Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, “… work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
If I wrote this statement and published it in a book, I would get accusations of undermining the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. But the Apostle Paul wrote this and he is also the author behind the original saved by grace thinking.
Like many theological controversies that have lasted hundreds of years — this problem is now left to Pastor Grant to figure out in a few hundred words.
Am I up to the challenge? Let me add what James says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)
One well-known historical church leader concluded James was wrong and the Book of James should not have not been included in the New Testament. To the best of my knowledge, while he excluded the Book of James, he never attempted this with Paul and his epistles.
Let’s see — get rid of the Book of James because I don’t agree with it and also eliminate Paul — resulting in a very small New Testament.
The Bible has this remarkable way of presenting ideas by presenting opposite thinking with the truth lying between the statements. We all know that we tell our children that you can’t do this and turn around and say a day later that they can do it.
We are not being contradictory but speaking through ‘in the moment’ context.
I once told my son that he should stand back and let me do something. A few years later, I asked him to do it for me while I watched a football game. A ‘sort of’ perfect analogy of grace and works — we grow and what we can’t do now, we will be able to later!
I did something and then asked my son to do the same thing. Jesus saves you by grace but then asks you to obey as He provides strength! This back and forth between grace and works allows a relationship of transformation in which we play a role.
God’s working for perfection in our lives gives us the dignity of Him asking for our obedience. Jesus summed the law of the Old Testament by saying, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
You can’t throw James, Paul, and Jesus out of the Bible because you don’t understand their statements. What you can do is realize that all theology in the New Testament is based upon a growing and living relationship with Jesus.
This relationship includes repentance, grace, and a perfection.
You are asked to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You love Jesus so much that you fear ruining your relationship with Him by your thoughts and actions. Love now motivates your works as the Spirit works all things for your good.
What area of your life needs worked out? Take a step, take another step, run, and now run faster. God is at work in you both to will and to work for His pleasure.
Now read Philippians 2:13 for further controversy, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work, for His pleasure.”
Remember you can’t throw the Apostle Paul out of the Bible. But you can throw Pastor Grant’s writings into the trash.