What Does It Mean, “Work Out Your Own Salvation?”

What Does It Mean, “Work Out Your Own Salvation?” November 23, 2018

Paul says we should work out our own salvation, so does this mean we’re saved by our own works?


Jesus Christ introduced the gospel by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), so apparently, repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin that allow us to receive eternal life, and this is received only through Jesus Christ (John 6:44; Acts 4:12). Salvation is not by works or trying really hard, but it is only “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Clearly, “it is not [our] own doing,” but it is from being born again or born from above (John 3:3-7), so this is a free “gift of God.” If you receive presents on your birthday, can you really say you deserved them because you had everything to do with when and where you were born? Of course not. In the same way, we cannot take credit for a gift that’s been given to us, so all glory goes to God alone because we are not saved by doing. It is “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:9). If it were, we might always be plagued by doubts about whether we had ever done enough works to save ourselves, but we know that if we offer our works to God as part of our salvation, God considers them as nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We must trust in Christ. Jesus said that is the only works we can do to be saved (John 6:29). That does not mean we won’t have works, because works will be a natural byproduct of the Spirit of God’s work in us (James 2:14-25).

Works and Salvation

James wrote that, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17), and that makes perfect sense because we do good works out of our salvation, but not for our salvation, so what works do we mean? They are the works that God has sovereignly placed before us (Matt 25:35-36; Eph 2:10). It’s not enough to say you believe in Jesus because “Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19b). If you say you believe but have no works, then you’ve just qualified to become a demon because demons believe in Christ, but the only works they have are evil. We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that stands alone. It is our “reasonable service” (Rom 12:2) that accompanies salvation. Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Bearing fruit proves whether someone is Jesus’ disciple, but they don’t bear their own fruit out of the soil of humanity, but rather from the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4), meaning, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b). And the last time I checked, “nothing” is not even a little “something.”

Work it Out

The Apostle Paul wrote that “even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), but if we’re not saved by self-effort or works, why does Paul say, “work out your own salvation,” and to do that “with fear and trembling?” Many have interpreted this as meaning we must work with God and cooperate with His Spirit in trying to become more like Christ and striving to sin less, although never being sinless in this life. It is a progressive sanctification that God works in us through His Spirit, but also through His Word and through His Son. These three all agree. We do not get saved only to become the “frozen chosen.” One man said that there are already too many pew potatoes in the church. The lost rarely come to the church so the church must go to the lost (Matt 28:18-20).

Resisting the Devil

Working out our own salvation also means working with God’s Spirit as we strive to resist the Devil and submit to God, so the Devil will flee from us (James 4:7). We can only do anything through Christ (Phil 4:13), but thankfully, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). We are to work out our own salvation, but God’s Spirit will help us. I believe that also means we are not called to work out other people’s salvation. We have enough to work on with ourselves! We can help others in their walk with Christ, but we cannot get them saved. They must work it out themselves, but never in isolation though (Heb 10:24-25). We can share the Word of God with them and pray for the Spirit of God to illuminate the Son of God, but that’s all the work we can do to save others. For us, it is about us submitting to God, having a daily intake of the Word of God, keeping constant contact with God through prayer, and yielding to the Spirit’s prompting to follow through on God’s will. God is the One working in us, but He needs our cooperation.


If you are still working on “you,” then welcome to the club. We must work out our own salvation, and it’s not easy. That’s why we must do it with “fear and trembling.” The word “fear” is more about having a reverence or deep respect for the Word of God and the God of the Word. The word “trembling” has more to do with being in a state of humility and submission. Even Paul came to the Church at Corinth with “weakness and fear, and with much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3) because he was responsible for teaching them the oracles of God, so we work with God’s Spirit in become more Christ-like, but we do good works which God has laid out before us to do, or when we come across an opportunity. That’s when we know we’re in the will of God. Now the question is, “Will we do them?”

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • Theodore A. Jones

    “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Work out what the law is that Paul is referencing.

    • Truthteller

      1 Timothy 4, New Living Translation:

      7Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

      • Theodore A. Jones

        So then is it your opinion that Paul’s statement of Rom. 2:13 is a godless idea and perhaps an old wives’ tale also?

        • Truthteller

          I am not arguing that with you at all, sir. The law will be taught in the Millenial Kingdom one day.

          But I focus more on helping people receive their spiritual births and new nature from Christ.

          A few in Old Testament times kept the law perfectly but their hearts were still not pure.

          Christ is the only one who had both the perfect heart motives and was able to keep the law.

          We need the spiritual birth and regeneration before even tackling the law question.

          The law is spiritual and perfect.

          But without Christ’s new nature in us how could we even tackle obeying and understanding God’s Law?

          Dr. Stephen E. Jones has a long series on God’s Law on his site called Deuteronomy Series.

          But still I am confused on it. If one truly is born again and actually matures in Christ then won’t his Christlike nature ensure he has an obedient spirit?

          Isn’t the whole new nature what God is really after and not just rule keeping?

          One must be born again, mature spiritually and learn to go with the flow of the Spirit until obedience is as natural as breathing.

          There is an awful lot of scripture to understand in the assimilating and maturing of God’s nature and with all the confusion in this world today spiritual birth is not easy for some.

          Have a blessed day. If you get a chance read Williamson’s The Nature of Salvation on auburn.edu.

          God is the Savior of all men, especially those that believe.

          How can God be called Savior of all men for His offer only? He is called Savior of all men because He is effectual. Of course, He is effectual in saving everyone. He has the very best heart motive and the power to back that heart motive up in spite of human failures in understanding and their communication of that failure.

          The popes communicated misinfo on the scriptures for centuries and got away with a lot of it until Luther came along.

          But thanks be to God we all have our own minds and some have the Holy Spirit as tutor to re-learn things and mature spiritually. We all have a lot of carnality to overcome.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “I’m not arguing that with you at all sir.” Well then whom is that you are arguing against?

          • Truthteller

            I am not arguing. I passed through that phase a long time ago as God set me further apart unto Him.

            I mostly exhort and teach now because that is how knowledge is passed on.

            Unfortunately, this blog comments section is beset with people who like to challenge God’s spiritual authority so they keep promoting science which is only a partial continually evolving authority on materialism as opposition to His full authority on everything both metaphysical and natural.

            If these people want to block their own spiritual births and educations then who am I to disrespect their personhood to force them to see the light? Am I suppose to overcome their wills? No, one can only point out, exhort and persuade.

            In the end all people must bear individual responsibility for their own souls, words and actions even though a great portion of the world seems to be incompetent at guarding and protecting their own souls as shown by the number of people turning to pills and psychiatry on a regular, continuous basis.

            But God does give us His word that who ever receives Him can become His children.

            John 1:12

            English Standard Version
            But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

            Who is going to teach you to care for your own soul better than God?

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Hot shot. Reviewing the order of posts between me and you. I began this exchange by posting “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom.2:13 NIV Countering the content of Rom. 2:13 you cited 1 Tm. 4 NLT & Jn. 1:12 ESV, to refute the soteriological validity of Rom. 2:13 and then you claim that you are not arguing. I think if were to be that Ray Charles were still around even he could see that you are arguing by alleging that the scripture contradicts itself.

          • Truthteller

            Of course, I am not arguing with you. I made a mistake and selected the wrong button to post under.

            I am commenting as a universalist and not really intending to address the law in this thread.

            My pet peeve is with the false eternal torment doctrine that has been foisted onto Christianity through translation error.

            Have a blessed day!

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “My pet peeve is with the false eternal torment doctrine ect.”; and what from the Bible do you cite to substantiate that assumption?

          • Truthteller

            Initially from the mistranslation of the Greek word aion.

            Read “Aion-Aionios” by John Wesley Hanson. He explains the translation error that many have spotted and mainstream religion refuses to acknowledge to make a doctrinal correction.

            Instead of checking like a Berean you would be surprised at the number who opt for arguing.

          • Truthteller

            I suggest you research into the original text for the word hell. The word hell is non-existent in the original ancient language of the biblical text.

            It is well known that hell is drawn from 3 words: gehenna, sheol and tartarus. All 3 have different meanings so why did the ancient translators opt for the word hell?

            Why couldn’t they use the original 3 words to allow passages to be clearer? Since all 3 words have different meanings and interpretation of a text is based on word meaning.

            Research that and see what you learn.


          • Theodore A. Jones

            “Original text”?

          • Truthteller

            I am done arguing. You were given enough leads to start to unravel the doctrinal error.

            The Bible wasn’t written in English but in ancient languages.

            Trying to leave this site now. Goodbye.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Don’t let the door hit you in the arse.

          • Truthteller

            I won’t. You’re another nasty surprise on this site. A man acting like a Christian by posting verses who doesn’t love other Christians.

            Take stock of your own shortcomings.

            But I suppose you are an atheist impersonating a Christian for kicks. This is cyber space and loaded with people who don’t know the Bible is for soberminded men not trolls like yourself.

          • He’s a Christian, more of a Christian than you are.

          • pud

            You babble bullshit and nonsense…the end

          • You are spot on here, as always. She babbles horse shit as well!

          • “I am not arguing.”

            You are not fooling anyone with your claims. Arguing is exactly what you were doing. Then you come over with all your pompous propaganda and your so-called elite spiritual position. You claim to be “exhorting and teaching”, but actually you are arguing. All Theodore Jones did was quote the bible to you, and you try to argue with him.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            My conclusion is that (“Truthteller”) contests the validity of what was quoted and so does Jack Wellman and Roger Olson.

          • Yes, I think that you are spot on there.

          • Truthteller

            Where did I specifically contest your verse?

            I merely posted a verse then explained it was for a universalist purpose later.

            You didn’t even read Hanson did you? His work is online for free and easily googled.

            Don’t bother answering. I don’t want to argue with you.

            I hope you google it and read it.

          • Well said!

          • Truthteller

            You are such a busybody determined to interfere in a conversation that does not concern you (my aside with Theodore A. Jones) so you can make lying claims about me and false criticisms.

            Grow up and go back to an atheist blog where you belong.

            There is nothing to argue because you simply do not understand the nature of a believer any more than an apple can understand what it is to be an orange.

            And you are no legitimate psychiatric authority either to be alleging Christians are mentally ill which you have done in the past in your posts on the Christian Crier.

            Dr. Phil is a professional psychiatrist and a Christian if we were crazy don’t you think with his professional background that he would refuse to be one?

            You are a willing victim of atheistic stereotypical thinking. That is all.

            I am deleting the account soon.
            And done exhorting you.

            Have a nice life.

          • I am not a busybody determined to interfere in a private conversation. This is a PUBLIC blog, not a private one. You keep on lying for Jesus and when people like Theodore Jones tell you a truth that you don’t agree with, you get on your “high horse” and claim to pontificate “from on high”. You like to tell everyone your interpretation of the bible which you assume IS the bible. You are a FRAUD!

          • Truthteller

            Where did I disagree with him? I mentioned the law would be part of the Millenial Kingdom.

            In your anxiety to rush in and condemn me you did not even read my post to Jones.

          • What bullshit is this millennial kingdom? The book of Revelation was written by a psychopath and you are doing a good job following its psychopathic path.

          • Truthteller

            You are a busybody. Busy putting lies in my mouth. You cannot read my mind and did not read my post.

            Where did I disagree with Jones in my own words?

            Fools rush in and you rushed.

          • You are doing a great job promoting atheism. So horrid is your sanctimonious view of Christianity, that rational Christians (not irrational ones like you) are horrified with your views. You are so far “up yourself” that you can’t get any further up.

          • Truthteller

            I am the least sanctimonious. I actually thought an atheist could be saved.

            But now I know the ines who can be saved are few and far between.

            Why waste my precious limited time on people who act like they are reprobates?

            I am sorry if the truth stings but it is still the truth.

            What you thought you could show up on a Christian site and persecute people with impunity and none of the negative truths about yourself that God reveals in His Word would be told?

            Have a blessed day. But the only sanctimonious one is you. All I did was my Christian duty trying to save everyone for God including atheists.

            Embrace your stone cold spiritual blindness if you like. You fought and argued and insulted and character assassinated to stay in it.

          • You’re the fool!

          • Truthteller

            I no longer like debating people but if I did you have now disqualified yourself as a worthy debate partner by your unethical propensity to engage in ad hominem attacks.

            I will delete my posting account later today.

            I hope you repent. Ad hominem attacking as much as you do is ignominious behavior and a sign of irrationality degenerating into persecution in my opinion.

            God Bless!

          • No-one is persecuting you! It is you who is irrational. Some Christians who comment on this blog are rational, but you are NOT one of these. You are so blind that you cannot, or will not, see how far “up yourself” you really are!

          • What about your own ad hominem attacking that you do. You called me a fool, but you are so sanctimonious that your attacking of other persons is okay with you, but when you are supposedly attacked its not okay. You’re one big, hypocrite! So much for this supposed fruit of the Spirit that you claim you have! Non Christians don’t claim to have this so-called fruit of an imaginary Spirit, but you do. Other Christians should be ashamed of you.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            It is later.

          • Truthteller

            And Jones did not quote the Bible to me personally.

            He regularly posts that verse on here to everyone and since he posted before me he couldn’t be posting towards me so you are caught in a lie John Arthur and this act of your’s gets old.


          • Truthteller

            Prove Jones specifically quoted the Bible to me and not to the whole blog.

          • Theodore Jones quoted the bible passage in Romans re the law. You told him not to pay attention to “old wives’ tales”, so you were arguing with him. He doesn’t have to have quoted the bible directly to you for you to argue with him, but since you did read what he said (and he was addressing all who read it), then he was also addressing you. But you choose to deny this, you sanctimonious, unctuous, prick.

  • I am the vine – the same vine Jesus claims to be in the gospels.

    The church as an institution, is not part of the “body of Christ” and will never be part of it because they refuse to repent libeling the gods, the pagans, and the Pharaoh – not to mention the countless murders, rapes, and thefts they have comitted for their false prophets and phony “divine laws.”

    There are probably lots of stupid know-nothings who warm the pews who are part of the vine – but as for Priests/Bishops/Pastors and the sort: damned men walking.


  • pud

    It doesn’t mean anything..it’s all ridiculous superstitious nonsense from ancient lunatics that modern simple minded delusional hayseeds buy into…

    Praise the lord! Guess those newborn sinners and their rebelious ways got what they deserved even as jack got a nice fat turkey dinner yesterday. All part of the divine plan!

    LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization says a worrying number of the newest Ebola cases amid Congo’s ongoing outbreak are in patients not usually known to catch the disease: babies.

    In an update published this week, the U.N. health agency reported 36 new confirmed cases of Ebola, including seven in newborn babies and infants younger than 2 years old. Six cases were reported in children aged between 2 and 17 and one case was in a pregnant woman.

  • pud

    The arrogance, ignorance and stupidity of christians…

    “Why did a little kid have to shoot me today?” he wrote in his notes, which he left with the fishermen before swimming back the next morning. “His high-pitched voice still lingers in my head.”

    Police say Chau knew that the Sentinelese resisted all contact by outsiders, firing arrows and spears at passing helicopters and killing fishermen who drift onto their shore. His notes, which were reported Thursday in Indian newspapers and confirmed by police, make clear he knew he might be killed.

    “I DON’T WANT TO DIE,” wrote Chau, who appeared to want to bring Christianity to the islanders. “Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else to continue. No I don’t think so.”

    Indian authorities have been trying to figure out a way to recover Chau’s body after he was killed last week by islanders who apparently shot him with arrows and then buried his body on the beach.

    Even officials don’t travel to North Sentinel, where people live as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. The only contacts, occasional “gift-giving” visits in which bananas and coconuts were passed by small teams of officials and scholars who remained in the surf, were years ago.

    Police are consulting anthropologists, tribal welfare experts and scholars to figure out a way to recover the body, Dependera Pathak, director-general of police on India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where North Sentinel is located, said Thursday.

    Chau paid fishermen last week to take him near North Sentinel, using the kayak to paddle to shore and bringing gifts including a football and fish.

    Scholars know almost nothing about the island, from how many people live there to what language they speak. The Andamans once had other similar groups, long-ago migrants from Africa and Southeast Asia who settled in the island chain, but their numbers have dwindled dramatically over the past century as a result of disease, intermarriage and migration.

    Chau estimated there were about 250 inhabitants on the island, with at least 10 people living in each hut.

    “The tribe’s language has a lot of high pitched sounds like ba, pa la and as,” he wrote.

    It’s not clear what happened to Chau when he swam back to the island the next morning. But on the morning of the following day, the fishermen watched from the boat as tribesmen dragged Chau’s body along the beach and buried his remains.

    Seven people have been arrested for helping Chau, including five fishermen, a friend of Chau’s and a local tourist guide, police say.

    In an Instagram post, his family said it was mourning him as a “beloved son, brother, uncle and best friend to us.” The family also said it forgave his killers.

    Authorities say Chau arrived in the area on Oct. 16 and stayed on another island while he prepared to travel to North Sentinel. It was not his first time in the region: he had visited the Andaman islands in 2015 and 2016.

    With help from the friend, Chau paid fishermen $325 to take him there, Pathak said.

    After the fishermen realized Chau had been killed, they left for Port Blair, the capital of the island chain, where they broke the news to Chau’s friend, who notified his family, Pathak said.

    Police surveyed the island by air Tuesday, and a team of police and forest department officials used a coast guard boat to travel there Wednesday. It was not clear if they have returned since then.

    Chau, whose friends described him as a fervent Christian, attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before that he had lived in southwestern Washington state and went to Vancouver Christian High School.

  • Truthteller

    Google “atheist cults” on conservapedia. Didn’t know they existed? They do.