Elder Vernon Johnson


Philippians 2:12, 13 

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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 which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.   

There are two types of salvation taught in the scriptures.  There is eternal salvation which is by the grace of God alone.  Included in eternal salvation is salvation from the condemnation of sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Then there is salvation from the bondage of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit in causing someone to be born of the Spirit.  Additionally, there is salvation from corruption which will be brought to fruition in the resurrection of the dead at the second coming of Christ. 

In addition to eternal salvation, the scriptures teach timely salvations often dependent on the works or actions of the born-again child of God.  Included in these timely salvations is salvation from a condemning heart that is brought about by believing the true gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance, and water baptism.  Moreover, there is salvation from ignorance of the truth of eternal salvation by the grace of God.  This salvation is brought about by hearing the truth and believing the truth.  Additionally, there is salvation from a false works system of eternal salvation.  This salvation is brought about by hearing and believing the truth and turning from the false works systems.   

Another timely salvation is salvation from death of fellowship.  This salvation is brought about by repentance.  Also, God providentially saves people from circumstances they often find themselves in.  Often, this providential salvation follows the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous, but not always.  Moreover, the scriptures teach that we can save ourselves from an untoward generation.  This salvation involves how we live our lives.   

Those to whom Paul was writing in the verses above were told to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.  The question before us is which salvation is under consideration.  Was it an eternal salvation or a timely salvation?  If it was a timely salvation, then which timely salvation is under consideration? 

We will begin by showing that it is not an eternal salvation, rather those to whom Paul was writing were by many evidences already born-again children of God.  The evidences that they were already born-again children of God are as follows: 

1.  First, Paul addressed this epistle to the "saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…"  It is apparent that Paul was addressing this epistle to the church at Philippi.  A church is composed of born-again baptized believers in Christ.

2.  Second, Paul refers to those addressed as "beloved."  The word, beloved, comes from a Greek word, agapetos.  This means dearly loved.  This is not an appellation that Paul would use for those who have not been born of the Spirit of God.

3.  Third, Paul says that those whom he addressed are obedient to the faith.  They were obedient both when Paul was present with them and also were obedient when Paul was absent from them.  The only ones who can be obedient to the faith are born-again children of God.  According to 1 Cor. 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  Thus, the natural man cannot know or obey the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

4.  The ones to whom Paul addressed this passage were capable of fear.  Thus, they were born of the spirit of God for the natural man "has no fear of God before his eyes."

5.  God had already worked a work within the hearts of those that Paul addressed for we read, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  The desire (will) and the ability (to do) God had already worked in the hearts of those Paul was writing to.   

Because of the above reasons, we can conclude that the salvation under consideration in the above passage is not eternal salvation.  Thus, the type of salvation under consideration must be a timely salvation that is dependant on the actions of God's obedient children.   

The ones to whom Paul wrote were already members of the church at Philippi.  This helps us to narrow down which timely deliverance is under consideration.  These already believed in eternal salvation by the grace of God alone.  Therefore, they did not need to be saved from ignorance or from going about trying to establish their own righteousness.  Second, since they were all obedient to the faith, they did not need to be delivered from death to fellowship.  Since, they had already believed on Christ and been baptized, they did not need to be delivered from a condemning heart.  Further, the text precludes consideration of a providential salvation.   

The timely deliverance under consideration is salvation from an untoward generation.  We read in Acts 2:40 Peter taught on the day of Pentecost: "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation."   

An untoward generation allures, entices, teaches, pressures, and sets traps to entangle God's people into living a life contrary to the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.  There are many, many traps for God's people such as drugs, alcohol, fornication, adultery, pornography, theft, lies, filthy language, unforgiveness, false worship, blasphemy, and numerous other works of the flesh.  When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi encouraging them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, he was testifying to them that they were to work at living as the disciples of Jesus Christ and thus saving themselves from the snares and pitfalls of this untoward generation. 

God had already worked within them to will and to do of his good pleasure.  The work that was done in the new or spiritual birth gave the people both the desire to worship and serve the Lord and the ability to carry forth in their lives the true worship and service of God.  God puts the desire and ability in the heart, but God's spirit born children must work it out in their lives.  God does not work it out for us.  Verses 1 through 16 of this chapter gives us rich instructions on how we can work out this salvation from an untoward generation.