12 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10, NKJV)
The Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church fell far short of restoring New Testament Christianity. One such area was its failure to return to the Scriptural (and thus, essential) place of obedience to God to be saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Obedience is an “unprofitable” servant’s faith at work (Luke 17:10). Protestantism opted to demonize every kind of work while codifying salvation by faith only, even though Scripture says, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). And, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Nineveh’s salvation from God’s imminent destruction well illustrates the part that a working faith plays in salvation. Why would God consider Nineveh’s “works” at all, if works have nothing to do with God’s gift of salvation (Jonah 3:7-9, 10)? Jesus endorsed their works as proof that “they repented” (Luke 11:32). Even so, we do not earn salvation when we obey God’s command to repent (Acts 17:30). But, without obeying God and repenting of sins, we will not receive His grace that saves our soul. Repentance is a work of faith, a condition we must meet to be saved (Acts 3:19). God has given commands we must obey as conditions to be saved “by grace through faith.” Unless we obey them, we do not trust God. All we have is a dead faith.
20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; 21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced. (2 Corinthians 12:20–21, NKJV)
Paul wished to come to the Corinthians bringing edification instead of a sharp rebuke (2 Corinthians 12:15, 19, 13:7-10). For this to occur some would need to repent of sins they had not yet corrected. The list of transgressions in verse 20 is reflective of hearts that were not yet open to God’s will. Their sins would provoke sorrow within Paul when he arrived if not corrected by repentance. Repentance produces a change in one’s practice. Christians are called on to examine our hearts (our values, motives, thoughts, etc.) and our conduct carefully to repent and bear its godly fruit. Otherwise, we contribute to our own spiritual demise and hinder others. Use today to reflect on whether you would bring the apostle sorrow or joy should he visit you. If sorrow, then repent. If joy, then continue to do good.
And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22, NKJV)
What an extraordinary blessing for God to identify David as “a man after My own heart.” God did not describe David this way because he was sinless (far from it), but because David gave his heart to God and to His purposes. He loved the Lord with all His heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). This kind of heart prepared David to do all of God’s will. When David sinned, he learned some hard lessons. He learned you cannot hide your sins from God (Psalm 32:3-5). He learned the painful consequences of sin (2 Samuel 12:11-14). David’s heart allowed him to learn the lessons. When his sins were laid before him, David did not become defensive. He did not blame others. He took responsibility, he repented, and he remained faithful to the Lord (Psalm 51). None of us are without sin. How we acknowledge our sin and remedy it shows whether or not we are people after God’s own heart, who do all of His will.
“Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” (Proverbs 27:22, NKJV)
The proverb depicts a process of separating the husk from the kernel of grain in a manner that is more intricate and careful than the usual threshing process. (The word “grind” means “to pound or beat small.”) Pulpit Commentary notes in this proverb “is expressed the idea that the most elaborate pains are wasted on the incorrigible fool…an obstinate, self-willed, unprincipled man cannot be reformed by any means; his folly has become his second nature, and is not to be eliminated by any teaching, discipline, or severity” (Proverbs, 519). Although pounding and grinding grain yields its intended results, you cannot beat foolishness out of a fool. You cannot pound the truth of God into a heart that is hardened by sin against it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is said to be “impossible…to renew them again to repentance” who have tasted heaven’s sweet goodness and then fallen away from the Lord (Hebrews 6:4-6). Unless and until the obstinate heart softens toward God and toward His truth, the sinner will go on, unaffected by efforts to separate him (or her) from the foolishness of his sin. “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart” (Hebrews 3:7-8)!
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:34, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Question: Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their unbelief? No, for without faith in Jesus as the Son of God, they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their ignorance? No, they killed Jesus “in ignorance,” and their failure to know the truth prevented their salvation (Acts 3:17). You don’t have to know everything to be forgiven, but you do have to know some things. When did not forgive the murderers of Jesus? The answer is in Acts 2:36-41, where about 3,000 believed the gospel message “that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). The murderers asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (v. 37), and were told to “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). The sinners who received his word were baptized and added together to form the church (v. 41, 47). God’s desire to forgive sinners combines with repentant faith that is baptized. Then, sins are forgiven. If not, when were the murderers of Jesus forgiven?
1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. (Mark 2:1–2, NKJV)
As the crowds gathered around Jesus, “He preached the word to them.” It is no secret that preaching is not in high demand, nor held in high regard today. The general population disdains Bible preaching, for it exposes sin to the light of God’s truth. Frequently, the worldly conclude that when one preaches a moral and doctrinal message, he is “judging” them – and he is evil to do so! Yet, Jesus was not bashful to proclaim heaven’s word to the very ones who needed heaven’s mercy and salvation. He did not shy away from expecting sinners to have active faith in Him to be saved by Him (Mark 2:3-5). When Jesus preached, He demanded that sinners repent, or perish (Luke 13:1-5). May we not preach God’s word today, knowing it possesses the same authority today that it had when Jesus preached it? Indeed; We can, and we must (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 2:15). When we preach the word, we proclaim God’s truth and love, extended to a lost and dying world. We proclaim the reality of sin, death, and salvation (Romans 6:23; Matthew 7:21-23). Like Jesus and His apostles, we urge repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21; 26:19-20). We must never stop preaching the word.