Why Is Salvation for Christians a Journey, a Path, Not a Condition, or State of Being?

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Philippians 2:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 So then, my beloved, just as you 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;

This shows that there is no such doctrine as ‘Once saved, always saved.’ After we accept Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer and dedicating our lives to God, we have only entered the path to salvation, not finished the race. So, Paul counsels us to ‘keep working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.’ (Philippians 2:12) Why “keep working” and why with “fear and trembling,” if ‘once saved, always saved’? It is possible for Christians to fall away and in some cases, it is impossible for certain of such ones to revive to repentance again,

Hebrews 6:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away,[33] it is impossible to renew[34] them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to public shame. For ground that drinks the rain that comes often upon it, and brings forth vegetation usable to those people for whose sake it is also cultivated, receives a blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Hebrews 10:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge[54] of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

Revelation 3:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

Matthew 24:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Many do not want to accept it, and it is not works versus grace or faith alone but we need to have a righteous standing with God at all times, or at best at the time of Jesus’ return. (Ezekiel 33:12-16) This is why we are called on to ‘work out our salvation.’ We do this with a healthy fear and trembling of falling short. It is not some dreadful fear that is all consuming all the time, it is a reverential fear of falling short with our greatest love, God.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS WHY DON'T YOU BELIEVE

The original Greek word (κατεργάζομαι katergazomai) rendered ‘work out’ here means bringing something to completion. Therefore, there is not one true or genuine Christian who is doomed to fail or to quit. God is absolutely confident that all true Christians can ‘work out their salvation’ that he has given them, that is obedience to his will and purposes (Matt. 7:21-23), the working out that leads to their salvation, or He would not have inspired the apostle Paul to have written such a statement. So, how do we stay on the path or journey to salvation? It is not in our own strength. If the strength to stay on the path to salvation was ours alone; then, there would be no need for “fear and trembling.” Rather, God ‘acts within us,’ the Holy Spirit working in our mind and heart by way of the Spirit-inspired Scriptures, helping us “to will and to act.” With the loving help of the Heavenly Father, there is no reason why any true or genuine Christians should not make the right choices in life and live by them? – Luke 11:13.

Work out your own salvation – This important command was first addressed to Christians, but there is no reason why the same command should not be regarded as addressed to all – for it is equally applicable to all. The duty of doing this is enjoined here; the reason for making the effort, or the encouragement for the effort, is stated in Philippians 2:13. In regard to the command here, it is natural to inquire why it is a duty; and what is necessary to be done in order to comply with it? On the first of these inquiries, it may be observed that it is a duty to make a personal effort to secure salvation or to work out our salvation.

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Philippians 2:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to act, on behalf of his good pleasure.

(1) Because God commands it. There is no command more frequently repeated in the Scriptures, than the command to make to ourselves a new heart; to strive to enter in at the strait gate; to break off from sin, and to repent.

(2) It is a duty because it is our own personal interest that is at stake. No one else has, or can have, as much interest in our salvation as we have. Every person has the duty to be as happy as possible here and to be prepared for eternal happiness in the future world. No person has a right either to throw away his life or his soul. He has no more right to do the one than the other; and if it is a person’s duty to endeavor to save his life when in danger of drowning, it is no less his duty to endeavor to save his soul when in danger of hell.

(3) Our earthly friends cannot save us. No effort of theirs can deliver us from eternal death without our own exertion. Great as may be their solicitude for us, and much as they may do, there is a point where their efforts must stop – and that point is always short of our salvation unless we are roused to seek salvation. They may pray, and weep, and plead, but they cannot save us. There is work to be done on our own hearts which they cannot do.

(4) It is a duty because the salvation of the soul will not take care of itself without an effort on our part. There is no more reason to suppose this than that health and life will take care of themselves without our own exertion. And yet many live as if they supposed that somehow all would yet be well; that the matter of salvation need not give them any concern, for that things will so arrange themselves that they will be saved. Why should they suppose this anymore in regard to religion than in regard to anything else?

WHY DON'T YOU BELIEVE WAITING ON GOD WORKING FOR GOD

(5) It is a duty, because there is no reason to expect the divine interposition without our own effort. No such interposition is promised to any man, and why should he expect it? In the case of all who have been saved, they have made an effort – and why should we expect that God will favor us more than he did them? “God helps them who help themselves;” and what reason has any man to suppose that he will interfere in his case and save him if he will put forth no effort to “work out his own salvation?” In regard to the other inquiry – What does the command imply; or what is necessary to be done in order to comply with it? We may observe, that it does not mean:

(a) That we are to attempt to deserve salvation on the ground of merit. That is out of the question; for what can man do that shall be an equivalent for eternal happiness in heaven? Nor,

(b) Does it mean that we are to endeavor to make atonement for past sins. That would be equally impossible, and it is, besides, unnecessary. That work has been done by the great Redeemer. But it means:

(i) That we are to make an honest effort to be saved in the way which God has appointed;

(ii) That we are to break off from our sins by true repentance;

(iii) That we are to believe in the Saviour, and honestly to put our trust in him;

(iv) That we are to give up all that we have to God;

(v) That we are to break away from all evil companions and evil plans of life; and,

(vi) That we are to resist all the allurements of the world and all the temptations which may assail us that would lead us back from God, and are to persevere unto the end. The great difficulty in working out salvation is in forming a purpose to begin at once. When that purpose is formed, salvation is easy.

Human Imperfection CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Vol. IV WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DIE

With fear and trembling – That is, with that kind of anxiety which one has who feels that he has an important interest at stake, and that he is in danger of losing it. The reason or the ground for “fear” in this case is in general this: there is danger of losing the soul.

(1) So many persons make shipwreck of all hope and perish, that there is danger that we may also.

(2) There are so many temptations and allurements in the world, and so many things that lead us to defer attention to religion, that there is danger that we may be lost.

(3) There is danger that if the present opportunity passes, another may not occur. Death may soon overtake us. No one has a moment to lose. No one can designate one single moment of his life, and say, “I may safely lose that moment. I may safely spend it in the neglect of my soul.”

(4) It should be done with the most earnest concern, front the immensity of the interest at stake. If the soul is lost, all is lost. And who is there that can estimate the value of that soul which is thus in danger of being lost forever?

THE BATTLE FOR THE CHRISTIAN MIND (1)-1 For As I Think In My Heart_2nd Edition Put Off the Old Person

Philippians 2:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to act, on behalf of his good pleasure.

For it is God who works in you – This is given as a reason for making an effort to be saved, or for working out our salvation. It is often thought to be the very reverse, and people often feel that if God works “in us to will and to do,” there can be no need of our making an effort and that there would be no use in it. If God does all the work, say they, why should we not patiently sit still, and wait until He puts forth His power and accomplishes in us what He wills? It is of importance, therefore, to understand what this declaration of the apostle means, in order to see whether this objection is valid, or whether the fact that God “works in us” is to be regarded as a reason why we should make no effort. The word rendered “worketh” – ἐνεργῶν energōn – working – is from a verb meaning to work, to be active to produce effect – and is that from which we have derived the word “energetic.” The meaning is, that God “produces a certain effect in us;” he exerts such an influence over us as to lead to a certain result in our minds – to wit, “to will and to do.” Nothing is said of the mode in which this is done, but logic and reason dictates that we are led by way of the inspired, inerrant Scriptures. In regard to the divine agency here referred to, however, certain things, though of a negative character, are clear:

WAITING ON GOD WORKING FOR GOD HUMILITY

(1) It is not God who acts for us. He leads us to “will and to do.” It is not said that he wills and does for us, and it cannot be. It is man that “wills and does” – though God so influences him that he does it.

(2) He does not compel or force us against our will. He leads us to will as well as to do. The will cannot be forced; and the meaning here must be that God exerts such an influence as to make us willing to obey Him; compare Psa. 110:3.

(3) It is not a physical force, but it must be a moral influence. A physical power cannot act on the will. You may chain a man, incarcerate him in the deepest dungeon, starve him, scourge him, apply red-hot tongs to his flesh, or place on him the thumb-screw, but the will is still free. You cannot bend that or control it, or make him believe otherwise than as he chooses to believe. The declaration here, therefore, cannot mean that God compels us, or that we are anything else but free agents still, though He “works in us to will and to do.” It must mean merely that he exerts such an influence as to secure this result.

Both to will and to act, on behalf of his good pleasure – Not to will and to do everything, but “His good pleasure.” The extent of the divine agency here referred to, is limited to that, and no man should adduce this passage to prove that God “works” in him to lead him to commit sin. This passage teaches no such doctrine. It refers here to Christians and means that he works in their hearts that which is agreeable to him, or leads them to “will and to do” that which is in accordance with his own will. The word rendered “good pleasure” – εὐδοκία eudokia – means “delight, good-will, favor;” then “good pleasure, purpose, will;” see Eph. 1:5; 2Th. 1:11. Here it means that which would be agreeable to him; and the idea is, that he exerts such an influence as to lead people to will and to do that which is in accordance with his will. Paul regarded this fact as a reason why we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is with that view that he urges it, and not with any idea that it will embarrass our efforts, or be a hindrance to us in seeking salvation. The question then is, how this fact can be a motive to us to make an effort? In regard to this we may observe:

PROMISES OF GODS GUIDANCE Let God Use You to Solve Your PROBLEMS THE POWER OF GOD

(1) That the work of our salvation is such that we need help, and such help as God only can impart. We need it to enable us to overcome our sins; to give us such a view of them as to produce true penitence; to break away from our evil companions; to give up our plans of evil, and to resolve to lead different lives. We need help that our minds may be enlightened; that we may be led in the way of truth; that we may be saved from the danger of error, and that we may not be suffered to fall back into the ways of transgression. Such help we should welcome from any quarter; and any assistance furnished on these points will not interfere with our freedom.

(2) The influence which God exerts on the mind is in the way of help or aid. What He does will not embarrass or hinder us. It will prevent no effort which we make to be saved; it will throw no hindrance or obstacle in the way. When we speak of Gods working “in us to will and to do,” people often seem to suppose that His agency will hinder us, or throw some obstacle in our way, or exert some evil influence on our minds, or make it more difficult for us to work out our salvation than it would be without His agency. But this cannot be. We may be sure that all the influence which God exerts over our minds, will be to aid us in the work of salvation, not to embarrass us; will be to enable us to overcome our spiritual enemies and our sins, and not to put additional weapons into their hands or to confer on them new power. Why should people ever dread the influence of God on their hearts, as if he would hinder their efforts for their own good?

(3) The fact that God works is an encouragement for us to work. When a man is about to set out a peach or an apple tree, it is an encouragement for him to reflect that the agency of God is around him and that he can cause the tree to produce blossoms, and leaves, and fruit. When he is about to plow and sow his farm, it is an encouragement, not a hindrance, to reflect that God works and that he can quicken the grain that is sown, and produce an abundant harvest. What encouragement of a higher order can man ask? And what farmer is afraid of the agency of God in the case, or supposes that the fact that God exerts an agency is a reason why he should not plow and plant his field or set out his orchard? Poor encouragement would a man have in these things if God did not exert any agency in the world, and could not be expected to make the tree grow or to cause the grain to spring up; and equally poor would be all the encouragement in religion without his aid.

by Edward D. Andrews and Albert Barnes

See also WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY ABOUT BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN LOSING THEIR SALVATION?, / WHY DOES 1 JOHN 2:2 NOT SUPPORT UNIVERSAL RECONCILIATION (I.E., UNIVERSAL SALVATION)?, / CHRISTIANS: SALVATION AS A WORK?.

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7 thoughts on “Why Is Salvation for Christians a Journey, a Path, Not a Condition, or State of Being?

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  1. I often enjoy reading your posts, while I’m Muslim and haven’t been a Christian for years I find it refreshing that there exists a blog that is comprehensive in breaking down Christian theology in an easy to read way but jam-packed full of interesting insights and knowledge. Keep up the awesome work!

    1. Ahmad: Thank you for the best comment of the decade. This is emotionally moving for me, with decades of writing, literally tens of thousands of hours of reading, research, writing, and speaking with people. When I get a message like this, it reinvigorates me.

      1. Your welcome! I know how much hard work can go into the work you do, and I was moved to speak up and let you know it isn’t going unnoticed.

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