We talked last week about the personal invitation God extends to each of us. In that context, we also looked at how Paul addressed the brethren in Philippi as “my beloved,” a name for Christians in fellowship with each other and God. Paul addressed the Ephesian elders in a similar fashion.
Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:28-32)
Knowing that he was going to be absent from them, Paul says that he commends these elders to God, meaning “to place alongside of … to deposit, as a trust or for protection.” Look at what God, and the Word of His grace, is expected to do for us according to Matthew Henery’s commentary.
I commend you to God, that is, to his providence, and to the protection and care of that. It is enough that, from whomsoever we are separated, still we have God nigh unto us, 1Pe_4:19. (2.) He commends them to the word of his grace, by which some understand Christ: he is the word (Joh_1:1), the word of life, because life is treasured up for us in him (1Jo_1:1), and in the same sense he is here called the word of God’s grace, because from his fulness we receive grace for grace. He commends them to Christ, puts them into his hand, as being his servants, whom he would in a particular manner take care of. Paul commends them not only to God and to his providence, but to Christ and his grace…
He commends them to the word of God’s grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking: “I commend you to God, as your Master, whom you are to serve, and I have found him a good Master, and to the word of his grace, as cutting you out your work, and by which you are to govern yourselves; observe the precepts of this word, and then live upon the promises of it.”
Let’s take note also that Paul tells them here Who is “able to build you up.” The word able is dunamai (G1410), a form of a word used to describe the miracle-working power that emanated from Christ. Hearkening back to Philippians 2, we see that in the absence of an apostle, minister, church leader, or corporate church organization, you and I are supposed to be busy doing something very weighty and important for ourselves, and for the family of God.
Working in You
Let’s re-read Philippians 2:12.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)
The words“work out” are translated from katergazomai (G2716), which means to accomplish, work fully, finish or fashion. All of us independent macho Church of God guys are up for this, right ? Ready to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps? But have you ever tried that? Boy, you can reach down and grab those bootstraps, and yank for all you’re worth, grunt and groan and tug … and you might even clear the floor by a couple of inches, but you always end up with your feet right back on the floor where you started. Just about the same results you get from working out your own salvation on your own. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’re really not getting anywhere. And that’s why God immediately follows this phrase with verse 13.
for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13)
This is one of those verses you can just breeze past, if you’re in a hurry to get your morning Bible study in before work … but this is one of the most encouraging and important verses in the entire Bible. And it is a grievous mistake to try to “work out your own salvation” if you ignore verse 13. Just think about this Being – who and what He is, and let the goose bumps run up your spine. I’ll quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary again.
“And because it is God who worketh in you, do you work out your salvation. Work, for he worketh.” It should encourage us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain. God is ready to concur with his grace, and assist our faithful endeavours. Observe, Though we must use our utmost endeavours 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 endeavours; and the operations of God’s grace in us are so far from excusing, that they are intended to quicken and engage our endeavours. “And work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for he worketh in you.” All our working depends upon his working in us.
This is the phrase I want to focus on: “all our working depends upon His working in us.” Going back to the Bible verse, this word “works” is energeo (G1754), and it means “to be mighty in,” active, efficient, effectual. It is one of four closely related Greek words – energeia, energeo, energema, and energes (G1753-1756) – that describe the absolute power of God and Christ over the flesh. The thoughts conveyed in these words speak of a God who is fully engaged with His called-out ones to work His divine miracles in us and bring us to the desired end. The Greek word eudokia (G2107) adds shades of meaning to the phrase “His good pleasure.” It means benevolence, gracious purpose, and good will.
Operation of God
Let’s look at another place where it would not be wise to ”work out your own salvation” without faith in the working of God. This verse uses the word energeia (G1753), which means “inner working.”
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (Col. 2:9-13)
The King James Version translates as this phrase in verse 12 as “faith in the operation of God.” This passage paints a picture of a fully engaged, hands-on God who has given us life in Christ, and is ever-willing to interact with us to bring us to the full realization of eternal life in Christ. The word appears again in Ephesians 1, speaking of an engaged God, who is as eager and willing to interact with and help us as He was to work with His own son.
making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:16-21)
To enhance this interactive work God is trying to accomplish in us, one of the things we ought to do is “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:125, KJV). So, one of the things we can do to work out our own salvation is to study God’s words and thoughts, and assent to them, submit to them, and be approved of by God for doing so.
For an example of this, let’s look at what a guy named Steve Buchanan called the “specific purpose statement of the entire Bible” in a sermon some years ago.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
The end product, the goal of God’s word in us, is to accomplish God’s pleasure or purpose. That purpose is to give us eternal life, and the way for us to get there is through knowing these Two great Beings. In John 17:3, Christ defined the goal and showed us how to get there. And, as an example to us, He put Himself through the same process that we must go through.
who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” (Heb. 5:7-10)
If you and I are going to “work out our own salvation,” it makes sense that we need the Author of eternal salvation “working in us to do and to will of His good pleasure.” This Being is a huge key to us being able to “work out our salvation.” God the father has empowered Him to help and assist us in every way by making Him the Head over all things to the church, by making Him Lord and Christ, Apostle and High Priest, King of kings, Lord of lords, and Shepherd and Guardian over our souls.
We are to be intimately interacting with both the Father and Jesus Christ, the One sent, and with the written Word of life – studying, reacting, responding in obedience, discussing it with Them in prayer, and “working it out with fear and trembling,” not wanting to fall short, to disappoint them.
So to wrap-up this blog series on “The Interactive Book,” God has sent the Word of life into this world for a purpose. He admonishes each human being on this planet to handle the Word of life responsibly, and to give Him a profit on His investment of the Word in their own lives. He provides us with the most personal help, aid, and encouragement that He can through His own son, and He Himself is at work within us each day to will and to do for His good pleasure … through the interactive book.
“The Interactive Book” series:
Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life
Part 4: Judgment and Friendship