Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For it is God who works in you both to will and to work

Moving on to verse 13 of Philippians we see a sudden transition from an emphasis on the responsibility of man to the sovereignty of God.  Let’s see how other translations have tackled this passage.

(ESV)  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work

(NASB) for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work

(NKJV)  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do

(NIV) for it is God who works in you to will and to act

(NLT)  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do

(HCSB) For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out

(Expanded Bible)  because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do [both to will/desire and to work]

(The Voice Bible)  because God is energizing you so that you will desire and do

(NET Bible)  for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort … is God

What I notice immediately is that according to the more literal translations the verse seems to indicate that God produces the will and the work in the believer’s life.  If we look at the translations that are more thought-for-thought translations the emphasis is subtly different.  In the NLT, Expanded Bible, Voice Bible or HCSB, the emphasis seems to be that God is helping / enabling / energizing us to will and do.

This is a great verse to show how with thought for thought translations the translator is doing more to interpret the verse for the reader.  It may well be that God enabling vs doing is what Paul meant, but it doesn’t seem that is was that clear in the original.

Let’s look at some other verses that touch on this aspect of God being the one who does the work in the believer’s life.

Jeremiah 31:33 - For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

John 3:27 - John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

John 6:65 - And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

1 Corinthians 3:6 - I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

1 Corinthians 12:6 - and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

1 Corinthians 15:10 - 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.

2 Corinthians 3:5
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Here are some additional insights from several study bibles.

ESV Study Bible:  But as verse 13 demonstrates, these works are the result of God’s work within his people. both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Even the desire (“to will”) to do what is good comes from God; but he also works in the believer to generate actual choices of the good, so that the desires result in actions.

Sprit Filled Life Study Bible:  Without denying man’s freedom, Paul stresses God’s part in man’s salvation, both in its initial resolution and in its subsequent progress.

Reformation Study Bible:  The use of human effort (v. 12), far from violating God’s will, is just what He commands for achieving His saving purpose (Eph. 2:8–10). Having invoked the example of Christ, Paul reassures the Philippians that they do not will and work on their own, but their wills and their actions are the very arenas where God’s own power is working (4:13; 1 Thess. 2:13).

Believer’s Study Bible:  Verse 13 reminds us again that the entire salvation process is the work of a sovereign God and the result of His grace. “For it is God who works in you” is the ultimate ground and basis for our salvation.

In summary, I find this study of the contrast betweens man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty both in salvation and sanctification absolutely fascinating.  There is an aspect of mystery about it, such that I don’t believe you can ever fully understand it.  However just like the concept of the trinity, or of the hypostatic union, I don’t think I need to understand it, I just have to believe it and through faith God will accomplish the work.

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