I have often heard people say that if salvation is really eternal, why does the Bible instruct us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” I prefer the New Living Translation which reads in Philippians 2:12, “work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (respect). The next verse goes on to tell us that, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
We want to live more Christlike but isn’t it so hard at times? Probably we are our own worst enemies, mistakingly thinking that it’s up to our own hard work; however, the verse clearly tells us that God Himself is working in us and giving us His own desires. What does that mean exactly? Are we still working for our salvation?
I recently read something by David Jeremiah which explained it wonderfully. I paraphrase his words. The concept of our salvation involves three stages: Initially when we come to Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin. As we grow into Christlike maturity, desiring with all our being to walk in His ways and to be obedient to Him, trusting that His ways are for our own good, then He gives us the power to overcome sin. It doesn’t mean we ever become sinless but it does mean we are able to walk further without falling; temptations to sin are better kept in control because we are walking easily in the power of God to stand against sin. Finally and wonderfully, one day when we leave earth for heaven, we are then saved from the very presence of sin. Isn’t that amazing and exciting? I’m so thankful for that insight the Lord gave to David Jeremiah.
So we see that our salvation cannot at all be earned. It’s bought by Jesus, paid with His blood, given as a gift. We may choose to receive the gift or not. Then we walk on each day, month by month, year by year, learning of Him and His ways, becoming more like Him, beginning to overcome the influence of sin until that long awaited day when we see Jesus face to face. Only then are we finally free from the very presence of sin. It will be vanquished forever! Hallelujah! We will be free at last!