Christ’s life, your position changed from guilty to innocent. Your standing before God moved from enemy to friend. The trajectory of your life was altered forever. You became the future new creation, now! All spiritual life and growth is founded upon our eternal, secure, position in Christ. Because our source (Jesus) is perfect, our position is perfect.
Position: YOU IN CHRIST.
Your position is unchanging.
Our condition: If our position is who we ARE, then our condition is what we DO. The problem, and thus the need for transformation, is that we don’t often live up to who we ARE in Christ. Often, we fail to trust in our position in Christ. Therefore, we are left in the condition of doubting, fearful, lustful, greedy, anger, bitter, proud, and self-righteous.
Condition: CHRIST IN YOU
Your condition is constantly changing.
Jesus doesn’t just want our position to change, he also wants our condition to change. He wants to live through us. He wants us to live, not only for him, but in a very real way AS him. He wants us to not only BE declared righteous and loved, he wants us to DO righteousness and BE loving to everyone as his ambassadors.
But how? How does our ever changing condition move us in the right direction toward Christ likeness? Simply put, by trusting in our never changing position in Christ. By trusting in his unfailing love for us, and his unending goodness in our life.
Philippians 2:12-13 clearly expresses this process of trusting our position in order to change our condition. But because many Christians don’t understand the relationship between their position and their condition, they see these two verses as confusing and even contradictory. Work out your own salvation…it is God who works in you. Am I working out my own salvation, or is God?
Let’s start with verse 13.
Position – God IS (and always will be) at work in us. From the inside out, God is empowering our desires (to will) and our choices (to work). By his permanent presence in us, by his love, his grace, his mercy, and by his compassion, his acceptance, his power, his peace all poured into us supernaturally by the Spirit of Christ, we are gloriously conforming to Christ. We are new, and all things are being made new. The good work that God has begun in us he WILL complete (1:6). This is our position in Christ. This is grace.
Now verse 12.
Condition – because of God’s will and work taking place in us, we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. As many have noted: we work OUT what God has worked IN. This is Christ in us. This is faith. By faith we must continue to trust God’s grace in our lives day after day after day. No true Christian ever made a profession of faith and then walked away from it, completely forgetting about their salvation for the rest of their life. No. True Christianity is a lifelong grace empowered work of daily taking up our cross and following Christ into his self-sacrifice by the indwelling life and love of Jesus by the Spirit.
And there is no such thing as a Christian who has “made it.” Who no longer needs to be working out their salvation because they have finally found perfection in Christ. Which is why there must be fear and trembling. Holy awe and vigilance. Knowing that God has invited us to participate in our own salvation process should induce a great sense of both gratitude and wonder. And even a healthy fear.
But never a fear resulting in doubt or dissolutions. Don’t worry Christian, we can’t crash this plane. Christ is in us. He’s the pilot. Our will is his will. Our work is his work. By our supernatural and mystical union with Christ we will always want what he already wants, and we will do what he is already doing. The true Christian wants to be like Jesus just as Jesus wants us to be like him. Yes, it’s a process, an ongoing work, a working out of salvation, but this work of God is in us just as surely as the Spirit is in us. It is happening. You are being transformed into Christ. How do I know? Because it is God’s good pleasure that “to live is Christ” be our life. And God always gets what he wants in the end.
Can you see the difference between your position in Christ and your condition?
You in Christ
God is working out his will (Christlikeness) in your life. How does this truth bring you comfort today?
Christ in you
What might “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” look like in your life?
Playlist: Working out our salvation.