on Philippians 2 :13
For it is God which worketh in you - Every holy purpose, pious resolution, good word, and good work, must come from him; ye must be workers together with him, that ye receive not his grace in vain; because he worketh in you, therefore work with him, and work out your own salvation.
To will and to do - Το θελειν και το ενεργειν. The power to will and the power to act must necessarily come from God, who is the author both of the soul and body, and of all their powers and energies, but the act of volition and the act of working come from the man. God gives power to will, man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power. Without the power to will, man can will nothing; without the power to work, man can do nothing. God neither wills for man, nor works in man's stead, but he furnishes him with power to do both; he is therefore accountable to God for these powers.
Because God works in them the power to will and the power to do, therefore the apostle exhorts them to work out their own salvation; most manifestly showing that the use of the powers of volition and action belongs to themselves. They cannot do God's work, they cannot produce in themselves a power to will and to do; and God will not do their work, he will not work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
Though men have grievously puzzled themselves with questions relative to the will and power of the human being; yet no case can be plainer than that which the apostle lays down here: the power to will and do comes from God; the use of that power belongs to man. He that has not got this power can neither will nor work; he that has this power can do both. But it does not necessarily follow that he who has these powers will use them; the possession of the powers does not necessarily imply the use of those powers, because a man might have them, and not use or abuse them; therefore the apostle exhorts: Work out your own salvation.
This is a general exhortation; it may be applied to all men, for to all it is applicable, there not being a rational being on the face of the earth, who has not from God both power to will and act in the things which concern his salvation. Hence the accountableness of man.
Of his good pleasure - Every good is freely given of God; no man deserves any thing from him; and as it pleaseth him, so he deals out to men those measures of mental and corporeal energy which he sees to be necessary; giving to some more, to others less, but to all what is sufficient for their salvation.
on Philippians 2 :13
For it is God that worketh in you - This is given as a reason for making an effort to be saved, or for working out our salvation. It is often thought to be the very reverse, and people often feel that if God works "in us to will and to do," there can be no need of our making an effort, and that there would be no use in it. If God does all the work, say they, why should we not patiently sit still, and wait until He puts forth His power and accomplishes in us what He wills? It is of importance, therefore, to understand what this declaration of the apostle means, in order to see whether this objection is valid, or whether the fact that God "works in us" is to be regarded as a reason why we should make no effort. The word rendered "worketh" - ἐνεργῶν energōn - working - is from a verb meaning to work, to be active to produce effect - and is that from which we have derived the word "energetic." The meaning is, that God "produces a certain effect in us;" he exerts such an influence over us as to lead to a certain result in our minds - to wit, "to will and to do." Nothing is said of the mode in which this is done, and probably this cannot be understood by us here; compare John 3:8. In regard to the divine agency here referred to, however, certain things, though of a negative character, are clear:
(1) It is not God who acts for us. He leads us to "will and to do." It is not said that he wills and does for us, and it cannot be. It is man that "wills and does" - though God so influences him that he does it.
(2) he does not compel or force us against our will. He leads us to will as well as to do. The will cannot be forced; and the meaning here must be that God exerts such an influence as to make us willing to obey Him; compare Psalm 110:3.
(3) it is not a physical force, but it must be a moral influence. A physical power cannot act on the will. You may chain a man, incarcerate him in the deepest dungeon, starve him, scourge him, apply red-hot pincers to his flesh, or place on him the thumb-screw, but the will is still free. You cannot bend that or control it, or make him believe otherwise than as he chooses to believe. The declaration here, therefore, cannot mean that God compels us, or that we are anything else but free agents still, though He "works in us to will and to do." It must mean merely that he exerts such an influence as to secure this result.
To will and to do of his good pleasure - Not to will and to do everything, but "His good pleasure." The extent of the divine agency here referred to, is limited to that, and no man should adduce this passage to prove that God "works" in him to lead him to commit sin. This passage teaches no such doctrine. It refers here to Christians, and means that he works in their hearts that which is agreeable to him, or leads them to "will and to do" that which is in accordance with his own will. The word rendered "good pleasure" - εὐδοκία eudokia - means "delight, good-will, favor;" then "good pleasure, purpose, will;" see Ephesians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:11. Here it means that which would be agreeable to him; and the idea is, that he exerts such an influence as to lead people to will and to do that which is in accordance with his will. Paul regarded this fact as a reason why we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is with that view that he urges it, and not with any idea that it will embarrass our efforts, or be a hindrance to us in seeking salvation. The question then is, how this fact can be a motive to us to make an effort? In regard to this we may observe:
(1) That the work of our salvation is such that we need help, and such help as God only can impart. We need it to enable us to overcome our sins; to give us such a view of them as to produce true penitence; to break away from our evil companions; to give up our plans of evil, and to resolve to lead different lives. We need help that our minds may be enlightened; that we may be led in the way of truth; that we may be saved from the danger of error, and that we may not be suffered to fall back into the ways of transgression. Such help we should welcome from any quarter; and any assistance furnished on these points will not interfere with our freedom.
(2) the influence which God exerts on the mind is in the way of help or aid. What He does will not embarrass or hinder us. It will prevent no effort which we make to be saved; it will throw no hindrance or obstacle in the way. When we speak of Gods working "in us to will and to do," people often seem to suppose that His agency will hinder us, or throw some obstacle in our way, or exert some evil influence on our minds, or make it more difficult for us to work out our salvation than it would be without His agency. But this cannot be. We may be sure that all the influence which God exerts over our minds, will be to aid us in the work of salvation, not to embarrass us; will be to enable us to overcome our spiritual enemies and our sins, and not to put additional weapons into their hands or to confer on them new power. Why should people ever dread the influence of God on their hearts, as if he would hinder their efforts for their own good?
(3) the fact that God works is an encouragement for us to work. When a man is about to set out a peach or an apple tree, it is an encouragement for him to reflect that the agency of God is around him, and that he can cause the tree to produce blossoms, and leaves, and fruit. When he is about to plow and sow his farm, it is an encouragement, not a hindrance, to reflect that God works, and that he can quicken the grain that is sown, and produce an abundant harvest. What encouragement of a higher order can man ask? And what farmer is afraid of the agency of God in the case, or supposes that the fact that God exerts an agency is a reason why he should not plow and plant his field, or set out his orchard? Poor encouragement would a man have in these things if God did not exert any agency in the world, and could not be expected to make the tree grow or to cause the grain to spring up; and equally poor would be all the encouragement in religion without his aid.
on Philippians 2 :13
2:13 For it is God - God alone, who is with you, though I am not. That worketh in you according to his good pleasure - Not for any merit of yours. Yet his influences are not to supersede, but to encourage, our own efforts. Work out your own salvation - Here is our duty. For it is God that worketh in you - Here is our encouragement. And O, what a glorious encouragement, to have the arm of Omnipotence stretched out for our support and our succour!