Pastor David B. Curtis


The Great Paradox

Philippians 2:12-13 - Part 1


This morning we are going to do kind of an overview of Philippians 2:12-13. Next time we will look at verse 12, and then verse 13 on the following week. These two verses confront us with two doctrines that we need to understand -- human responsibility and divine sovereignty.

Human responsibility is seen in:

Philippians 2:12 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, 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;

Divine Sovereignty is seen in:

Philippians 2:13 (NKJV) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

So we see human responsibility in verse 12 and divine sovereignty in verse 13. Every thinking Christian gladly affirms that God is sovereign. He is the absolute ruler, His will is always accomplished. God's sovereignty is a comfort to us, it assures us that He is able to do what He has promised us. If God wasn't sovereign, He would make promises like us, maybe with all good intentions, but without the power to carry them out. But because He is sovereign, He can in fact carry out every promise that he has made. But the bare fact of God's sovereignty raises one big question; "How is God's sovereignty related to human responsibility?" Or, "If God is in control of all things, including our actions, how can we be responsible?"

These two doctrines have been the subject of much debate and controversy over the years. On one side of the spectrum, to the far right, you have the hyper-Calvinists who say, "If God wants it done, he'll do it without the help of you or me." Hyper-Calvinist don't need to witness or work at their sanctification, God does it all. On the far left of the spectrum you have the Arminians who say, "If we don't do it, it won't get done." In the middle of these you have Biblical Calvinism that says, "God is sovereign but we are responsible." They understand God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.

Let's look at this controversy in the area of "Salvation" -- Is salvation the sovereign work of God or is man responsible?

Acts 13:46-48 (NKJV) Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 "For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'" 48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Who believed the Gospel? Those who were appointed to eternal life. Doesn't that clearly imply that those who didn't believe weren't appointed?

So we see that God is sovereign in salvation. If God sovereignly chooses who is to be saved, is man responsible in the area of salvation?

John 3:16-18 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Why does verse 18 say that men are condemned? Is it because God has not appointed them to eternal life? That is not what it says. It says they are condemned because "they do not believe in Jesus Christ."

God is sovereign in salvation but we are also responsible. You might ask, "How can both of these be true?" Here we face the "fight or flight" dilemma. We might try to fight our way into a logical solution of it or take a turn and run as fast as we can from it. If you try to reconcile these doctrines, you destroy them both. Or folks will choose one over the other, accepting one and rejecting the other.

This is the "Great Paradox" of Scripture. A "paradox" is an appearance of contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable or necessary. It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. A paradox exists when a pair of principles stand side by side (Philippians 2:12-13) seemingly irreconcilable, yet both undeniable. There are cogent reasons for believing each of them; each rests on clear and solid evidence; but it is a mystery to you how they can be joined with each other.

What do you do with a paradox? Accept it for what it is and learn to live with it. We have been looking at a paradox for the last several weeks; Is Jesus Christ God or man? Yes! He is God, 100% God of very God. He is also 100% man. That's 200% how can it be? He is the unique person of the universe, he is the Theanthropic person, the God-man.

Let me ask you who wrote the book of Philippians-- Paul or the Holy Spirit? Yes! Did Paul write one verse and then the Spirit write a verse, and so on? No. Paul wrote it, you see his personality, feeling, and his ideas all through the book, but 2 Timothy teaches us that Scripture is written by the Spirit of God.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

Paul wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it's a paradox.

The paradox we are looking at today is the apparent opposition between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Or we could put it this way: it's between what God does as King and what He does as Judge. Scripture teaches that God as King orders and controls all things, including humans actions, in accordance with His own eternal purpose. God is the King, and as the King, he rules.

Daniel 4:17 (NKJV) 'This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.'

The Scriptures are very clear that God sits in heaven as a King and rules over the affairs of the earth. Look with me at Genesis 45 and let's look at God's Kingly rule. This is an illustration of God's Kingly rule that is set in a very practical background. This is the story of Joseph. He was sold by his brothers into slavery, they hated him. He became the slave of an Egyptian captain of Pharaoh's guard. This Egyptian's wife tried to seduce Joseph and when Joseph refused her advancements, she was infuriated and accused him of trying to rape her. Joseph was then put in prison. While in prison he interpreted some dreams of Pharaoh and was brought out prison and promoted to the number two man in all of Egypt.

Genesis 45:4-8 (NKJV) And Joseph said to his brothers, "Please come near to me." So they came near. Then he said: "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

His brothers hated him and sold him into slavery but Joseph said, "God sent me here." Joseph understood the sovereignty of God.

6 "For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

God was sovereignly working through Joseph's brother's sin to put him in a place where he could save their lives.

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

God was sovereignly using their sin to bring about his plan.

Notice what the Proverbs say about God's sovereignty.

Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

You plan your way-- that's human responsibility-- but it is the Lord who directs your steps.

Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV) The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

We see an illustration of this verse in Genesis 20. Do you remember the story of how King Abimelech took Abraham's wife, Sarah, to be his wife, but God withheld him from sinning-- sleeping with her.

Genesis 20:6 (NKJV) And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

Did God physically restrain him from touching her? No! God controlled his heart as Proverbs 21:1 says.

Is it only the heart of the king that God controls? No. God controls the hearts of all men. He is the sovereign ruler.

Matthew 10:28-29 (NKJV) "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Who is he telling them to fear? God. It is God, and God alone, who has the power of life and death.

29 "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will.

Luke tells us that you can buy five sparrows for two copper coins. A sparrow is sold for half a penny, and it doesn't fall to the ground apart from God's will. Something as seemingly insignificant as a sparrow that only cost a half a penny doesn't die apart from God's will. Think about that. God controls the universe and everything in it, not even a bird dies apart from His will. Let's look at one more.

Acts 4:27-28 (NKJV) "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

The word "determined" is the Greek word proorizo, which means: "to pre-determine, to ordain, to limit in advance." These people only did to Jesus what God had ordained for them to do.

Scripture teaches that God is king, and as king he orders and controls all things, human actions included.

Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Scripture also teaches that as Judge, He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the course of action he pursues. He's king, he controls all things, and he is Judge, he judges us for what we do. You might be thinking, "That doesn't make any sense at all. If he is ruling over all my actions, how can he blame me for what I do?"

We have seen that the Scriptures teach that God is sovereign, now let's look at what the Scripture teaches us about human responsibility. In the parable of the talents, we see man's responsibility.

Matthew 25:27-30 (NKJV) 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Because this servant did not act on his responsibility, he was judged. In verses 31-46 of Matthew 25 we see the judgment of the sheep and goats.

Matthew 25:41-43 (NKJV) "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'

They were held responsible for their actions. We see this same idea in Revelation 20, the judgment of the sheep and goats and the great white throne judgment are one and the same.

Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV) Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Here we see that judgment is based upon human responsibility.

God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are side by side in the same Bible; sometimes in the same verse:

Luke 22:21-22 (NKJV) "But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. 22 "And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!"

Here we see God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in one verse. That Judas would betray Christ was "determined" -- horizo: "to mark out or bound, to appoint, decree, ordain." Jesus Christ was betrayed by Judas just as it had been ordained of God to happen. It was prophesied in the Old Testament that he would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. Judas fulfilled that prophecy. Jesus went exactly as God had determined. Now look at the rest of the verse; "But woe to that man" -- this is human responsibility." Woe" is a pronouncement of judgment or condemnation. Judas is held accountable for what he did, even though what he did was determined by God.

Acts 2:23 (NKJV) "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

The death of Christ was determined by God, but those who did it were "lawless" and held responsible.

God's sovereignty and human responsibility are taught side by side in Scripture, both are true. Please note: God did not teach us the reality of His rule in order to give us an excuse for neglecting His orders.

Some may say, "God is sovereign and is going to do what he wants-- we don't have to do anything." That is not why he teaches His sovereignty. As sovereign God, he commands us to obey His Word. Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled: man is divinely controlled though he is also a responsible moral agent. To our finite minds, this sounds like a contradiction and our first reaction is to complain that it is absurd and unfair. "How can God hold us responsible if we are divinely controlled?" Paul answers this very argument in:

Romans 9:15-21 (NKJV) For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"

In other words, how can he hold us responsible if we can't resist his will? Look at Paul's answer. He didn't try to demonstrate the propriety of God's action; instead he rebukes the spirit of question.

20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Creatures are not entitled to register complaints about their Creator. Remember when Job began to question God? What did God do? He didn't answer Job's questions, he asked Job where he was when he laid the foundation of the earth. God was saying, "I'm the creator, who are you to question me?" The Creator has told us that He is both a sovereign Lord and a righteous Judge, that should be enough for us. We should trust what He says!

We shouldn't be surprised when we find mysteries in God's Word. The Creator is incomprehensible to His creatures. A God whom we could understand exhaustively would be a God made in man's image and, therefore, an imaginary God.

Isaiah 55:8 (NKJV) "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.

If I could totally understand God, I would be on His level, I'd be equal with Him.

As you read through Isaiah and Jeremiah, God mocks the people who make false gods. We don't make idols but we are often just as guilty of creating false gods. They would take a tree and carve it and put it in the corner and worship it. When trouble came they would have to pick up their god and run with it. They had to protect their gods. Their gods couldn't hear them or help them; what kind of god is that? Many have done that today-- they have created a god that without them is helpless. But the God of the Bible is the sovereign creator of all things who always gets his will done.

Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

I find great joy in serving a God who is absolutely sovereign. We must resist the temptation to assert man's responsibility in a way that excludes God from being sovereign, or to affirm God's sovereignty in a way that destroys the responsibility of man. Both are true! Accept them and learn to live with them. This is not just a theological problem, it is also a very practical problem. That is why I call this the "Great Paradox." For example; When we hear that there is a hurricane coming, what should we do? The hyper-Calvinist would say, "God is sovereign and he'll do what he wants, so let's just sit back and watch." So, you don't have any food or water ready, you don't tie down the loose things that could blow around, you don't find out where the shelter is, you do nothing. Husbands, we are responsible to take care of our families, we are to provide for them.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

I hope you can see how practical this is, your theology effects your practice. Then we have the other side-- panic and worry. The hurricane is coming; call the builder and have a storm shelter built, call the tree surgeon and have every tree cut down so it won't fall on your house. You get enough food and water stored up to last a year. You put bars on your windows and have fifty caliber machine guns mounted on the roof to protect against looters. Then after you get everything done, you still worry.

The balanced position is that we take the necessary precautions in case the storm should hit without panicking or worrying but trusting God. We exercise our responsibility and we trust God. During the war of independence, the Colonists used to say, "Trust in God and keep you powder dry."

Philippians 2:12-13 clearly show us the paradox-- we are responsible and God is sovereign. Let's look at our text:

Philippians 2:12 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, 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;

Before we can really deal with these verses further, we need to know what the subject is. The main emphasis here is "work out your own salvation." What exactly does he mean by this? To understand this, we must first understand what he means by the word "salvation." A true exegesis must begin with a definition of "salvation." The majority of English readers see this word and automatically think -- eternal life, salvation from hell. But the Greek verb sozo-- save, and the noun soteria -- salvation, have a wide range of possible meanings. They can be referring to physical healing, rescue from danger, spiritual deliverance of various kinds, and to preservation from final judgment and hell. We must determine its meaning from its usage in the context.

Let's do a word study on the word "save."

Matthew 1:21 (NKJV) "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

What does sozo mean here? This is clearly a reference to deliverance from eternal damnation or hell.

Matthew 8:24-25 (NKJV) And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"

What does sozo mean here? Are they asking him to redeem them from hell? No! They are asking to be saved from drowning. Sozo is used here for physical deliverance.

Acts 4:9 (NKJV) "If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well,

The words "made well" are the Greek word sozo. Sozo is used here to refer to physical deliverance from an infirmity. The context is speaking of the lame man who the disciples healed.

Acts 27:20 (NKJV) Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.

They aren't hoping for eternal life here, they are hoping for deliverance form the sea. This is again a reference to physical deliverance.

Acts 27:31 (NKJV) Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved."

Some legalist will undoubtedly use this verse and say that you must be in a ship to get saved. This is referring to physical deliverance from drowning.

Acts 27:34 (NKJV) "Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you."

The word "survival" here is soteria-- salvation. He uses soteria here in the sense of health. It speaks of their physical well being.

I hope you are seeing that sozo and soteria have a broad range of meanings. Now let's look at one that is a little more difficult to translate:

James 1:21 (NKJV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

This is the theme of the book of James. The phrase "save your souls" is the Greek phrase "sozen ten psuche" which is a standard and normal way of saying, "to save your life." There is no text in the Greek Bible where it can be shown to have the meaning, "to save the soul from hell."

James has been talking about the death dealing consequences of sin:

James 1:13-15 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

I don't think that this is referring to spiritual death because that is a result of the fall. I think it is best to see this here as referring to physical death. In 1:21, he suggests that the antidote to that kind of consequence is the life saving capacity of God's Word. Remember, James is a Jewish epistle and in the Old Testament the theme is frequently repeated, "righteousness leads to life."

James 1:21-22 (NKJV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

James is saying here that they will be saved from the destruction that sin brings if they are doers of the Word.

The meaning of "salvation or save" must be determined by the context. Let's try another one:

Romans 10:9 (NKJV) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

What does sozo mean here? Is it speaking abut eternal life? Is confession with the mouth a necessary condition for receiving eternal life? Many say that it is, they say you must publicly confess Christ. What is a dumb person to do? Is this saying that if you can't speak, you can't be saved? Look with me at:

John 12:36-43 (NKJV) "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. 37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them." 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

The comparison is clear; many did not believe in him because God had blinded their hearts but "many of the rulers did believe in Him." The inspired Word of God says that these rulers "believed" in Him, but out of fear they did not confess him. Since John clearly teaches that eternal life comes by believing in Christ, I would say that these men were Christians. They had received eternal life but they did not confess Him.

If Paul's intention in Romans 10:9 is to say that confession is necessary for eternal life, it stands alone here in all the New Testament. Not even Paul himself, introduces this idea elsewhere in his 13 letters. Worse yet, the gospel of John, which explicitly claims to be written to bring people to eternal life (John 20:30-31), never once lays down "confession" as a condition for that life.

I believe that what Paul is saying in Romans 10:9 is that confession of Christ (identifying with the Christian community) would lead to deliverance from physical death when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. This is the same meaning of:

Romans 10:13 (NKJV) For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

How can anyone ask God for help if they don't believe in Him?

Romans 10:14 (NKJV) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Calling on the name of the Lord is a Christian activity. Calling upon the Lord is the Old Testament way of expressing worship and applies specifically to the worship of supplication. It is the believer who is delivered/saved when he calls upon the name of the Lord.

With this background of sozo in mind, let's go back to our text in Philippians:

Philippians 2:12 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, 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;

If Paul is using "salvation" here as justification or eternal life, than works are a condition. This would be teaching "salvation" by works. Does this fit with the Analogy of faith?

No, the Scripture teaches that eternal life is a gift of grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Romans 3:27-28 (NKJV) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Justification/eternal life is a gift received by faith alone!

Paul uses soteria two other times in the epistle of Philippians. Let's look at them:

Philippians 1:19-20 (NKJV) For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

The word "deliverance" is soteria. When Paul writes, " I know that this will turn out for my deliverance," their first impression would be that he anticipates release from prison. But the remainder of his words show them that this is not what he has in mind. "For me" says Paul, "Real deliverance/soteria will consist of magnifying Christ whether I live or die. For this I need your prayers and the help of God's Spirit."

Paul elevates his natural human concern with deliverance/soteria from trouble to the level of a spiritual concern that he will be delivered/sozo from failing to honor God in whatever his fate.

Philippians 1:28 (NKJV) and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.

The Philippians also have sufferings just as Paul did, but they, too, can seek a deliverance/soteria in which Christ is magnified in them as well. To be truly delivered/sozo in suffering, is not necessarily to survive it physically, but to glorify God through it.

When Philippians 2:12 is referred back to Paul's earlier references to salvation/soteria, its meaning becomes clear. Since this salvation/soteria consist essentially in honoring God by life or death, it is necessarily inseparable from lives of obedience. The "therefore" of verse 12 connects it to verses 5-11; Christ honored God by obedience, you do the same.

In Philippians, Paul never used the word soteria to refer to the question of heaven or hell. Both he and his readers knew where they were going:

Philippians 4:3 (NKJV) And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

The subject of verse 12-13 is soteria, and soteria is used here to mean: "work out your own deliverance form failing to honor Christ." He is using soteria here of practical or progressive sanctification.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 (NKJV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,

The word "sanctification" here is the Greek word hagiasmos, it means: "to make holy, separation from sin." This is referring to our progressive sanctification, our spiritual growth. As we grow spiritually, we see a decreasing frequency of sin in our lives. As you separate your life from sin, you honor God and bring him glory.

Positionally, we are sanctified, we are as righteous as Christ. Our progressive or practical sanctification is the working out in our lives what we are in position.

Are we practically sanctified by the sovereignty of God or by our human responsibility?

Philippians 2:12 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, 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 verse emphasizes our responsibility to grow in practical holiness. We must discipline ourselves to grow.

Philippians 2:13 (NKJV) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

This verse emphasizes our dependence upon God's power to help us grow in grace.

How are we to work out our sanctification? Dependent Discipline. "Discipline" sums up our responsibility to put away sin and live a holy life. "Dependent" emphasizes our need for God's power to do anything.

If you read through Psalm 119, you will see David's discipline and his dependence in his spiritual growth.

Psalms 119:4-5 (NKJV) You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently. 5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes!
Psalms 119:8 (NKJV) I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
Psalms 119:10 (NKJV) With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

This is how we are to grow in the Christians life, Dependent discipline. So get busy trusting God!

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