Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 16, 1963
NUMBER 3, PAGE 5,13b

"God Worketh In You"

Earl Kimbrough

The religious world today is confused on the subject of faith and works. Some people rely strongly upon works of human merits as the means of attaining eternal salvation, while others claim to believe that salvation is by faith alone. Both are in error. Men are not saved by works of human merit, nor are they saved by faith alone. (Tit. 3:5; Jas. 2:24) Salvation is conditioned, rather, upon an obedient faith — a faith that moves one to act in obedience to God's will. (Matt. 7:21) We are saved by "faith which worketh by love." (Gal. 5:6) But works of faith do not cease with obedience to the commands to believe, repent and be baptized. To "the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi" Paul wrote, " out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12, 13) Members of the church today need to be duly impressed with the significance of these words. They involve facts we cannot afford to ignore if we would please God and be saved eternally.

1. There is work required of all who become members of the Lord's church. There are duties imposed upon Christians by the will of God which are necessary to our eternal salvation. Jesus advised the saints at Ephesus of the importance of being "faithful unto death" if they would receive "a crown of life." (Rev.2:10) Faithfulness is a distinguishing mark of genuine Christians for they "walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7) To walk by faith means to live as God's word directs for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:1'7) Walking by faith, then, demands action that is in harmony with God's word. We must hear God's word in order to have faith, and we must obey His word in order to walk by faith. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (Jas 1:22)

2. Members of the church personally are to work out their own salvation. This simply means that each one of us is individually accountable for doing what God requires of us. Since eternal salvation depends upon our compliance with God's will, our continued obedience thereto is described by the apostle as "working out your own salvation." The church collectively cannot work out the salvation of one of the members, nor can one member work out the salvation of the church. What the church does collectively it does in fellowship — according to the effectual working in the measure of every part." (Eph. 4:16) Each member contributes his individual part to the work of the church to have part in the work and if one fails to do so, then obviously he has no part therein and is not working out his own salvation. No one else can work out the salvation of the individual Christian. "So then each one of us shall give account of himself unto God." (Rom. 14:12)

3. "Fear and trembling" must characterize our work in the service of God. "Fear and trembling" does not mean slavish terror, but rather denotes extreme caution. The work God requires of His people is sufficiently important to demand of us care in its execution. "This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposed to high-mindedness in the admonition 'be not high-minded but fear'." (Wardlaw as quoted in Word Studies, Vol. 3, p. 439) This quality of service is most surely lacking in the self-seeking, men-pleasing, puffed-up promoters who rashly push their pet projects from coast to coast, bowling over all opposition to their presumptive intrusion into the realm of God's silence with the unanswerable argument, "Let's get the job done and not waste time fussing about how we do it." Such men push their unscriptural practices with an air of sophistication and with disdain for any who would dare question what they do. We still need a good measure of "fear and trembling" in our efforts to serve the Lord.

4. God works in and through those who obey His will. "For it is God which worketh in you...." Faith is an act of man, yet it is the work of God. "This Is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (Jno. 6:29) Faith is the work of God because God is the author of it. He commands belief and provides the evidence which makes it possible. (1 Jno. 3:23; Jno. 20:30, 31) Whatever is done at the will and direction of God is the "work of God" because it is done at His will and under His direction. When one gives up self and lives for God, it is the result of "the work of God." However, God works in and through men only when they "walk by faith, not by sight." If, then, we act where He has not authorized us to act, regardless of how "good" the action may seem to be, it is not the work of God that we do. And if it is not the work of God, it must be of the world, and as such it puts us in the perilous condition of working without God. (2 Jno. 9)

5. God works in man by faith "to will and to do of His good pleasure." Both the willing to do and the doing of God's work is of God. We will, but it is God who motivates the will in us. We work, but it is by faith we work, and therefore, it is His work. The purpose for which God works in us is "to will and to do His good pleasure." All that we do in obeying God's will is for His pleasure. Enoch had divine testimony that he pleased God because by faith he walked with God. (Heb. 11:5, 6) We give pleasure to God only by doing what He authorizes. Whatever we do outside of His will — without divine authority — does not please Him. The Pharisees loved the praise of men, so they ignored God's will and did things which obtained the reward they sought. They worked, but they did not work to please God. They worked that which pleased themselves. Such a disposition of heart is incompatible with true discipleship. "....for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Ga1.1:10)

Much in the church today that is zealously promoted and supported gives no pleasure whatsoever to God. Though, like the Pharisees of old, many glory and take pride in the works of their own hands, God pronounces it "vain." (Matt. 15:9) I speak specifically of such things as "the sponsoring church" arrangement, benevolent institutions, area-wide campaigns, recreational programs, parochial schools, etcetera, God has no pleasure in such things; they are not God's work; they are not "by faith." It is still necessary even in this twentieth century with all its streamlined schemes that what we do in the realm of religion must be for the good pleasure of God. We only know what pleases Him as He has revealed it to us in His holy word. We, therefore, must work always by His authority in all that we do. We still need that "Thus saith the Lord." Then, and only then, can it be truthfully said. "....It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

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