Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter
“. . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12b-13
Most religions of the world teach that by following their tenants you will over time be changed into a different, better person. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that the moment you are born again (Eph. 2:4-7, John 3:1-6, Tit. 3:5), God changes you into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). He plants a new nature in you (makes you a partaker of His divine nature 2 Peter 1:4), and the rest of your life on earth becomes a process of cooperating with Him to grow and mature that new nature as an expression of His life in and through you. This process is what the Bible calls sanctification.
Perhaps nowhere else in the Bible is this truth so powerfully and succinctly stated than in Philippians 2:12-13. Here we apprehend a truth that may require a lifetime or more to comprehend. Jonathan Edwards expressed the importance of understanding this verse, writing that, “from St. Paul a sentence hit me when I was about twenty-two that has shaped my theology ever since, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.’”
In two sentences, this passage sums up the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God. Here, we have come upon a new math. The natural mind can calculate x%(God’s role) + x%(man’s role)=100%. But the equation in this verse is only completed with 100% God and 100% man. In the realm of theology, “quietists” stress God’s role in sanctification, to the virtual exclusion of any human effort. “Pietists”, on the other hand, emphasize self-effort at the expense of reliance on God’s power. Here, Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility, but boldly proclaims both. Continue reading