God bless Jack, and thank you always for what you do.
My question is simply, how do we reconcile eternal security, (Once Saved Always Saved) with verses like “work out your salvation through fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). My pastor whom I love very much and support does not believe in OSAS and he brought up this scripture in making that defense.
First of all, you should remind your Pastor that the Bible has to be consistent. It can’t say something in one place and something different in another place. Whenever we think it does it means that we’ve misunderstood the contradictory verse. Since there are a half dozen or so verses that clearly promise eternal security, and most of them were also written by Paul, then your pastor’s interpretation of Phil 2:12 has to be wrong.
So what does Phil. 2:12 mean? Well, it follows Phil. 2:5-11 and is connected to them by the word, therefore. Since at the end of the age every knee will bow before Jesus, friend and enemy alike, we’re dealing with the most powerful person in the universe. Being on His wrong side will have disastrous and eternal consequences and we should tremble at the thought.
In Ephes. 1:13-14 Paul said that we were included in Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit at the first moment of belief, and in Ephes. 2:8-9 He said that salvation is by faith, not works. That means salvation is an event not a process and is achieved solely by faith. So by the phrase “continue to work out your salvation” he must have been talking about something more than just getting saved.
And sure enough, in 1 Cor 9:24-27 he described salvation as being to the victorious Christian life like qualifying for the big race is to the athlete. The athlete isn’t satisfied just to have qualified, he wants the win the race. Christians shouldn’t be happy just to be saved, we should aspire to victory over our sin nature as well. The reason is that it will please the Lord and we all want to please the Lord. After all, He’s the King of the Universe. While we can’t lose our salvation, we should be fearful of embarrassing or offending Him by our behavior. That would be a sign of ingratitude.
Phil 2:13 is part of the same sentence as verse 12 and it says, “For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose.” Here we’re told that it’s God Who’s doing the work so in effect our part is to follow His direction. When we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our lives are pleasing to the Lord and a demonstration of our gratitude for all He’s done for us. (Romans 12:2)