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.
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:36–38, NKJV)
“I want to be a worker for the Lord” is a sentiment we put in our hearts in song and by the instruction of God’s word. Today’s passage teaches at least three things we must possess to be workers for the Lord. First, we must be conscious of the lost (v. 36). We must see the souls around us as God sees them. We are in contact with lost souls every day who need rescuing from sin. Second, we must be moved with compassion toward the lost. We must be driven to help them find the Good Shepherd who can lead them to green pastures of spiritual rest and fulfillment. Third, we must have commitment to be a worker. Commitment toward doing God’s work drives us to pray for laborers and prompts us to be laborers. We must labor when we are hopeful, and we must labor when we grow weary (Galatians 6:9-10). The Lord’s harvest is ready. Souls are lost, and salvation is available. The gospel is God’s power to save. Let us labor every day to take the gospel to the lost and to bring in the Lord’s harvest.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22–25, NKJV)
God wants doers of the work; People whose faith is put into action by obeying His law of liberty. This passage explains why faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Faith is alone when it is not combined with doing what God command in His perfect law of liberty. We must use God’s mirror – His perfect law of liberty – to look at our spiritual imperfections (our sins) and then do something about them! God provides the correction of our sins in His Son Jesus Christ. We must have the faith to be doers of the word by doing the work God commands for our blessing (James 1:23, 25). Do not deceive yourself. God’s spiritual, eternal blessings do not come by only examining yourself in God’s mirror. You must see yourself as God sees you and then do what He says in His “perfect law of liberty.” Then, you will be blessed in what you do.
“Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” (Proverbs 20:13, NKJV)
Wisdom teaches us we cannot recapture wasted time. Sleep is used to describe idleness and inaction. Lack of attention to our daily tasks brings want (Proverbs 6:6-11). Loving idleness squanders the precious commodity of time. Instead of laziness, we are urged to open our eyes, see the work set before us, and then get busy addressing it. The result will be food to eat, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Jesus reminds disciples to avoid idleness when He urged personal evangelism in John 4:35: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” He used it again when He spoke of the urgency of doing the work of God in John 9:4: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” You do not know how much time you have on the earth. So, use your time wisely, and enjoy temporal and eternal blessings (Ephesians 5:16).
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1, NKJV)
The apostle Paul urges his beloved Timothy to be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Timothy had work to do as an evangelist, and he ought to be made strong by the grace that is in Christ to carry out his work (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Even so, God’s grace emboldens us to do the good work He gives us (Ephesians 2:10). Like Timothy, we must rely on God’s favor as we do His work, instead of depending on our own wisdom and power. Timothy’s work included teaching the gospel to faithful men, who could teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). He was to endure hardships, and not be diverted from his work of preaching the gospel (2 Timothy 2:3-4). He would have to play by God’s rules – he could not “make it up” as he went along (2 Timothy 2:5). And, to reap the reward of his labor, he would have to be a dedicated worker (2 Timothy 2:6). To be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” means to be empowered by God’s good favor to meet our challenges of faith. By God’s grace, we can faithfully persevere in doing God’s will.
The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. (Proverbs 11:3, NKJV)
The contrast in this verse is between being blameless and being devious in attitude and action toward others. It is the difference between honesty and dishonesty. Every day, we face split-second decisions that reveal whether or not we are guided by integrity. For example, do you give back the extra ten dollars of change the cashier mistakenly gave you? (If not, why not? It is not yours.) Do you protest and pay the full amount that is due when that same cashier undercharges you? (If not, why not? Honesty demands you pay what you owe.) Do you lie to close a business transaction? (Are you okay with someone lying to you in a business deal?) Do you give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay? (Or, do you slack off when the boss is not around?) You see, straightforwardness and honesty must guide our values and our treatment of others. Integrity produces reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness. These qualities bring success to one’s life. But, the deceitful will be caught in their own net and destroyed (Psa. 35:7-8). When a person loses his sense of truth, fairness and justice, his integrity is ruined. Left unchanged, eternal ruin awaits (Rev. 21:8).