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 Works versus Faith (Part 9) — Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5

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PostSubject: Works versus Faith (Part 9) — Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5   Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:04 am


Works versus Faith (Part 9) — Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5


The important thing about the easy-to-understand doctrinal verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9 is that having a foundation of those verses, and being led by the Holy Spirit, you will be led to the correct interpretation of other verses that appear to contradict.  It may sound obvious to the Christian reader, but must be mentioned: there are no contradictions in the bible.  With that in mind, it is up to you and I to pray for the correct interpretation of the ones that seem to contradict the foundational ones that we fully understand and believe.  In James 1:5, God said that just for asking He will grant you with the correct interpretation.  It reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  These are the 3 ways to arrive at the correct interpretation of all verses: 1. prayer 2. The guidance of the Holy Spirit. 3. Understand that there are no contradictions in the bible so pray until you resolve the conflicts.  These 3 things are able to lead Christians who do not study together to the same conclusions of interpretation.  If I could throw in a fourth thing to the list it would be overcoming pride.  Many are blinded to some passages because pride blinds them.  The “new” interpretation does not follow how they were taught, or how they always understood it, or what their parents or pastor said about it.  So they reject the “new” interpretation because they are not ready to change themselves and adjust their understanding to correspond to the new truth they learned.  Be open minded and let the bible interpret itself.  The bible is a self-interpreting book.  It is up to us to follow its interpretation correctly and resolve all apparent contradictions.  Resolving some passages correctly helps to enlighten the interpretation of others elsewhere.

The next passage I would like us to look at is Philippians 2:12, which reads, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling...”  This verse is often misused.  Before we say more, verse 12 is not even a complete sentence, so let’s finish the thought and sentence by looking at verse 13: “...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  One of the reasons verse 12 is often misinterpreted is because the rest of the sentence is often not included with the interpretation. Verse 12 is often incorrectly used to say that Christians have to work out their salvation, which follows that one must do works in order to be saved.  Of course that view would directly contradict our foundational passage of Ephesians 2:8-9.  Galatians 3:21 says, “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”  If we could work out our own salvation, Christ would not have had to die.  Philippians 2:12 therefore, is obviously not saying that.  

So what is it saying?  When we are saved, we are saved to do good works and to obey the Lord.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Philippians 2:12 is saying simply to do what we are called to do.  “Work out your salvation” does not mean to work it out to obtain it, but rather work it out because you already have it.  It is saying do what you were saved to do.   According to the New Testament, we are not supposed work out our salvation in our own strength, but rather piggy-back on the strength of Jesus to do what He calls us to do.  For it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.  Salvation is a cooperative commitment: both God and you are doing the work where, He is strengthening you to pull off what He calls you to do.  “Fear and trembling” means that we are to take our salvation seriously.  We are supposed to serve and obey the Lord in reverence in the strength that He provides.  God’s goal for us is for us to become more and more pure and holy.  Our spirits are perfect because Christ imputed His perfection to us.  Working out our salvation is a process of making our souls more like Him until we receive our new bodies in our next life and are made complete and holy through and through.

Let’s look at one more passage today.  2 Corinthians 13:5 is a similar passage.  It reads, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”  Oh, this is one of THE most misinterpreted passages of the bible.  Let’s first review what this is not saying.  Those who misinterpret this verse say that a Christian can lose his or her salvation based on what they do or neglect to do.  They say that we are able to somehow do a self-test to see if our faith holds up.  My question is: how can you do a self-test when the standard for salvation is the perfection of God?  Romans 3:23 says that we have all failed the test.  It says, “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” Even after we become saved, our best efforts and works still fall short of God’s standard for salvation.  His standard for salvation is perfection, which is given to us in Christ through a credit to our account, not through any work, achievement, or righteous deeds that we do.  Unfortunately there are Christians who are depressed because they are not sure if they “passed the test for Heaven.”  They live life not sure of where they will wind up in the next life.  

So what kind of test is this verse telling us to do?  Let’s look at this verse more closely.  This is not a test for Heaven.  It is a test to see whether or not you are living the faith; that is, whether you are operating in the faith.  Let’s back up to verse 1.  Paul is planning on visiting the Corinthians for the third time and he does not think he will be greeted well by them.  He is wary that they might not have repented of their sins, and there are rumors going on that some are questioning Paul’s apostleship.  Paul is hoping that when he gets there that he does not have to discipline them for their sins, and if he does need to, he needs to first convince them of his authority and what he has been saying to them is truth.  That’s the background.  Verse 1 reads, “This will be my third visit to you.  ‘Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”  What is the point of this statement?  We see with the next verse that Paul is ready to judge those who were accused of sin from the rumors he received.  When he gets there, he is going to judge using the Old Testament prescription of having 2 or 3 witnesses before convicting.  Verse 2 reads, “I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time.  I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others...”  Verse 3 concludes the sentence and reads, “...since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me.”  We learned from a previous study that Christians are not supposed to judge the sin of non-Christians, but we are supposed to judge and check the sin of fellow Christians.  So Paul’s audience is Christian.

The rest of verse 3 reads, “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.”  This sentence is talking about the judgment, or more precisely, the discipline Jesus will implement against those Christians who were caught sinning.  Paul is going to judge the ones sinning based on the Old Testament, which he is acting as a representative of Jesus who is the one that is actually doing the judgment and will determine the consequence.  When you judge righteously and find guilt and turn the matter over to Jesus, something like a curse falls upon the culprit.  God’s judgment and wrath falls upon the person where things do not go well for that person until their punishment is complete and their sin is atoned for.   Then the person is restored.   Verse 4 reads, “For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power.  Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.” This verse is saying that the weak Jesus you remembered that was crucified is not the same Jesus (power wise) that arose from the grave who will soon judge the sinning culprits.  Same is true for us. We are weak when we are crucified with Christ.  That means that our old selves are dead and put out of commission (and we are supposed to treat it that way), but our new selves are powerful because our new nature relies on God’s strength and not our own.  

Now we come to verse 5, which again, reads, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”  Again, this self-exam is to see whether or not you [Paul is really talking to these Corinthian church members who were questioning his apostolic authenticity.  He is saying, “While you are accusing me, examine yourselves.] are operating in the faith, not whether or not you are in it.  There is no test that exists that would reveal whether or not you are in the faith.  The plan of salvation is invisible because it relies on faith.  The Holy Spirit is in you, but there is no test that will physically reveal that He is in you.  You are simply to believe in the correct Jesus [the second person of the Trinity] and what He did for you [died and resurrected for your sins] then you have eternal life.  That is the only “test” you can do for salvation.  But we can, however, do a self-test to see if we are operating in the faith, which is what this verse is really saying.  To do that test, you look at your deeds, motivation, and check your heart.  There is no question these are Christians Paul is talking to because he says it in the next sentence: “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”  Let’s look at this sentence logically.  Failing this particular test would not prove that the person is not a Christian.  Failing this test would prove only that the person is not operating in faith—because both Christians and non-Christians can operate outside of faith.  But, if the person doing the test happens to not be a Christian, then the person would fail by default because only a Christian can pass this test.  So of course, if the person is not a Christian they would automatically fail the test, but failure of the test alone does not prove that the person is not a Christian.  

The test tests only for what is seen and apparent.  Remember, salvation is not seen, so this test is not for that.  Verse 6 says, “And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.”  Do you see the logic?  If this passage means what most people misinterpret it to mean, then how can anyone outside of Paul tell if Paul passes the test?  With the misinterpreted view, only the tester can know whether or not he or she passes the test because faith is invisible, not observable.  With the correct interpretation of this passage, the Corinthians can tell whether or not Paul passes the test because, again, the test is testing whether or not one is operating in faith, which is an observable act.  No one knew Judas was not among the rest of the disciples until Jesus revealed it.  Only Judas, who knew his own heart, and Jesus, who knows the hearts of all knew.  The disciples were shocked to find that Judas had sided with Satan.  So this test in this passage in Corinthians, is not only a self-test, it is also a test to test fellow Christian saints to help keep each other in check.  We have to, for the integrity of the body of Christ, make sure that all members of the body are operating faithfully in the faith.  The test is the observable things that we see each other do.

I’ll conclude with the next verse.  It reads, “Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.”  This passage may sound confusing based on what we have studied up till now, but if I insert a word just for clarification, it would make sense.  “Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  Not [pray] that people will see that we have stood the test…”  The action of the first sentence is continued in the second.  Paul is simply saying that his prayers do not consist of proving to people that his faith is genuine because Paul is not that concerned about people’s opinion of him.  He is more concerned with the Corinthian church members doing right even though they were spreading rumors and concerns of Paul’s lack of apostolic authority.
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Works versus Faith (Part 9) — Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5
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