“Keep Working Out Your Own Salvation”
“Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”—Philippians 2:12.
1. (a) Who or what praises Jehovah without words, and how is this possible? (b) Who else are invited to do so?
JEHOVAH’S works praise him. “Praise him, you sun and moon. Praise him, all you stars of light.” Without the power of speech, they speak his praises. So do the mountains and hills, the plants and animals, the birds and creeping things. (Psalm 148:3, 9, 10; 19:1-4) How is this praising possible when there are no words? It is possible because work reflects the worker. This is specifically stated concerning the works of Jehovah: “His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) If speechless creations are to praise him, how much more so those who possess the power of speech! So it is appropriate that Psalms 146 through 150 open and close with the rallying cry, “Praise Jah, you people!”
2. What works should reflect our Christianity?
2 Just as Jehovah’s works reflect him, so our works reflect us. Do they reveal us to be seekers of wealth or praisers of Jehovah? The primary work Christians must now do is to fulfill Jesus’ words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” His parting words to his followers were: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) As we ‘bear witness thoroughly from house to house,’ our preaching work should be of high quality. Thus we may have a fine standing before the Kings Jehovah and Christ Jesus. “Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself.”—Acts 20:20, 21; Proverbs 22:29.
3. How are we trained for this work, and why must we become skilled at it?
3 For necessary instruction and training, the Bible is provided, in order that “the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” So by private and group study, by regular attendance at congregational meetings and by participation in training programs “do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Timothy 3:17; 2:15) Satan, the god of this present wicked world, has woven a gigantic tissue of religious lies and spreads it like a veil over the nations so that unbelievers are blinded to the enlightening good news of Christ’s kingdom. But Jehovah’s Word is like a two-edged sword and Jehovah’s Witnesses must be skilled in wielding it to slash to shreds the blinding veil and let the light shine into the honest minds and hearts of sheeplike men, women and children.—2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
Acceptable Sacrifices of Praise
4. To what is our praise likened, and what failure is shown at Malachi 1:6-8?
4 Our words of praise to Jehovah are likened to the sacrifices required by the Mosaic law: “Let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” Words are also likened to “the young bulls of our lips.” (Hebrews 13:15; Hosea 14:2) The sacrifices offered under the Law were to be unblemished, and priests who ignored this requirement were rebuked by Jehovah, as described at Malachi 1:6-8:
“‘A son, for his part, honors a father; and a servant, his grand master. So if I am a father, where is the honor to me? And if I am a grand master, where is the fear of me?’ Jehovah of armies has said to you, O priests who are despising my name. ‘And you have said: “In what way have we despised your name?”’ ‘By presenting upon my altar polluted bread.’ ‘And you have said: “In what way have we polluted you?”’ ‘By your saying: “The table of Jehovah is something to be despised.” And when you present a blind animal for sacrificing: “It is nothing bad.” And when you present a lame animal or a sick one: “It is nothing bad.”’ ‘Bring it near, please, to your governor. Will he find pleasure in you, or will he receive you kindly?’”
5. How can we avoid offering blemished sacrifices of praise?
5 Are our sacrifices today, “the young bulls of our lips” and our “fruit of lips,” as unblemished as it is within our power to make them? Have we by study and the training and exercise of our faculties made our sacrifices of praise as fine as we can? Do we search out and ponder over words of truth, to present them at the people’s homes in a pleasing way? “Besides the fact that the congregator had become wise, he also taught the people knowledge continually, and he pondered and made a thorough search, that he might arrange many proverbs in order. The congregator sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth.”—Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10.
6. How can we make it easier for people to accept the Kingdom message?
6 It is difficult for persons to acknowledge that they have been wrong and need to change their thinking, especially on something as emotionally charged as their religious views. Do we try to make it easier for them? Do we put ourselves in their place, as the apostle Paul did? He said: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, that I might by all means save some. But I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”—1 Corinthians 9:20-23.
7. How can we make our preaching more persuasive?
7 Are we understanding and kind, healing in our words? “The one that is wise in heart will be called understanding, and he that is sweet in his lips adds persuasiveness. Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.” Do we study so as to show insight when we witness to others concerning God’s kingdom, thereby adding persuasiveness to our speech? “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.” (Proverbs 16:21, 24, 23) Salt adds tastiness to food that would otherwise be bland or insipid, and Paul uses this fact to show that the spiritual food we offer to others should be pleasant to consume: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Colossians 4:6.
Adorn Your Teaching With Fine Works
8. What is vital if we are to avoid condemnation as hypocrites?
8 In addition to works of preaching the good news, works of practicing what we are preaching are vital if we are not to be condemned as hypocrites. The apostle Paul was very much aware of this. He denounced certain Jewish teachers of his day as being guilty of it: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You, the one expressing abhorrence of the idols, do you rob temples? You, who take pride in law, do you by your transgressing of the Law dishonor God?” (Romans 2:21-23) Paul was clearly aware of this danger in his case, saying: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Corinthians 9:27.
9. What arguments disprove the religious fallacy ‘Once saved, always saved’?
9 This shows that Paul did not subscribe to the view held by many religionists today, namely, ‘Once saved, always saved.’ After accepting Jesus as our savior and redeemer, and dedicating our lives to Jehovah God, we have only started on the way to salvation, not finished it. So Paul counsels us to ‘keep working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.’ (Philippians 2:12) Why “keep working” and why with “fear and trembling,” if ‘once saved, always saved’? It is possible to fall away and impossible for certain of such ones to revive to repentance again, “because they impale the Son of God afresh.” And Jesus himself said that it is possible for someone to “take your crown.” He also said in his remarks on the “conclusion of the system of things”: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Hebrews 6:4-6; Revelation 3:11; Matthew 24:3, 13) It is our current standing with God that counts, not what we once were, whether good or bad. (Ezekiel 33:12-16) That is why we must continue working at kingdom preaching, continue practicing right conduct, and do both with a healthy fear of falling short.
10. What adornment should accompany our teaching, and with what results?
10 Christians are admonished to be ‘moderate in habits, sound in mind, reverent in behavior, not slanderers or heavy drinkers, loving in family relationships, chaste, clean in speech and good workers.’ And why all of this? “That the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” Also, that by such conduct they “may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” Adding this adornment of fine conduct to their preaching, Jehovah’s Witnesses become “an example of fine works.” (Titus 2:1-10) “Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things,” the apostle Paul instructed, “not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Timothy 6:17-19.
11. What vital need is served by this present life, in spite of its few trouble-filled days?
11 This present life as the world lives it is not really living. “The one that goes in for sensual gratification is dead though she is living.” (1 Timothy 5:6) This life, however, serves this one principal need, namely, “to be rich in fine works,” ‘to treasure up a right foundation for the future,’ to “get a firm hold on the real life” in the realm of Jehovah’s kingdom under Christ. We could have everything that this life has to offer, and yet if empty of fine works it would be wasted and worthless. The days of this life are few and full of trouble and pain, sorrow and suffering, grief and disappointment, wickedness and death. The days are few, but there are enough of them for us to get rich in fine works if we do not delay. To do such works brings us joy and satisfaction, peace and contentment, feelings of meaning and purpose, spiritual health and eternal life.
Refreshing Work Toward Salvation
12. What proves exhausting to faithful witnesses of Jehovah, but what brings refreshment?
12 Strange though it may seem in these times of much indifference and opposition, to hold back from announcing Jehovah’s kingdom is exhausting to conscientious witnesses of Jehovah. To speak is a relief and a refreshment to them. When Jeremiah decided not to preach, the message was like a fire in his bones, and he finally cried out: “I am worn out with holding it in—I cannot endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:9, An American Translation) Elihu needed the relief of speaking truths long held in: “I am full of things to say, and my mind urges me to speech. My mind is like wine bottled up, ready to burst out, like new bottles. I must relieve myself by speaking.” (Job 32:18-20, Moffatt) After doing this work Elihu felt refreshed. God was refreshed after completing his work of creation. Doing Jehovah’s work was like refreshing food to Jesus. And accomplishing the preaching work now is refreshing to Jehovah’s Witnesses. They “mount up with wings like eagles.”—Isaiah 40:31.
13. What is it timely for us to do now, and to whom and how is it helpful?
13 Now is the time to study God’s Word the Bible, to quit being fashioned after this old wicked system, to be transformed by making your mind over. “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world.” “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15, 17; Romans 12:2) Equip yourself to comfort mourning ones with the good news of God’s kingdom. Adorn your teaching by bearing spiritual fruits in your personal life—“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Help meek ones to make their minds over, to become rich in fine works, and to remain forever on a paradise earth. (Psalm 37:11, 29) Help them to work out their salvation as you keep working out your own.
14. (a) What admonition for gaining salvation is given, and why is it now so timely? (b) By applying it to ourselves, what are we able to be and do?
14 These days are critical and the time is reduced, so the admonition from God is: “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season.” “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” “Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.” (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Romans 12:11) In all these ways “keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling . . . that you may come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life.”—Philippians 2:12, 15, 16.
□ How do Jehovah’s works praise him?
□ What kind of sacrifices are acceptable to God today?
□ How can we make it easier for others to accept the Kingdom message?
□ With what fine works do we need to adorn our teaching?
□ What activity proves to be refreshing to God’s servants?
□ What is this now the time to be doing?
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Do we search out and ponder over words of truth, to present them at the people’s homes in a pleasing way?
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Works of practicing what we are preaching are vital if we are not to be condemned as hypocrites
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Jehovah’s magnificent works reflect the kind of God he is. Our works tell what kind of persons we are
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Speaking Bible truths to others is a refreshing work