Where is the demarcation between our efforts to “work out” our own salvation and that which God has predetermined for us to toil? (Philippians 2:12-13)


Question: We, of course, are destined to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” according to Philippians 2:12-13. So where is the demarcation between our efforts and that which God has predetermined for us to toil?

Response: That’s such a beautiful question and in my mind the most mysterious of all questions. I think Scripture ultimately testifies that God alone is the only free agent. This verse utterly fascinates me: “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that men would fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away” (Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:14-15). If that’s true and has been translated correctly and I am a thing that God has done, then I am eternal, although I think I am my own temporal creation in time, that is I think I am my own self-centered ego. In which case “my salvation” is the death of the ego and the revelation of “I am” in “me” and “me” in “I am.” Paul writes that we “become one spirit” with Christ. And all the New Testament authors write that we are the Body of Christ—Christ, who is the “eschatos Adam (man).” “Jesus” is the name of the Christ (“the anointed”) and the name means “Yahweh is Salvation.” And so, a rather shocking picture emerges.

“Working out my salvation” is the revelation of the Spirit of God in me, and I can only come to this realization through a communion with God in the depths of my soul which is actually the temple of God (Sin which is the justification of the false self, the belief that I am my own creator has separated my consciousness from the reality of who I am). Grace, manifest in the death and resurrection of the Christ, is the revelation (the Word, the Logos) that I am the uncreated creation (eternal creation, I know: an oxymoron in temporality) of God and not my own creation in space and time. I am an incarnation of deity–the Body of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man (Adam)–we, humanity, literally give birth to him that is ultimately us (he is the “only begotten” and yet we must also be “begotten” in him).

Free-will in me is the revelation of God in me and the resurrection of the Christ in me. Free will is Love and God is Love, and in the words of Paul “Love bears all things, believes all thing, hopes all things, endures all things. Love does not fail.” I can only love because Love is loving all things from a throne in the depths of the temple that is the true “me.” When that happens, I am joined (now perhaps only in moments) to the rest of creation in a communion of Joy. Life is a sacrificial communion under the direction of the Logos. Eternal Life is freedom from the illusion that I think is me and a perfected communion with all reality. So, working out “my salvation” is God “liberating me from the illusion that I have constructed by believing the lie that I am my own creator.” This is the lie of the snake in the garden: “take the fruit of the tree (who is Love incarnate, Good in flesh, the Life) and make yourself in the image of God–but what I make is an illusion. The reality is that God gives me himself and thus makes me in his own image–This is Grace, all reality is Grace.
In the end, salvation is coming to terms with the reality that I am a created being… and yet this is not bondage, for the Creator has made his home in the depths of my soul. Together we will literally will all things in a symphony of wills that is analogous to a body dancing. In the end, salvation is coming to terms with the reality that I am the beloved and so are you and so are we and that this is the GOOD and the LIFE. Once we know the Good, we naturally will the good in freedom–we will what we want, and we want what we will. On this pilgrimage through space and time, we come to know about evil (it is taking “the Life” as if it were our own) and we are then known by the Good (The Good gives us his life for we are his own). Having known the evil, we will all choose the Good in Freedom… For the Good has chosen us, is choosing us, and will choose us, from beyond what we call space and time and from within the depths of the soul. Working out my own salvation is observing my own creation, or the revelation of who it is that I truly am. I think this is why Paul wrote “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith (trust) of the Son of God who loves me and delivered himself up for me.” I am, we are, the son or sons of God, the children of God and body of Christ.

Over the years a picture has emerged in my mind that I believe comes from Scripture. It’s as if each one of us is a child on our father’s lap having a nightmare. In the nightmare we dream that we are our own father–our own creator–which means that we are ultimately alone (This, by the way, is the first thing declared “not good” in Genesis. God says it is “not good” that the Adam–humanity–is alone. Yet God, who is Love, is with him–aloneness is an illusion in the Adam’s consciousness. This declaration is made before “the fall,” which implies that the drama–sin, tree, cross, etc.–is all part of waking Adam from this illusion, which is “hell”). Well as I was saying we’re each alone in this nightmare, and our Father is waking us from this illusion with his Word, His Word that has the power to wake us from the illusion. The Word is reality (beauty, truth, light) that enters the illusion, the dream, and wakes us to the reality that is our true home. And the nightmare has a purpose, for when we awaken, we know something as we did not know it before, and that is that there is no place like home—home, who is our Creator and source, “Our Father in Heaven.”

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”- TS Eliot

Sorry, but that just all kind of spilled out of me. Some of it would be found heretical by some “Christians,” but I think it’s the testimony of Scripture, many of the early church fathers, and several great theologians and philosophers in our age. As I said you ask a question with an extremely mysterious answer for “working out our salvation” is God working himself into and out of and through each one of us. Free-will is God’s will in communion with our will and ultimately one… and so, none of us are free until God sets us free by waking us from the nightmare of our own creation to the reality that is our home.

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