Work Out Our Own Salvation

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Hi D____,
Thank you for your question.
You ask:

Since you noticed that the next verse in Php 2 tells us that we work out our own salvation because “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure”, then it should be clear that what we have been given is merely the illusion of free will. The reality is that it is God who is working all things after the counsel of His own will.

Eph 1:11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Joseph’s brothers, as well as Adam and Eve, Cain, Pharaoh, Jacob and Esau, King David and all other Old Testament patriarchs, kings and prophets, as well as all men of all time, all feel that we are making decisions based upon our own judgment and our own will.
Joseph’s brothers are typical of us all. They were fully convinced that it was their own decision which had placed Joseph as a prisoner and a slave to the Midianites who had sold Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.

Gen 37:28  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty [ pieces] of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
Gen 39:1  And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

This all appears to the natural man to be the logical consequence of the actions of Joseph’s brothers’ decision to sell him to the Midianites, who are also called Ishmaelites/ Ishmeelites.
But is that the real reason those things happened as they did? Is that the real reason things happen as they do in our own lives? In other words, is it true that we have a free will and that our entire future hangs upon our decisions? If that is the case, then we are all doomed because this is the truth of God’s Word, both the Old and the New Testaments.

Psa 14:2  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, [ and] seek God.
Psa 14:3  They are all gone aside, they are [ all] together become filthy: [ there is] none that doeth good, no, not one.
Rom 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom 3:11  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

But the truth is that Joseph’s brothers, just like you and me and all of mankind of all time, simply have the illusion of a free will.

Gen 45:4  And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I [ am] Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Gen 45:5  Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
Gen 45:6  For these two years [ hath] the famine [ been] in the land: and yet [ there are] five years, in the which [ there shall] neither [ be] earing nor harvest.
Gen 45:7  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Gen 45:8  So now [ it was] not you [ that] sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Joseph does not deny that his brothers sold him into Egypt. He twice reminds them that they did so. “You sold me hither.” But in the same breath he declares that it wasn’t really their work at all, but it was God’s work.
We are also told ‘work out your own salvation because it is God who is working both our will and our actions for His own good pleasure.’

Php 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.
Php 2:13  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [ his] good pleasure.

Eph 1:11 tells us that we are predestined to do what we do, and we know that Adam was predestined to do what he did because we are told that Christ “was slain from the foundation of the world”, and we were called in Christ “before the world began”.

Rev 13:8  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

2Ti 1:9  Who hath saved us, and called [ us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began

It does us no good at all to sit back and do nothing because we have learned that everything we do was predestined. So we are told to “work out our own salvation because it is [ really] God who is working in us to do His good pleasure.”
The knowledge of God’s sovereignty will always drain a babe in Christ of his desire to pray or to work out his own salvation. Somehow our old man reasons that if God knows that everyone in a burning building will be saved from that fire, that therefore there is no need to go in and save those people trapped in that burning building. But as that slovenly attitude works its evil in us and we continue to reap its fruit of “hiding our  talent” and enduring that judgment, we soon learn that we need to be increasing our talents, as if we were “working out our own salvation.”
So God really is working out our salvation, but whether or not we realize it, He is also the one who causes us to sell our brother and to sell our Lord and to deny our Lord. Eph 1:11 is a two- edged sword, as is all of God’s word.

Heb 4:12  For the word of God [ is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [ is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Rev 1:16  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance [ was] as the sun shineth in his strength.

That “two- edged sword” reveals that God really is working all things after the counsel of His own will… together for good.” But ‘all things’ is a two- edged phrase which really does include all things; not just the good things. That is how our very sins become fire, jacinth and brimstone, to purify and cleanse us of all the wood, hay and stubble and all the tares that are our old man.

Rev 9:17  And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses [ were] as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
Rev 9:18  By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

In other words, it will be our own words and our own sins which will be used by God to purify and reprove and cleanse us. Even the words of Babylon are a two- edged sword which will judge us and bring us out of Babylon.

Pro 5:3  For the lips of a strange woman drop [ as] an honeycomb, and her mouth [ is] smoother than oil:
Pro 5:4  But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.
Psa 17:13  Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, [ which is] thy sword:
Jer 2:19  Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that [ it is] an evil [ thing] and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear [ is] not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
Luk 19:22  And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, [ thou] wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:

Our own false doctrines certainly are smoke, but they will also become fire and brimstone which will chasten us and cleanse us of those very same doctrines just as Joseph’s brothers’ fear of revenge was used to torment them for seventeen long years even after they had been told that their sin against their brother was really God’s Work.
What is the truth? The Truth of God’s word is that “He is working all things, [ including our sins], after the counsel of His own will… together for good.”

Rom 7:17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [ how] to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:21  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [ his] purpose.
Eph 1:11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Twice we are told in Rom 7, “It is no more I that do it.” That is the same thing Joseph said to his brothers back in Gen 45:4-8, and 50:20. If “It is no more I that do it” , then how can I be held accountable or responsible for what “is no more I…?” The truth of God’s Word is that we are not held either accountable or responsible. What the scriptures teach is that even thought we are not held accountable or responsible, we are nevertheless required of God to “give an accounting of our stewardship”.

Luk 16:2  And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Mat 12:36  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Joseph’s brothers were not held accountable for their actions against Joseph, but they were required to give an accounting of those actions and acknowledge their sins which God had “worked after the counsel of His own will.” Their time of torment, believing that Joseph might take his revenge upon them at just any moment, is the Old Testament type and shadow of the lake of fire administered upon them by their elect brother.
I hope all these verses and examples have served to demonstrate with the power of God’s own words, what is meant by “work out your own salvation for it is God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
Your brother in Christ,

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