12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
The pursuit of holiness is a cooperative effort between the Lord and the believer in Christ. While justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and regeneration is a work upon the heart and soul of a sinner by the Holy Spirit alone, sanctification, or a life of holiness, is a mutual effort involving both the sanctifier and the sanctified. In other words, sanctification involves both the Lord and me.
We have examined our responsibility, as set forth in Philippians 2:12. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”
What then is God’s responsibility? Specifically, what is the Holy Spirit’s work in our souls which produces holiness?
Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” I have stated several times in this blog, and when preaching/teaching God’s Word, that Philippians 2:13 has been my life’s verse for well over 40 years. However, what I thought referred to the Lord’s work through me for the benefit and purpose of ministry is not necessarily found in this text.
On the contrary, Philippians 2:13 has more to do with the Lord’s work in my soul for the purpose of developing my holy character and not necessarily a successful ministry. What an illumination this was for me.
There are two points of doctrine within this verse regarding holiness. First, the desire or will for holiness. The Holy Spirit places a desire within each believer for holiness. Second, there is the capacity to carry this desire into effect. Therefore, God receives the glory because the pursuit of holiness, and the Holy Spirit’s work in our souls towards that end, pleases God.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Although the believer is responsible to work (v. 12), the Lord actually produces the good works and spiritual fruit in the lives of believers (John 15:5; 1 Cor. 12:6). This is accomplished because he works through us by his indwelling Spirit (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 3:16–17; 6:19–20; cf. Gal. 3:3). God energizes both the believer’s desires and his actions. The Greek word for “will” indicates that he is not focusing on mere desires or whimsical emotions but on the studied intent to fulfill a planned purpose. God’s power makes his church willing to live godly lives (cf. Ps. 110:3).
Thank you Lord for helping me to see that my life’s verse has little to do with my life’s ministry and service and more to do with my personal life of holiness before you and other people. Thank for the understanding.
Soli deo Gloria!