Being Poured out for God’s Glory, Part Three: The Power of the Gospel
Knowing that verse 12 could appear to promote a work-based salvation, Paul follows with verse 13 to show us that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). In verses 12-13, Paul tells us to work “out” our own salvation because God works “in” us. It is God who changes our heart and minds and renews our lives “in” us, and after his initial act, we are commanded to work “out” our salvation with fear and trembling. He has transformed us to serve and follow him faithfully.
The next verse tells us that he does this “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” It is God who does the work, and it is God who provides the will. There is an expression that says “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Because of God’s will, Christ became the way. His will is then transmitted to us through Christ. We see that not only does God prepare our works beforehand (Ephesians 2:10) and prepare our days before we were even born (Psalm 139:16), but he also gives us the will to serve him and faithfully carry out these works. We see similar language in 1 Corinthians 12:6 which says, “and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” and Haggai 2:4, which says “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts.” Even in verse 15, when we are exhorted to be blameless, it is God who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us blameless (Jude 1:24).
In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul says “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Here again we see him saying that is God who did the work in him through His grace rather than Paul himself doing it.
What we must realize is that we are empowered through the gospel. It is not through our works or our strength or any other method, but through Christ’s death and resurrection. It is through the gospel that God delivers us, and it is through the gospel that God strengthens us. Hebrew 13:21 says, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen”. We see once again in this passage that God works in us through the gospel, so that we may accomplish his will and do what is pleasing in his sight.
Knowing that it is God who works “in” us gives us the strength to work “out” for him. Matthew Henry’s Commentary once again illuminates this passage. “It should encourage us to do our utmost, because our labor shall not be in vain. God is ready to concur with his grace, and assist our faithful endeavors. Observe, though we must use our utmost endeavors in working out our salvation, yet still we must go forth, and go on, in a dependence upon the grace of God. His grace works in us in a way suitable to our natures, and in concurrence with our endeavors; and the operations of God’s grace in us are so far from excusing, that they are intended to quicken and engage our endeavors…To will and to do: he gives the whole ability. It is the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. ‘Thou hast wrought all our works in us,’ Isa. 26:12. Of his good pleasure. As there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of his good work in us; and he is under no engagements to his creatures, but those of his gracious promise. ” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
The power of the gospel gives us the strength to get through any and all circumstances because it is not based on our own strength but on the strength that God powerfully works within us (Colossians 1:29).