“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” (Philippians 2:12).
If we are saved and justified by faith, and if our salvation is guaranteed by the work of Jesus on the cross, how come we continue to struggle with sin?
That’s a fantastic question!
When God justifies us through the work of Jesus on the cross, we are made new. Our status before God is changed from sinners into children of God. But while our status has changed before God, we still live in the same flesh and body as we did before we were saved. Our flesh hasn’t changed. Our bodies will not be changed until Jesus returns. When Jesus returns, we will be given new bodies.
In the mean time, we who have been made new will need to learn how to live as God’s children in this fleshly body. We need to keep striving and working at becoming more like Jesus. This is sanctification.
The root word in sanctification is sanctify. Sanctify literally means to become holy.
When Paul writes, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Paul is not talking about our standing before God. Our standing has already been changed. What Paul is referring to is the call for children of God to become more like Christ. This process is called sanctification. We, who have been saved, should become more like Christ as time goes by. We ought to be more like Christ today than we were when we first received Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Sanctification doesn’t mean that we no longer have a sinful body and sinful desires. Sanctification means, since we are new creations, we are at war with the flesh as long as we remain in our earthly bodies. We will continue to be at war with our flesh until the day we die or until Christ returns.
While justification is 100% the work of God through Christ on the cross, sanctification is a partnership between the work of the Holy Spirit who is constantly at work in us to make us more like Christ, and our obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit so that God’s Holy Spirit can mold us and make us more like Christ.
Struggling with the flesh and sin?
Fantastic! Good job! That means the Holy Spirit is at work in you. It is when we give into sin that we lose.
So, keep at it. Keep striving after Christ!