Working Out What God Works In
As we attempt to understand Philippians 2:12-13 we come face to face with a great paradox of Scripture. There are several paradoxes in Scripture; statements that at first, appear to be contradictory; but on closer study give us the full-orbed truth on a topic.
For example there is the paradox of the incarnation of the Son of God who was born of a virgin as the baby Jesus. Though He never ceased being God, He lived and ministered on this earth and died on a cross as a man, shedding His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The Bible is another example of a paradox. Though the work of many men who wrote over a period of centuries, using their own vocabularies; the Bible is as perfect as though God wrote it, for the human authors were inspired of God and protected so that they wrote without error the very words of God.
There is the paradox of salvation. Do we receive it by God’s choice or by our own choice? It is foolish to argue over this. Both are correct. God chose us to salvation from before the foundation of the world, according to Ephesians 1:4. But it is just as true that we each must choose to receive Christ or reject Him as the sacrifice for our sins. Repeatedly we are told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Those who reject Him are eternally condemned to Hell. See your choice in John 3:36, but understand that without God’s Spirit drawing you to Christ, you can’t even choose to be saved, John 6:44 teaches. The warning to you is that if the Holy Spirit is drawing you to Christ, don’t delay. Receive Christ NOW! II Corinthians 6:1-2
We are not saved by faith plus works. We are saved by faith alone; but that salvation results in a changed life of good works.
Why are we Bible believers so quick to choose sides and set our heels in the dirt and refuse to budge? Why are we so closed-minded and bull-headed on one point of doctrine that has two sides? Why are we so quick to try to put God in our own little theological box and brand anyone who doesn’t see it our way as a false teacher? How this must grieve the heart of Christ who prayed in John 17 for the unity of His own.
No wonder we have far too many denominations and factions and unnecessary divisions in Christendom. Paul shames the Corinthian Church for their sinful divisions over the “Preacheritis”, that is, choosing to follow certain preachers and their teachings and branding those in other camps as false teachers.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that there are fundamental truths upon which all true believers are called to stand and not compromise an inch. These are the well known Fundamentals of the Faith. The following are the two most foundational Fundamentals.
1. A true Christian believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God and the foundation for everything we believe about God and life.
2. A true Christian believes that Jesus is God come down in human flesh. We believe He was born of a virgin as prophesied. We believe He lived a sinless life and then willingly died on a cross to shed His blood as the only atonement for our sins. We believe He arose from the dead three days later and then ascended back to Heaven exalted and reigning in a glorified body. We believe He is returning for His own one day.
Anyone who denies either or both of these truths cannot be a Christian, for it is the Christ of the Bible that saves. Any other Christ is one of our own making and brands us as cultic and under God’s curse, according to Galatians 1.
All of this we dealt with in the previous messages on Philippians 2:5-11 as we dealt with Christ’s humiliation and His exaltation.
The paradox before us in Philippians 2:12-13 summarizes what is perhaps the greatest paradox in the Bible, the truth that we are saved by God’s grace and not by our works; and yet at the same time, the truth that genuine faith in Christ always results in a changed life of good works.
In other words, the Christian life is working out the faith that God has graciously worked into our hearts through faith in Christ.
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