What is meant by “work out your own salvation” in Phil. 2:12?

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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.” – Philippians 2:12

Some believe that justification and salvation is a process instead of a one-time event. To support their belief, they often cite Philippians 2:12 where Paul instructs the believers in Philippi to “work out” their own salvation “with fear and trembling.” Is this verse to suggest that we are responsible for “working out” our own salvation? Or is this an improper way to interpret this verse?

First, it is important to understand how we are saved.

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” – Romans 3:24–25

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8–9

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:4–7

Scripture is clear that we are not saved by our own works, but rather by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross. So why then would Paul tell the Philippian church to “work out” their own salvation?

In our modern language, we often use the phrase “work out.” For example when presented with a problem, we may say that we will “work it out” meaning that we will find a solution to the problem. To force this usage on Philippians 2:12 would indicate that the Philippian believers were “working out” or “figuring out” their salvation, which we clearly know is not the case. So what does it mean?

The Philippian believers were “working out” their salvation as in the outward expression of good works as a result of their salvation. Consider:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” – James 2:26

To interpret “work out your own salvation” as meaning we are responsible for “figuring out” our own salvation is not only incorrect, but contradicts the very gospel of Christ.

Does 2 Pet. 2:20-21 say that believers can lose their salvation?

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” – 2 Peter 2:20–21

Does 2 Peter 2:20–21 give any indication that a believer can lose their salvation? Some believe that these verses prove that those who once “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” and “again entangled therein” have lost their salvation because “it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” Let’s examine this and see.

The context of 2 Peter 2 is speaking of false prophets. Verse 20 uses the pronoun “they,” which looking at verse 19 seems to indicate a reference to the false prophets. These false prophets “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Is this “knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” a true saving knowledge of Christ? Or is this simply a knowledge of the doctrines and teachings of Christ? The text doesn’t specify, but the description of these false prophets given in verses 1–3, 10, and 12–14 indicates these individuals are not genuine believers:

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” – 2 Peter 2:1–3

“But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” – 2 Peter 2:10

“But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children” – 2 Peter 2:12–14

We do know that even devils themselves have knowledge of Jesus Christ, but they aren’t saved (James 2:19). Is it possible for someone to become involved in church, lead well-behaved lives, and even teach others but still be lost? Absolutely, it happens every day.

What is meant by verse 20, “for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them”? One possibility is the mere fact that a religious false prophet is more dangerous than an ignorant lost sinner. An individual that is knowledgeable and teaches “damnable heresies” (v. 1) can lead multitudes astray from a true saving knowledge of Christ.

2 Peter 2:20–21 cannot be used to prove believers can lose their salvation as this would be pulling more from the text than is there.

For more information, see Is eternal security true?

Does 1 Cor. 10:12 say that believers can lose their salvation?

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:12

1 Corinthians 10:12 is used by some to prove that true Christians can lose their salvation and “fall” into eternal damnation. The first question that must be asked from this text is this: take heed lest he fall into what? Fall into hell? Fall into sin? Fall into temptation? Fall from God’s blessings? Paul does not explicitly state into what is fallen, but from the context can we get some clues? Let’s take a look:

Paul begins the chapter describing the provisions the Israelites were afforded in the wilderness:

“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10:1–4

Paul continues by saying that God was not well pleased with many of them. Why?

“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” – 1 Corinthians 10:5–10

Paul tells us that the Israelites were overthrown in the wilderness, and all of the things done by them, namely lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting God, and murmuring, were examples for our admonition today:

“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” – 1 Corinthians 10:11–12

Paul then speaks of temptations, and an instruction to flee from idolatry:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13–14

Given this context, is Paul speaking of a Christian “falling” from salvation? Or rather, is Paul cautioning Christians against falling into temptation and sin? The text is not explicitly clear, but the context seems to indicate the latter. We cannot read into the text something that is not there.

For more information, see Is eternal security true?

Does 2 Tim. 2:12 say believers can lose their salvation?

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” – 2 Timothy 2:12

Some believe that embedded within 2 Timothy 2:12 is proof that believers can lose their salvation. Proponents of this belief hone in on the first part of verse 12 and suggest that if believers do not suffer [persevere], they will not reign with Christ. In other words, Christians can forfeit heaven by not persevering. Is this the case?

Let’s look at the immediate context:

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:11–13

To follow the flow of Paul’s words, let’s summarize them in a bullet list:

  • If we are dead with Christ, we shall live with Him.
  • If we suffer, we will reign with Christ.
  • If we deny Christ, He will deny us.
  • If we don’t believe, Christ will remain faithful. He cannot deny Himself.

Notice what Paul did not say. He did not say that “if we be dead with him and suffer, we shall also live with him.” Suffering was not a prerequisite for living with Christ, but rather only “if we be dead with him.” Paul wrote two independent statements: those dead in Christ shall live with Him, and those that suffer will also reign with Him. This logically concludes that those who are dead in Christ also suffer. Is this true? Do Christians suffer? Consider the following:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” – Romans 8:16–17

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” – 2 Timothy 3:12

Being a Christian is neither easy nor popular. In an evil world, Christians are called to uphold the truths of Scripture and often face fierce mockery, ridicule, and persecution around the world. There is no question that true believers suffer on account of Christ. If an individual professes to be a Christian but lives a worldly life and doesn’t stand for Christ, it most definitely is an indicator that this person is a Christian in name only and not a true believer (1 John 2:4).

So does 2 Timothy 2:12 prove that a true believer can slack in their perseverance and lose salvation? No, it does not. True believers are those that suffer on the account of Christ.

For more information, see Is eternal security true?

Is God the same for everyone?

There is a tragic ambiguity of God within society today. How many times a day is social media, the internet, or just everyday life littered with terms such as “God bless you,” “God loves you,” or “have faith in God.” All of these are true statements, but they are incredibly ambiguous. The term “God” is not the same for everyone. Let me explain.

To the Christian, God is triune in nature—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:7). God is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), and He is the way, truth, and life with no man coming to the Father but through Him (John 14:6).

To the Jehovah’s Witness, God is only one person in one God. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the trinity.1 “Jesus lived in heaven as a spirit person before he was born on earth. He was God’s first creation, and he helped in the creation of all other things. He is the only one created directly by Jehovah and is therefore appropriately called God’s ‘only-begotten’ Son. Jesus served as God’s Spokesman, so he is also called ‘the Word.'”2

To the Mormon, “God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead. President Brigham Young taught the Latter-day Saints to worship God the Father and address prayers to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. He taught further that God the Father was once a man on another planet who ‘passed the ordeals we are now passing through; he has received an experience, has suffered and enjoyed, and knows all that we know regarding the toils, sufferings, life and death of this mortality’ (DBY, 22).”3

To the Muslim, God is only one person in one God and is called Allah. Muslims reject the Trinty. Jesus was not God, but only a messenger:

“They have certainly disbelieved who say, ‘Allah is the third of three.’ And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment.” – Quran 5:73

“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.” – Quran 4:171

There are countless more faiths that could be listed, but clearly the term “God” means different things to different people. The truth is that the Scripture clearly teaches that the one true God is one God in three distinct persons—the Father, the Son [Jesus Christ], and the Holy Spirit. If one rejects Jesus Christ, then they have rejected the Father:

“Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” – 1 John 2:23

Faiths that reject the Godhood of Jesus Christ, believe Jesus Christ was a created being, believe God the Father was once a man on another planet, or any other form of heresy are not worshiping the one true God.

So is God the same for everyone? Absolutely not.


1. https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/jehovah-witness-beliefs/
2. https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/good-news-from-god/who-is-jesus-christ/
3. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 29

Does Rom. 11:22 say believers can lose their salvation?

“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” – Romans 11:22

Some churches teach, and some people believe, that Romans 11:22 is biblical support that believers can lose their salvation. Is this what Romans 11:22 says? Let’s take a look at the context.

Paul opens up in Romans 11:1 with the following:

“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” – Romans 11:1

The entirety of Romans 11 is dealing with Israel as a nation and their rejection of Christ as their messiah. Paul is dealing with two corporate bodies, the Jews and the Gentiles, and is describing God’s redemptive plan for them both. Many people attempt to force Romans 11 into the context of individual salvation, but is this what Paul is saying?

Let’s look at Romans 11:17–24:

“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” – Romans 11:17–24

Paul’s imagery in this passage deals with an olive tree. Paul describes the unbelieving Jews as being broken-off branches, while the Gentiles were grafted in as a “wild olive tree.” However Paul warns that if the Gentiles do not continue in goodness, the Gentiles will be cut off (v. 22), and if unbelieving Israel accepts Christ as their messiah, they will be grafted in (v. 23). We know that this will happen because of what Paul tells us in verse 25:

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” – Romans 11:25

“Blindness in part is happened to Israel” until when? “Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” There will come a time when the “fullness of the Gentiles” will be complete, the Gentile remnant will be cut off, and God will go back to dealing with the nation of Israel. Ultimately Israel’s eyes will be opened, and they will be saved:

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” – Romans 11:26–27

Romans 11:22 is a difficult passage to understand. However taken in light of the context of all of Scripture, it is clear that Paul is not referring to individual believers losing their salvation.

For more information, see Is eternal security true?

 

 

What happens to those left behind after the rapture?

What happens to those people left behind on Earth after the rapture of the church? Is there any hope left for these individuals, or are they forever condemned to hell? To understand the answer to this question, we must first review the timeline of events from the rapture of the church to eternity:

  • Rapture of the church occurs
  • Tribulation period – 7 years in length (a.k.a. time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble, Daniel’s 70th week)
  • Battle of Armageddon
  • Millennial Reign of Christ (literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth)
  • New heaven and new Earth created – eternity begins

The time period we are examining is the tribulation, which is also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble or Daniel’s 70th week. It is a period in time after Jesus has gathered His bride (the church), and God goes back to dealing with His people, the Jews.

So is it possible for someone who was left behind after the rapture to make it through the tribulation? Yes, I believe it is. Let’s take a look at Scripture:

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” – Revelation 20:4

In Revelation chapter 20, we find a description of the individuals that endured the tribulation and were saved. They were “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands.” So how does one make it through the tribulation? They must refuse to worship the beast and take his mark, which will likely result in dying as a martyr for Jesus Christ.

Robert Breaker, a bible teacher I highly respect, published an excellent teaching entitled The Tribulation Gospel: