Adattf, Part 4


And he also went on, of course, in Philippians 2:12 to say, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” Well, you don’t have to work out your salvation at all if you’re already saved. 

I’ve been spending a lot of time questioning a Catholic answer regarding salvation, and I continue with that today. You can listen to Karl Keating’s defense of the Catholic position here, if you’re interested. Mr. Keating, who is a long time Catholic apologist, cites Philippians 2:12, among other verses, as supportive of the Church’s view that we participate in meriting our salvation by the works that we do. The evangelical position that I ascribe to holds that works don’t merit us salvation but instead are a natural outworking of our faith which saves us. And I believe that’s what this verse is talking about.

Outworking means, “The action or process by which something is brought to completion.” gives this as an example of the correct use of the word: ‘the practical outworking of EU legislation.’ In the same way, the obedience to God that we demonstrate in good behavior is the practical outworking of our faith. The Greek word katergazomai translated “work out” means, “to work fully, that is, accomplish; by implication to finish, fashion:”  If we take it to mean “accomplish” here it does seem to imply merit. But if it is more properly understood as “finish” then it reads as an exhortation to be diligent and intentional about living lives pleasing to God…”with fear and trembling” because he is the sovereign Lord of the universe with the power and right to do what he wants with us, and is deserving of our perfect obedience. It’s about finishing well.

If Paul was teaching salvation by faith plus works we would expect this verse to translate as “work for,” but even in the Catholic Bibles it says “work out.” Paul is teaching the Philippians, and us, to exercise our salvation by doing the works that God saved us for.

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

Keating continues…

Christ in Matthew 7:21 said, “It’s not anyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ who shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.” So then, that brings us to Matthew 25. At the end of that chapter we’ve got the story of the sheep and the goats. The sheep go to heaven, the goats go to hell. What’s the difference between them? Well, we know the story. The sheep are those who did God’s will. The goats are those who didn’t…who not just did bad things but failed to do good things when they had the chance to do them.

Keating is interpreting all the verses he cites as teaching that God looks at our outward behavior this way in determining whether we get to “go to heaven”:

Feed the hungry? Check.

Clothe the naked? Check.

Visit the sick and those in prison? Check.

Okay, you’re in.

But in these verses in Matthew we see God looking at our outward behavior as the fruit that gives evidence to the observer of what kind of “tree” we are. Right before 7:21 Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” – Matthew 7:15-18

The determining factor is not the fruit produced but the kind of producer. What a tree is in its nature determines what shows up on the branch. A “sheep” who is actually a wolf, or a goat, will produce fruit in keeping with his nature, though he may have some success passing himself off as a sheep, saying “Lord, Lord.” We can be fooled by false prophets, by wolves and goats, because all we see is their fruit. God, on the other hand, can see from whence the fruit comes.

 …man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7

That’s enough for today. But Karl Keating is not done with his defense, so neither am I.