Sermon: Sanctification Partnership (Philippians 2:12, 13)

Sanctification Partnership

Philip. 2:12-13 (ESV)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  [13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Last time we were together, we learned how important it is to practice humility in the local church.  We learned that if a church is to be seen as a unified body of believers, humility must be at work gluing each member together into a healthy church.

The flow of Philippians moves from Humility to Unity and now Unity to Sanctification.

We see from various passages that the lost world will see Christ as they watch the church in unity being made into the image of Christ.

To address this text of Scripture, we must begin by defining a couple terms:

JustificationIs an instantaneous legal act of God in which He (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in His sight.—Grudem

SanctificationIs a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.—Grudem

Justification- Instantaneous…Declared Righteous…God’s Work Alone

Sanctification- Progressive…Being Made Righteous…God and Man’s Work

One very clear verse on justification among many is found in Romans 8

In this text we see the contrast between condemn- declaring guilty and justification declaring not guilty.

Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  [36] As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

[37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is the highest Judge in the universe and if He declares you to be not guilty (justified) then there is no one left to ever declare you guilty.  This is a work done completely 100% by God the Judge.  He alone declares the sinner not guilty by means of God given faith in Christ.

Grace becomes more and more amazing the more we understand how guilty we were prior to God declaring us to be not guilty.  He can do this because He also declared Jesus who is not guilty to be guilty.  Jesus accepted our sin debt and voluntarily received our punishment.  The wrath of God that should have been ours was poured out on Christ instead.

John 8:36 (ESV)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

In justification God passes the verdict of Not Guilty and declares us set free from sin’s bondage.

Thank God for His Justification

The reason I wanted to spend a few minutes on justification is that we often can get confused when we speak of salvation.  We may think that salvation is only justification when, in fact, salvation takes in justification, sanctification and glorification.  I am saved…I am being saved…I will be saved.

The second part of salvation is sanctification

SanctificationIs a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.—Grudem

Here’s the process in which God works:

He justifies us then He begins a life long work in us to actually make us righteous.  We’re declared righteous in justification but we are not actually righteous.

There are places in the Bible that speak of our work like this verse and then there are places that speak of God’s work.  Some texts seem to indicate that sanctification is man’s doing while others seem to indicate that its God’s doing.

The passage before us today shows that it’s both.

Do we have responsibility in salvation or are we simply passive participants?

This text and others clearly tell us that when it comes to salvation the elect do have responsibilities.  Salvation has both a Divine sovereign aspect and a human response.  There is a both and tension in the Scriptures because it is not one or the other but both.

Notice as an example…

John 6:44 (ESV)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Acts 16:31 (ESV)

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

As John Macarthur states, Salvation is not by human works, yet it is always through personal faith.—MacArthur

1. Our Work in Sanctification (2:12)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Its vital that we see the fact that Paul wants us to look back to the example of Christ’s humbleness.  Jesus humbled Himself for the purpose of others.  He gave up His rights as Son in order to serve and die for others.  The essence of living the Christian life and advancing in sanctification is to look at how Jesus lived and copy Him.

1 John 2:6 (ESV)

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Our text teaches that we are to be working out our salvation.  One goes to the gym to work out muscles, one wakes up in the morning to work out one’s salvation.

This in no way teaches salvation is gained through works.  The apostle does not say work to gain salvation or work to achieve salvation but work out your salvation.  The idea is we have it and we need to use it.  We need to live in light of our salvation.

The idea is to keep on working out your salvation until it is complete.  When the Lord returns or we die our salvation will be completed, until then keep working it out.

There is a way in which we are to work it out…

with fear and trembling

The Greek work for fear in this case is phobos which means fear.  It means to be afraid of something.  In this case what we are to fear is sin.  We are to deeply fear what we are being saved from.

Acrophobia is the fear of heights.

Claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.

Myctophobia is the fear of darkness.

If one has a certain phobia one will avoid it.  Paul is telling us to work out our salvation and along the way avoid sin like the plague.  Have a fear of sin.  Steer clear of it.

Tremble because of the consequences of sin.  Satan wants us to think that it’s no big deal to sin and that we can almost automatically be forgiven.  God says; work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

We are to be diligent in working toward Christ likeness.

Here is the good news of the Christian life…Someone else is working toward the same goal.

2- God’s Work in Sanctification (2:13)

[13] for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Here is the Divine combination that guarantees a believer’s perseverance.  The believer is working out and God is working in.  We are striving to live like Jesus and avoid sin and God is changing us on the inside through the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

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.  [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Paul clearly tells us that it is God who is working in our sanctification.  We have a job to do and God has a job to do.  Both should be working to the same end.

We are told that there are two main ways God works to achieve our sanctification:

Notice what the Lord accomplishes in our lives throughout the course of our being made into the image of Christ.

A. God changes our will to will… for his good pleasure

The Psalmist wrote,

Psalm 119:36 (ESV)

Incline my heart to your testimonies,

and not to selfish gain!

The Psalmist knew that naturally his heart would be inclined to selfish gain, so he asked God to change his will.

Our desires drive us.  Whatever we desire or have affections for this is what or who we serve.  This is the case all the time across the board without exception.

In his classic work on revival, Jonathan Edwards, writing on 1 Peter 1:8

1 Peter 1:8 (ESV)

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Edwards makes the point that the early Christians who Peter was writing to were suffering great and terrible persecution.  Physically they were being mistreated and some even killed.  God’s providence towards them was very challenging and yet Peter declares that they were rejoicing with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Edwards begins to investigate why it was that those early Christians could suffer so much and yet be so joyful.  His conclusion was that their affections were turned toward Christ and not their current state of affairs.

Normally, a severe persecution like they were experiencing would have devastated them.  However, because of God’s sanctifying work in them and their work of endurance their affections and wills were now shifted from earthly things to Jesus Christ whom they had never seen.

How does God work in order to make these eternal changes in our lives?

As the Holy Spirit does His work in the believer the believer begins to change.  As we begin reading Scripture and praying and fellowshipping with other believers we begin to see our sin for what it truly is.  When we read about God’s holiness and His perfections we begin to get an uneasy feeling towards our holiness and our perfections.  Only when we get a clear picture of God through the Bible do we see ourselves clearly.  As the Apostle Paul did this he exclaimed…

Romans 7:21-24 (ESV)

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The Apostle did an accurate self-evaluation and said there is a whole lot of work to be done on my heart.

How about you?  Do you have a holy discontent with your Christian life?  Do you see in yourself sin that needs addressed or do you that you’ve got it all together?  Let me just share a little secret with you.  If Paul evaluated himself and declared in frustration over his sin, [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Then we should be exclaiming at least the same thing he did.  Our sin is as great or greater than his.

So, the Lord opens our eyes to person sin.

Next, God motivates us to change.  Sometimes this motivation is easy sometimes its difficult and sometimes it’s excruciating.

In a negative way He makes us discontent with our spiritual life then, He motivates us to change.

Philip. 3:12-14 (ESV)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  [13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The Spirit knows that in order to produce godly work He must first produce a godly will.  Do you have the desire to change from a slave to sin to a slave of Christ?  Not until that desire is burning inside will you work consistently at it.

B. God changes our work

to work for his good pleasure

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  [21] equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Once our will is changed then we will begin consistently doing the work God has for us.  This is working out our salvation.  This is looking to Christ in the midst of Life’s struggles with joy knowing that whatever may happen on this earth is nothing when we compare it to the eternal life we have with Christ.

I pray that as we understand more fully that salvation is made up of Justification, Sanctification and Glorification, and as we understand that Justification is God’s work and sanctification is God’s work and our work we will begin to put forth the effort to grow and to be conformed to the image of Christ.  The Lord has given His people all we need to grow as a Christian.

If you feel stuck in your Christian life, if you feel that you’re not maturing or growing as you’d like then we here at GCC would like to help.

See me or one of the elders after worship to discuss this together.

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