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Perseverance and Philippians 2:12-13, Part 2

If you are at all familiar with the difficult time Christian speculative fiction has had getting a foothold in the market, you understand our need to persevere—both as readers and as authors.
| Mar 1, 2013 | No comments |

Previously, in Part 1:
So what does Philippians 2:12-13 have to say about perseverance?  And how does that fit in with Christian speculative fiction?

The first piece of the puzzle was to understand “work out.” And now, the conclusion:

The Second Piece To the Puzzle—Understanding “Salvation”

This question is more theological and less lexical than the previous question.  By saying this, it is meant that there is no question that the Greek word soterian should be translated as “salvation.”  It is rather a question of “how do we understand this word?”

To begin with, there are many different uses for the word.  Among these:

1.    Physical deliverance from danger (as from the sea)

2.    National deliverance (from enemies of Israel)

3.    Spiritual and eternal deliverance

When understanding Philippians 2:12-13, the third, or last, definition is the best, as Paul is not speaking about salvation from the Romans, or salvation from some imminent danger.

If this is true, then the question remains:  How do we understand spiritual salvation?  Is it something we possess, as in, it is already “inside” of us?  Or is it rather an event that will occur in the future when Christ returns?

It is argued here that in the New Testament, “spiritual salvation” is only of the second kind—meaning that our salvation is a future event.  Now, why do most of us practically think of this as something that we “posses” if it is in reality a future event?  This is because, in a sense, we do “possess” it, but it is not a “thing” that is inside of us.  Rather, it is something that is guaranteed to happen to us.

Salvation is similar to an inheritance.  When we are written into the “last will and testament” of our parents, we are guaranteed (by law) that we will one day receive our inheritance.  God has made us “heirs with Christ” in that we are guaranteed to receive salvation.  In this sense we possess it right now—it is a future event that we, right now, are guaranteed to have.   Eternal life begins now, but we have not been brought to it yet.  This salvation will come on the “day of the Lord.”

Does scripture hold up to this understanding?  Here is a survey of some passages (especially those in Philippians):

2 Peter 3:1-15 …but the day of the Lord will come like a thief… since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…

So then dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.  Bear in mind that the Lord’s patience means salvation…

Jude 17-21 …keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Philippians 1:6 …being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:10 …may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ
Philippians 1:28 This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
Philippians 2:16 …in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:19-20 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach… but our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…
1 Thes. 4:13-5:11 …the day of the Lord will come like a thief… but you brothers are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you.

But since we belong to the day, let us be self controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet…

2 Thes 1:5-2:4 …on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people…

Bonus Readings: 1 Timothy 6:11-16, 2 Timothy 2:8-13, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 10:24-25, 35-39, 1 Peter 1:3-9, and 1 Peter 2:12.

Translating Philippians 2:12-13

So then, with the understanding of “salvation” as something that will happen in the future, but something guaranteed to us, we can come back to Philippians 2:12-13, and translate it correctly.

Three potential translations are offered:

1.    Work [out] your salvation

2.    Produce [out of your life] your salvation

3.    Work [until] your salvation

The first two are really the same translation, worded differently.  Number 1 is what is typically found in our Bibles, but number 2 is a better form of this, as it makes clear what the translators are doing.

cross-emblem_w725_h544Number 3, however, is the translation that I argue is best.  If you combine the understanding of “salvation” as something that will happen in the future, along with the “taking to a natural conclusion” aspect of kata, and if you understand kata in this context as modifying the verb in the sense of a “time span,” then this translation makes great sense.

With this, the final translation is offered here:

Therefore my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work until your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

So then, we neither need to work “for” our salvation, nor do we need to “produce” it… rather we are called to be faithful until the very end—to persevere—using the power that God gives us!


So how does this apply to Christian speculative fiction, and how does it apply to our lives?

If you are at all familiar with the difficult time Christian speculative fiction has had getting a foothold in the market, you understand our need to persevere—both as readers and as authors.

As a reader, anything you can do to promote the genre will be boosting a good thing—a thing that God can use. For Christian speculative fiction has an awesome place in God’s plan as we reach out and shine His light into the darkness—glorifying the Great Storyteller through excellent writing and through themes, plots, and characters that prick the infected boils of the world.

In fact, this is a great way to get a non-Christian to think about spiritual truths. I know this first-hand: when I was a nearly delinquent young man who had almost never stepped into a church, a friend shared The Chronicles of Narnia with me and explained that Aslan represented Christ. This opened my eyes to things I had rarely, if ever, thought about. Within three years, God brought me to faith.

For all you authors out there, you know better than I that this journey of sub-creating, this journey of writing, this very journey of faith—requires great perseverance. And the best part? We can know that it is God working through us as we continue to work and write until he calls each one of us home to his great feasting hall in heaven.

 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6-9

– – – – –

Robert_TreskillardRobert Treskillard is a Celtic enthusiast who holds a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies from Bethel University, Minnesota. He has been crafting stories from his early youth, is a software developer, graphic artist, and sometime bladesmith. He and his wife have three children and are still homeschooling their youngest. They live in the country outside St. Louis, Missouri.

It all began when Robert’s son wanted to learn blacksmithing and sword-making. The two set out to learn the crafts and in the process were told by a relative that they were descended from a Cornish blacksmith. This lit the fire of Robert’s imagination, and so welding his Celtic research to his love of the legends of King Arthur, a book was forged—Merlin’s Blade, book one of The Merlin Spiral, coming April 2013 from Zondervan.

More information about Robert can be found through his blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller

Great post, Robert! I really like the way you explain your ideas of salvation. I’ve heard others talk about salvation being something future, but that didn’t quite square with the idea of our having a new nature and the Holy Spirit. Obviously something HAS occurred now. If not salvation, then what?

Peter says we have been “born again . . . to obtain an inheritance” (1 Peter 1:4) and that we are are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5–emphasis mine).

This is consistent with your point, that what we have now is a guarantee. Definitely food for thought.

At any rate, I also love your conclusion–the idea that we are to work to the end is a good admonition and certainly consistent with other scripture passages.

BTW, I continue to be excited about the things I see in Christian speculative fiction–God-honoring stories, more of them, new voices, wider variety, more for young adults. Yes, it might seem slow, but God’s timetable can be trusted. Who are we to say it would have been better sooner or that it’s even now too late or not enough?


Lex Keating

Many, many moons ago, an example was taught at a summer camp I attended that has stuck with me for years. It wasn’t on this passage, but it relates, and I’ve since used this analogy in a lot of different parts of my spiritual journey. The example was about being a house. The first big question is always “Who owns the property?” Which is important, certainly. But once we “hand over the keys” to Jesus, He doesn’t leave the property alone. When He takes possession, He cleans house. He won’t be satisfied with how the property looks from the road. If He’s going to live here, He needs to clean the whole place from cellar to garret, main rooms to closets and crawl spaces. For me, “working out my salvation” has always been a part of unlocking every last closet door and obediently throwing out all the accumulated trash of sin. The ownership of the house isn’t in question any more, but a property that belongs to God should contain nothing but that which belongs to Him. (Ephesians 4:20-24) Out with the old!
For fiction, I also think this means we have to examine where we keep our favorite books. Are they on display in a glass cabinet in the front room? Or are they stashed under dirty laundry in the back bedroom closet? Have concepts in a favorite book changed how I run my “house?” Is God trying to get rid of a favorite book, and I keep sneaking it back inside? Have I set it on a shrine in the one room whose key I refuse to relinquish?


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