Q&A: Paul's Understanding of Phil. 2:13

Paul's Understanding of Phil. 2:13

What did Paul mean when he said that the Holy Spirit is at work in us to will and to act according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)?

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Answer

There are different kinds of theories of how the Spirit of God and you are interacting for the sake of becoming holy. One view is to say, you "let go and let God." This is a very famous view. It sounds good on the surface because it addresses matters of control and the need for surrender, where you let go and let God. But on the other side, it could mean that you don't take any responsibility for your spiritual life, and therefore, there's no culpability attached to it. So, instead of "let go and let God," my usual suggestion is to get going and let God. On the adverse side of that passivity is a whole bunch of self-effort, that everything depends on the self to produce holiness. And when it depends on the self to produce holiness, it assumes that you have power to do what only God can do inside you. It can become manipulated; it can even fall into a whole degree of legalism. So, between license and legalism is what I am going to call a "grace-operated interactionism," or a "Spirit-stimulated interactionism." Philippians 2:13 is a tremendous balance in how God's Spirit works in you in order to produce a spiritual life as you interact with him — I call it "interactionism" rather than cooperation, but an interaction with him. He initiates it, and you respond. You don't manipulate him in any way. You don't persuade him. You don't intercourse him. You don't have to obligate him in any way. It is a response — not a reaction — a response to what God is working in you… So, the best way to look at it is to think of God the Spirit providing the power; we don't provide the power, but we present the willingness. As we present the willingness, he provides the power by which we can follow what God expects of us. So, the Spirit of God works in us, he provides the power, he inspires the will, he allows us to be responsive enough so when we present the willingness, his prescriptions, his expectations, his claims are accomplished. So, we present the willingness; we don't provide the willingness. He works in us, but he provides the power because we don't have any power.

Answer by Dr. Ramesh Richard