Categories
Anti-Dotes-For-Modern-False-Teachings-Like-Hyper-Grace Problem Bible Passages Practically Explained

Does the Philippians 2:12 phrase, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling’, Imply Salvation By Works?

Duke Jeyaraj answers this question and brings out the main message of Philippians 2

The reading of Philippians 2 reveals a clear pattern. This pattern compares two categories. Jesus put sinners ahead of himself and died for them on the cross (Phil. 2:6-10). Timothy put the welfare of the church at Philippian before his own welfare (Phil. 2:19-24). Epaphroditus placed the life of Apostle Paul ahead of his life (Phil. 2:25-30). We must keep this pattern in mind as we interpret Philippians 2:12 where we read this: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (ESV). The very next verse says this: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13, ESV). This is the pattern of comparison in Philippians 2:12-13: the work of God in the life of the believer who works out his salvation with fear and trembling. As pointed out above, the second category in the comparison pair is more important than the first category (sinners were more important than himself for Jesus; the welfare of the church at Philippi was more than his own welfare for Timothy; the life of Apostle Paul was more than his own life for Epaphroditus). Keeping the same pattern in mind, we can confidently say this: the work of God in our salvation is more important than we ourselves working out our salvation for the simple reason that it is God who enables, empowers us to do that work. It is not a self-work, but a God-powered work! So, the glory goes to God, not to us! The credit goes to God, not to us! So, Philippians 2:12-13 when it is seen in the clearly seen full context of Philippians chapter 2 does not teach salvation by works. “Christians are recipients of God’s initiatives of motivation and empowerment”.[1]

One principle we must follow to correctly interpret the epistles is this: we must read the letter in one sitting (don’t we do the same when it comes to any normal letter?).[2] When I wrote a letter proposing marriage to the Chennai-located Evan (my wife) in the year 1999 as a 25-year-old Bible College student in Bangalore, she read that letter of several paragraphs in one sitting! So, if we read Paul’s letter to the Philippi church in one sitting we will not stop until we read the last verse of the letter which is this: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit” (Phil. 4:23 ESV). So, what is the implication of this verse? All the things that Apostle Paul wanted the Philippian believers to do (including ‘working out their salvation with fear and trembling’) must be done enabled by the grace of the Lord Jesus, and through self-effort!

So, a total trust in God’s enabling grace would enable obedience to the command, ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12; Eph. 2:8-9). Elsewhere, in two places, Paul couples the gracious enablement of God with this choice use that enablement to work hard. Colossians 1:29 is one such place: “To this end I strenuously content with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (NIV). Though it is Paul who strenuously contents, we must not forget the complete enablement for this came from energy that Christ gave him! I Corinthians 15:10 is the another place where Paul places God’s enablement along his choice to work hard: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (NIV). So, even if I as a believers work out my salvation with fear and trembling, it is not me who works, but the grace of God that is within me (I Cor. 15:10 adapted into Phil. 2:12-13).

What will be the fruit of working out our salvation with fear and trembling? Paul describes this in Phil. 2:14-18. There are things that we will not do: (1) we will not ‘grumble’ (Phil. 2:14), (2) we will not question authorities God has placed over us unfairly (Phil. 2:14), and, (3) we will not copy the crooked and depraved generation around us (the porn-watching, bi-sexuality embracing, bad-language-using generation). There are things we will do: (1) we will hold fast to the Word of Life (Phil. 2:16) – we will be diligent in Bible Study,(2) we will be ready to pour our very life for the sake of the Gospel (Phil. 2:17) – like how Jim Elliot, John Allen Chau were ready to do) and, (3) we will be glad and rejoice with our fellow believers (Phil. 2:18) – our happiness will not be dependent on happenings, but on Him (Paul was in a prison as he wrote this letter – Phil. 1:7). And if we worked out our salvation with fear and trembling enabled by God’s grace what is the reward? “In the day of Christ” (the final day of judgment) we will make our spiritual mentors proud (Phil. 2:16). Notice this here: holiness is as important as forgiveness to inherit eternal life on the final day of Christ!

Yes, salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), but it will always result in good works (Eph. 2:10). Doing these good works will not save us. But if we are truly saved, we will produce Grace-enabled, Holy Spirit empowered good works as described in Phil. 2:14-18.

What the connection between the humiliation and exaltation of Christ as described in Phil. 2:5-11 and the call the quit ‘grumbling and questioning’ in Phil. 2:14? Phil. 2:1-2 provides the clue. It is a call for unity among church believers. They were perhaps arrogantly opposing the leadership of the church. They were surely grumbling against the leadership of the church. This had to stop. Gordon Fee explains: “Go to Phil. 2:12-13. Now what is the point? Notice, how ‘therefore’ clearly signals that this is the conclusion. Given Christ’s example, they are now to obey Paul. In what? Surely in having unity, which also requires humility’.[3]

Even today what Paul wrote is applicable. Yes, church leadership should be held accountable. But at the same time, we must not fight with church leadership for petty, silly reasons. When the church leadership embraces hell-populating false teaching we must oppose them. When they act in a way that the kingdom of God is destroyed we must act. Otherwise, we must humble ourselves and work alongside the local church leadership.


[1] Richard R. Melick Jr., The HCSB Large Print Study Bible (Nashville, TN: 2015), 2044.

[2] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Hyderabad, India: Authentic Books, 2008), 59.

[3] Ibid., 68.

(Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission. This is a reader-supported Indian ministry. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org. Watch Duke at http://www.youtube.com/visitduke).

Categories
Anti-Dotes-For-Modern-False-Teachings-Like-Hyper-Grace US Presidential Elections 2020 Devotions

TATA TO FALSE TEACHING STARTING WITH TRUMP! BYE TO CULTS STARTING WITH BIDEN!

Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj brings key Bible Truth from the Biden-Trump Presidential Debates

Philip Elliot wrote the following lines after the third US Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump: ‘…a pair of men in their 70s vie for the White House in the final days of an unprecedented election cycle’ (Time, October 22, 2020). Between 60 to 70 million American were watching!

I watched both the debates live turning on my TV set at 6:30 a.m. As a preacher of the Gospel, I wanted to pick up some communication skills from most watched debate in the world – the US Presidential Debate!

From the first debate what stood out was the number of times Donald Trump interrupted Joe Biden or moderator Chris Wallace. It was a whopping 128 times (Slate, Sept. 30, 2020).

Apostle Paul was not an ‘interrupter’.  He loved to listen in full to what the other side was saying! As he wrote the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, his preempts possibly questions from his readers and answered them in advance. That’s how much he wanted to listen first and respond to what others would say to he wrote down. Brad Price writes in his commentary on the Book of Romans this: “Paul knew his readers would sometimes have questions about his instructions and teachings, so in many instances he answered these questions in advance”. Wow! So instead of interrupting others, Paul was inviting interruptions as he spoke or wrote so that he could stop what he was doing, listen patiently and give a well-thought-out rejoinder!

So, what does he do in this connection in the book of Romans? He asks the question and answers them himself! One question he asked on his reader’s behalf was this: “So then, do the Jews have an advantage over the other nations? Does circumcision do anything for you?” (Romans 3:1, The Voice). Here is another question in the same category: “How should we respond to all of this? Is it good to persist in a life of sin so that grace may multiply even more?” (Romans 6:1, The Voice). He asked another question like the second question in chapter 3 itself. This was the question: “But if my lie serves only to point out God’s truth and bring Him glory, then why am I being judged for my sin?” (Rom. 3:7, The Voice).

How does Paul go about answering these questions? His answer to question number one about the Jewish advantage in receiving the Law much before Gentiles did was this: the large-scale disobedience to the Laws that God gave them would have the consequence of being objects of God’s wrath (Rom. 3:5). His answer to the second question about grace of God being used as a license for immorality was straight to the point: grace was not to be used as a license for immorality – and if anyone would think it was so, it would be pure slander (Rom. 3:8). Listen in to this, his classic response to question number two he pre-empted from readers of the letter to the Romans:  “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:2, The Voice). He rehammers the same answer using different words:  “So what do we do now? Throw ourselves into lives of sin because we are cloaked in grace and don’t have to answer to the law? Absolutely not!” (Rom 6:15, The Voice).

In the same way we must also pre-empt the questions people may ask as we present Bible truth to them. For example, when you share the Gospel with friends from Islamic faith you can be almost sure that you will hear this question: “How sure are you that the Bible you are quoting from is reliable?” You must be ready with answers for such questions which you will come. Did not Apostle Peter tlelll us thing: “Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope” (I Peter 3:15, The Voice). 

In the third and final debate between Trump and Biden held on October 23, 2020, Trump used an unforgettable imagery – ‘vacuum cleaner’ imagery! He said, “I don’t make money from China, you do. I don’t make money from Ukraine, you do…They’re (the Biden family) like a vacuum cleaner. They’re sucking up money every place he goes.” In his 2016 Election, Trump used another colourful imagery – ‘drain the swamp’ – as he fought Hillary Clinton’s challenge.

Prophet Isaiah, the prophet with the best vocabulary among all the different Bible writers (numbering about 40), filled his book with word pictures that taught spiritual truths. He wrote, “Jerusalem stands like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard; Like a hut in a melon field, like a city assaulted and besieged” (Isa. 1:8 The Voice).

Imagine a watchman in his shelter on the lookout for animals or petty thieves that would attack the vineyard and take away the grapes (that were particularly tasty in Jerusalem)! It’s just him in that hut! It is all green around! But no humans around! Imagine another watchman in a hut in a melon field. He is there to chase away the melon hurting animals. He is there to give thieves checking into the melon field a run a whack. But it is just him in that hut. He’s lonely. Let’s move onto the third imagery that Isaiah used in the same sentence – a word-picture loaded sentence! He compares a city which is surrounded by an enemy army. The people can’t go out for business. No flight taking off from its airport. No trains moving in or moving out. No buses plying. Why did Isaiah pen all this? He wanted to talk about the effects of sin to people of the southern part of Israel – a place where he was called to minister in. Sin would make you utterly lonely – that was the point he wanted to convey through the three terrific, can’t-be-taken-away-from-mind images.

When tempted by the lure of sin – be it by porn-watching, by extra-marital affair, by alcohol-consumption, etc. – we would do well to remember these Isaiah 1:8 images and win over those temptations enabled by the Grace of God (Titus 2:11,12). Jesus died for a lonely generation. That’s why he became lonely on the cross for your sake and my sake. How do I know he became lonely? I know from this his cry from the Cross: “My God! My God why have your forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Jesus became lonely so that you and I can be friends with God (Rom. 5:1).


And Joe Biden, in the third debate said, “We are learning to live with the Corona Virus (as Trump says)? Come on! People are learning to die with it! You folks home that have an empty chair at the kitchen table this morning. That man or wife going to bed tonight reaching over trying to touch out of habit where the husband or wife was …. that person is gone. Learning to live with it? Come on! We are dying with it!”

Biden’s poignant statement reminds me of a key Bible truth that has been twisted by hyper-grace (unbiblical grace) pastors/teachers. They effectively say it is okay to remain in sin. They say that believers need not absolutely bother about what they call as ‘behavior modification’. They say believers should be only concerned about ‘heart transformation’. They encourage living in sin by statements like these: ‘And if today God punishes you for your sin, that would make God unholy’; ‘Even your future sins are automatically forgiven’

But the plain truth of the Bible is this: true heart transformation will always result in behavior modification. But the plain truth of the Bible is this: without holiness no one will see God (ofcourse by the Grace of God and by the Spirit of God we can live holy lives).  Apostle Paul wrote these lines for believers: Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:9-10). Just below this passage Paul warns believers in the stubborn sin of sexual immorality can be destroyed by God (I Cor. 6:13). Paul also wrote the same to believers in the church at Rome: ‘Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed’ (Rom. 2:4-5). And a little later he emphatically wrote, ‘For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live’ (Rom. 8:13). Death, for the believer who deliberately and stubbornly lives in sin. And the ultimate meaning for death in the Bible is conscious torment in hell (Rev. 21:8). And the far-out meaning of life in the Bible is eternal life in the literal presence of God (2 Cor. 5:4). So, chose life, by choosing holy living which is made possible by the grace of God and the Spirit of God.

The Presidential Debates between Trump and Biden may have been done and dusted. But the Bible truths we have learnt starting from them is for us to keep remembering!

(Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj is founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is a viewer-supported Indian ministry to presentday people. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org).