Does your church help you work out your salvation?

By Steve Manskar

The following are several excerpts from John Wesley’s sermon 85: “On Working Out Your Salvation.” The sermon is based on Philippians 2:12-13

“Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Here are a few key passages from Wesley’s sermon:

If ever you desire that God should work in you that faith whereof cometh both present and eternal salvation, by the grace already given, fly from all sin as from the face of a serpent; carefully avoid every evil word and work; yea, abstain from all appearance of evil. And ‘learn to do well’; be zealous of good works, of works of piety, as well as works of mercy. Use family prayer, and cry to God in secret. Fast in secret, and ‘your Father which seeth in secret, he will reward you openly.’ ‘Search the Scriptures’; hear them in public, read them in private, and meditate therein. At every opportunity be a partaker of the Lord’s Supper. ‘Do this in remembrance of him,’ and he will meet you at his own table. Let your conversation be with the children of God, and see that it ‘be in grace, seasoned with salt’. As ye have time, do good unto all men, to their souls and to their bodies. And herein ‘be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.’ It then only remains that ye deny yourselves and take up your cross daily. Deny yourselves every pleasure which does not prepare you for taking pleasure in God, and willingly embrace every means of drawing near to God, though it be a cross, though it be grievous to flesh and blood. Thus when you have redemption in the blood of Christ, you will ‘go on to perfection’; till, ‘walking in the light, as he is in the light’, you are enabled to testify that ‘he is faithful and just’, not only ‘to forgive your sins’, but ‘to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.’ …

First, God worketh in you; therefore you can work ….

Therefore inasmuch as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation. Since he worketh in you of his own good pleasure, without any merit of yours, both to will and to do, it is possible for you to fulfil all righteousness….

Secondly, God worketh in you; therefore you must work: you must be ‘workers together with him’; otherwise he will cease working. …

‘he that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.’

Wesley is saying that salvation is a gift from God. Nothing we can ever do is good enough to earn such a gift; otherwise it wouldn’t be a gift.

The gift is given for a reason and a purpose. The reason is God loves us and it is God’s nature to give freely of himself to everyone who will accept and receive the gift. The purpose is to free us to work with Christ in his mission of preparing this world for the reign of God that is coming.

This sermon is about the purpose of the gift of salvation. It is about our need to work with Christ. If we are unwilling to work with him, then we give up the gift he worked so hard to make available to us.

Does your church help you work out your salvation?