5. Balancing Grace and Good Works (Ephesians 2:8-10)


Audio (36:47)

Detail from Rembrandt van Rijn, 'The Return of the Prodigal Son' (1636), etching.
The best example of utter grace in the Bible is Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son. Detail from Rembrandt van Rijn, 'The Return of the Prodigal Son' (1636), etching on laid paper, plate: 15.6 x 13.7 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Ephesians 2:8-10 is probably the clearest expression of the basis of our relationship with God found anywhere in the Bible. It differentiates between grace and good works so nicely.

But why is it so difficult to understand this? Why do we come back to this verse again and again? Let's take a careful look.

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Before we dig in, let's look at the context of Ephesians 2.

5.1 Rescue Needed (Ephesians 2:1-5)

The Need for a Rescue Operation (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Paul begins the chapter explaining clearly why we so desperately need a rescue operation. Let's review this, though we've already seen it in Lesson 2.2. Read verses 1-3 in your Bible to refresh your understanding.

1. Spiritual deadness (Ephesians 2:1) is caused by transgressions and sin. Our repeated sins and transgressions of God's holy principles have somehow dulled us, deadened us, so we are unperceptive. We are without spiritual life as it pertains to God.

2. Followers of a corrupt culture (Ephesians 2:2a), followers of "the ways of this world." We have absorbed the spirit of the age and internalized its corrupt values and jaded outlook.

3. Followers of Satan (Ephesians 2:2b), "the ruler of the kingdom of the air." Though we may not be deliberate Satan worshippers, we have become dupes, unknowing adherents to a pride and attitude toward God that has its origins in the rebellious Snake himself (Genesis 3:1-7). Though we pretend to independence, we have come under his influence and are now marching to his drumbeat.

4. Self-indulgent (Ephesians 2:3a), "gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts." We desire, we want, we burn with lust, with hate, with greed, and we steal to satisfy ourselves. Our self-centeredness becomes self-destructiveness.

5. Under Divine judgment and righteous anger (Ephesians 2:3b). Consequently, we are rebels against God, justly under a sentence of death.

Results of Rescue (Ephesians 2:4-6)

That's our situation. But look at the rapid succession of blessings we experience when Jesus saves us.

  • His great love for us (verse 4a).
  • His richness of mercy (verse 4b).
  • A miracle of new birth ("alive together with Christ") in the place of spiritual deadness (verse 5).
  • Elevation to a spiritual authority and position "in the heavenly realms," at the very right hand of God with Christ our Messiah (verse 6).
  • Eternal kindness shown us forever and ever, on and on (verse 7).

5.2 Grace and Rescue (Ephesians 2:8)

Rescued by Grace (Ephesians 2:8)

Now, let's slow down and consider verses 8-10 phrase by phrase.

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

One phrase has been repeated twice in the larger passage.

"... It is by grace you have been saved" (verse 5).

"For it is by grace you have been saved..." (verse 8).

There are two key words in these phrases: "grace" and "saved."

"Saved" (sōzō, as we have seen in Lesson 2.4) is a common word in Greek that means basically, "to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve, rescue." Here it means "save/preserve from eternal death," in the passive, "be saved, attain salvation."149 Colin Brown notes that in classical Greek "both the verb and the noun denote rescue and deliverance in the sense of averting some danger threatening life. This can happen in war or at sea. But that which one is delivered from may also be an illness. Where no immediate danger is mentioned, they can mean to keep or preserve."150

But "saved" has become a religious jargon word. To really understand it, we strip it of all of its religious connotations and look at its root meaning: "rescue." Salvation means rescuing someone from a situation that put them in danger or would have been fatal, if they had not been removed from it. Salvation is rescuing us from our dire situation as God's opponents and enemies.

One more thing. In verses 5b and 8a, sōzō is in the perfect tense, passive voice. The Greek perfect tense is used to convey an event that took place in the past, where the results continue to the present. Paul intends us to understand that our salvation goes on and on!

Sometimes we Christians begin to feel embattled and it becomes us vs. them. The "saved" vs. the "unsaved." What this produces in us is both pride and fear. Rather, "rescued" ought to produce in us compassion and love. "Rescue" is a word we use for taking heroic measures to find a child in a burning building and bring her out, or pull a victim from a car that has gone into the flood waters and will go under if we don't help.

Yes, sinning is pretty ugly and involves a lot of human cooperation, but sinners are victims of Satan's lies and deceit just like we used to be. At the root of this is the fact that they are human beings caught in a whirlpool they can't escape from. They need rescuing. They need love -- God's love and our compassion.

"Grace" = Favor (Ephesians 2:8a)

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith...." (Ephesians 2:8a)

The word "grace" (as we discussed in Lesson 1.1 and elsewhere) was not at first a theological word. Greek charis means simply "favor."151 To show grace is to bestow favor. It has nothing to do with reward for "good behavior." As you are now aware, the benefactor doesn't show favor because we have earned it, but simply because he wants to. He is under no obligation to love because we have somehow driven him to it. He just loves. The impetus for the favor is entirely the prerogative of the giver, like a great aunt who delights to send things to her nieces and nephews even though they neglect to write and thank her.

Q19. (Ephesians 2:8) From what have we been rescued by God's grace? How has God personally rescued you from your situation before Christ? What did God's favor have to do with your salvation?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2154-q19-rescued/

5.3 Faith and Works

We've examined the ideas of rescue (salvation) and God's inexplicable but very real favor towards us (grace) in verse 8. Now we need to look at "works."

Working Our Way into the Good Graces of God (Ephesians 2:9)

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Paul was raised a strict Pharisee, a party known for exact and minute obedience to the Torah, God's law. If he obeyed, then he was righteous. If he disobeyed, then he was unrighteous. It was black or white. The Judaism of Jesus' and Paul's day had reduced the principles of God's Law into inflexible and sometimes petty rules. The Pharisees' rules, the "oral law," were designed to be a "hedge" around the actual commands of the Mosaic Law, the Torah. Keep the petty rules, they reasoned, and you are prevented from breaking the actual Law.

Pharisaism is prompted by a desire to obey God. But eventually the Pharisees mistook the petty rules for the Law itself. Don't say "God" because you might take his name in vain, so you substitute "heaven" for God and you're safe. When God's name appears in the sacred text as Yahweh, you pronounce it as if it said "Lord" (Adonai).

A minor verse in the Law said, "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk," a rule obviously intended to instill some sense of mercy towards the animals one was butchering for food (Exodus 23:19b). Judaism turned it into a system of keeping a Kosher kitchen with one set of pots and pans used for dairy products, and a completely different set used for meat products, lest they inadvertently boil a kid in its mother's milk. You get the idea.

A Self-Serving Righteousness

Judaism in Paul's day had degenerated from faithfulness to God's principles to strict and blind adherence to man-made rules. Then it elevated obedience to these man-made rules into a system of earned righteousness before God. By their right actions, Pharisees put God in their debt. He had to recognize their righteous deeds, by golly. Never mind that their hearts were still self-centered and self-serving. Never mind that they lived their whole lives to save themselves. They were righteous. That was what counted. When Paul says in Ephesians 2:9 that you have been saved "not by works (ergon), so that no one can boast," it is this system of works-righteousness that he is talking about.

Again, for Paul, "works" is short for "works of righteousness that earn God's favor." Paul the Christian gives up "a righteousness of my own that comes from the law," and instead embraces "the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:9).

Paul the Christian isn't lawless, but he has come to understand that God's favor isn't earned by surface observance of religious rules. He has come to understand the darkness and dullness of his own heart. He, who had gone to Damascus to imprison followers of Jesus, had himself been arrested by this Jesus (Acts 9). He, the righteous murderer of Christians, has received mercy from the hand of the One whom he is persecuting. He now understands the emptiness of a religion based on outward rules while fostering an inward self-centered rather than God-centered motivation.

Paul emphasizes this dichotomy between grace and works in several other letters:

"5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:5-6)

"5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy ... having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5, 7)

"[God] who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time...." (2 Timothy 1:9)

"4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5)

The Just Shall Live by Their Faith

As we saw in Lesson 4.4, Paul rejects this kind of works-based righteousness in favor of a gift-based righteousness that is received by faith -- that is, simple trust, simple acceptance at face value that God loves you. Faith that puts out its open hand to receive and -- when it has taken hold of the gift -- says thank you to the Giver.

Israel's founding fathers had lived by this kind of simple receiving of God's blessings from the very beginning. Paul announces, "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17, quoting from Habakkuk 2:4). It wasn't Abraham's worthiness that saved him, but God's favor that made him worthy and brought out the very best in him (Genesis 15:6).

We see in our Ephesians 2:8-10 passage a radical statement of the roots of our religion. We are saved by God's favor. Period. Not by our own goodness.

"Faith" -- like "saved" -- is a word that has degenerated into Christian jargon. In classical Greek, pistis means "the trust that a man may place in men or the gods, credibility, credit in business, guarantee, proof, or something entrusted."152

Our society is plagued by what I call "easy believism." "Oh, of course, I believe in God," really means, "I acknowledge that there is a Supreme Being." That is an important intellectual step from atheism or agnosticism, but it is not faith. James reminds us:

"You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that -- and shudder." (James 2:19)

The basic concept of Christian faith or belief is "trust," having enough confidence in God's faithfulness to be willing to rely on Him. Of course, it is easily possible to have faith in some aspects of God's provision for us and not in others. So there is much room either to grow in our knowledge and trust or to persist in various degrees of unbelief.

If You're Good Enough You Can Go to Heaven

American religious mythology communicates just the opposite of salvation by faith. Simply stated it goes like this: If you're good you'll go to heaven. If you're bad you'll go to hell. Of course, we're not bad enough to go to hell, we say nervously. We've been generous (sometimes), we've been good neighbors (at least the times we remember), we haven't beaten our wives (with our fists). We are basically good people and so a fair-minded God will send us to heaven when we die. Won't he? Of course, he will.

Our culture, you see, doesn't understand a gift-righteousness, only a works-righteousness. We can justify ourselves only by means of a befuddled mind that ignores our real spiritual condition: spiritual deadness, self-centeredness, and an adoption of the world's (and ultimately Satan's) perverted values. A works-righteousness puts us in control; a gift-righteousness makes us utterly dependent upon the Giver, something that our lack of trust -- lack of faith, in reality -- makes us shun.

Q20. (Ephesians 2:8-9) How does the idea of earning salvation by being good enough for God distort the essential gospel? With that scenario, what is the need for the cross? How does it affect a sense of self-righteousness? Of pride? Of looking down on others rather than loving them? Why is this kind of works-righteousness so ingrained in people? How does an understanding of salvation by grace change this picture?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2155-q20-works-righteousness/

An Essential Marriage of Faith and Works (James 2:17)

By now we've talked about what "works" is referring to. But to be complete, we need to talk about what it does not mean. For that we turn to James chapter 2. A passage in James at first glance seems contrary to what Paul has been teaching in Ephesians 2:8-9. Let's give it a closer look.

"... Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action ('works,' KJV) is dead" (James 2:17)

General sense of "works." The word "works" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "action" (NIV) is Greek ergon. In classical Greek it refers to "'a deed, an action,' by contrast either with inactivity or a mere word."153 This is the general sense in which James uses the word.

Technical sense of "works." As I have explained, Paul uses the word in Ephesians 2:8-9 in a technical sense:

"In Judaism ... the view of works necessary for the fulfillment of the Law and therefore for righteousness is developed and consolidated. The way to godliness is casuistically prescribed for the Jew by a multiplicity of regulations for the performance of the Law."154

As mentioned, Paul's background as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-6) had led him to believe that if he acted righteously enough he could merit salvation. Today's strict Hasidic Jews are the spiritual descendants of the Pharisees. They believe they will be saved by their strict adherence to the 613 commandments in the Torah. Paul firmly rejects this view.

James uses the same word "works," but by it means something entirely different: deeds, actions.

James' point is this: Saying you have faith isn't enough. Your faith needs to be evidenced in your actions, your deeds, your lifestyle. If it isn't, it probably isn't genuine faith. If it isn't, you're probably kidding yourself about really trusting God with your life. James isn't saying that our deeds save us. He doesn't even come close. He is saying that if our faith hasn't affected our lives, then it probably isn't real but "dead."

While we perhaps see a verbal contradiction here -- they both use the same word "works" -- I don't think Paul and James would disagree about this in the least. Paul, however, is clarifying grace-based salvation in the face of a pervasive works-based understanding of salvation prevalent in the Judaism of his time. James is trying to help Christians own up to their own self-deception about their spiritual condition, a sterile "faith" that is vapor, a "faith" which doesn't change the person.

This Not of Yourselves (Ephesians 2:8b)

We took a short detour over to James, but let's return to Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9 to explore another question raised by our passage.

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The question is: Which thing is the gift here? Let's look at the candidates: grace, salvation, and faith. The phrase "and this not from yourselves" could refer grammatically to any or all of them.

This grace is certainly not from us. It is the generous gift of the Giver, given against all odds, against all of our self-centered, rebellious history. Grace is certainly not from ourselves.

This salvation is certainly not from us. The rescue operation that culminated in the cross was launched by the Father with the willing cooperation of his Son Jesus. We had nothing to do with it that we can boast about -- unless we can boast about uttering a feeble "Help" at some point when we were acutely aware of the desperateness of our plight. Certainly, the rescue, the salvation, is not from ourselves.

This faith comes from us, doesn't it? Well, the best we can say is "sort of."

Prevenient Grace

The New Testament is filled with what John Wesley called "prevenient grace," grace which comes before, grace which precedes the actual event of our salvation. Here are a couple of examples.

"On arriving [in Corinth, Apollos] was a great help to those who by grace had believed." (Acts 18:27)

"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," exclaims Peter.
"This wasn't revealed to you by man," Jesus retorts, "but by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:16-17)

Peter's faith-insight into Jesus' true nature is a God-given revelation, not from himself so that Peter could boast.

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44)

"No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." (John 6:54b)

So our faith is in response to the Father's gentle drawing, the Holy Spirit's persistent conviction that we are sinful (John 16:8-11). We can't take credit for our faith, either.

Even the ability to repent is granted by God!155 Most recent commentators see "this not from yourselves" as referring to salvation by grace as a whole, including faith.156 (More on prevenient grace in Lesson 6.2).

Influence without Coercion

At this point, however, I have to depart from my brothers and sisters who teach "irresistible grace," a key point of Calvinism. (See Appendix 2, sec. 4, A Brief Look at TULIP Calvinism.) I believe that while God assists us towards himself, he does not compel us against our will. He increases our understanding, he heightens our sense of need, he softens our will by his prevenient grace. Yes, I grant you all of that. But there is still a place that we are required to assent to him as an act of our own will, a free response to God's unconditional love. A "decision," as Billy Graham would call it.

Can we take credit for the decision? Boast about it? Of course not. That would be like a starving man boasting about going up to get a loaf of bread after hearing where the bread-line is to be found. While one important element of our faith is a (sort of) free-will decision to say "yes" to the Master, it is only an element, and not one we can boast of. The other elements are knowledge (given by revelation), conviction (brought by the Holy Spirit), occasion (planned in advance by God), and doubtless others as well. (More on free will in Appendix 2, sec. 4.)

So, coming back to our question from Ephesians 2:9. "And this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." What does "this" refer to? Salvation, grace, or faith? I would have to answer, "Yes, all of the above." All three are gracious gifts from God for which we can take no credit.

Q21. (Acts 18:27; Matthew 16:16-17; John 6:44) How does the Holy Spirit work in our lives to prepare us for salvation? In what sense is the Spirit's revelation important to faith? In what ways have you seen the Father "draw" people to Christ? What is the role of "free will" in salvation?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2156-q21-drawing/

5.4 Sanctification and Grace-Inspired Works

It is time to consider verse 10:

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

While verses 8 and 9 talk about salvation, verse 10 talks about what we call "sanctification."

It is important that we understand Paul's point: works follow faith, not the other way around. Of course, we don't change everything overnight. Our character took 15 or 40 or 60 years to get to where it is, and it takes God's Spirit a while to form in us the character of Christ (Galatians 4:19). Don't berate yourself because you see areas of sin in your character that Christ has not yet softened and lifted out of you. Our salvation springs from God's gift and is consummated by our trusting acceptance ("through faith"). It is after salvation has been received that God begins his real work in us, not before. This gradual change in us is known as "sanctification." It is as a result of salvation that we begin to produce actions that reflect our growing faith. James says it this way: "Faith without works is dead."

Geoff Bullock refers to sanctification by grace in his song, "The Power of Your Love."

"Lord, I come to You.
Let my heart be changed, renewed,
Flowing from the grace
That I have found in You.
And Lord I have come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love."157

Working Out our Destiny (Ephesians 2:10)

Paul talks about sanctification in our passage, which I am paraphrasing in brackets.

"For we are God's workmanship [a gift], created in Christ Jesus to do good works [the result of our faith-response to God], which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

Faith-energized works are our destiny!

The phrase "prepared in advance" (NIV), "prepared beforehand" (ESV, NRSV), "before ordained" (KJV) in vs. 10 is the Greek verb prohetoimazō, "prepare beforehand."158

God planned for us before we were even born to do special "good works." The Scripture says he "prepared in advance" for us to do them. I take this to mean that we have been prepared in advance by having been given particular aptitudes, special spiritual sensitivities, unique abilities -- "spiritual gifts," if you will -- which equip or prepare us to fulfill our destiny here on earth (and, who knows, maybe in the Kingdom beyond, also). These are gifts of God's grace for ministry which we'll explore in Lesson 8. We'll explore predestination further in Lesson 6.1.

Sanctification: Working Out Our Salvation (Philippians 2:12-13)

Here's another key passage on sanctification.

"12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)

"Work out" is the Greek verb katergazomai," which means, "achieve, accomplish, do," as well as referring to the fruit of that action, "to cause a state or condition, bring about, produce, create."159 The Philippians as a body are to work out their problems and come to unity. They are to produce the fruit of their salvation, that is, peace, love, and harmony in the Spirit.

As individuals and a church, they are to work out the implications and lifestyle of salvation in their church community. They have had bickering and selfish ambition, a party spirit. This has to stop! Paul calls on them to obey160 him in this.

They are to work it out "with fear and trembling," an Old Testament phrase which describes the "fear of human beings in the presence of God and his mighty acts."161 It implies humility and complete reliance on God for his strength in carrying it out.162

Notice that the word "salvation" here isn't being used in the sense of eternal life, so much as letting God's rescue operation permeate our beings and change us.

For God Is at Work in You (Philippians 2:13)

But we are not left to our own resources. This is a God thing!

"... For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13)

We are to "work it out," but God is "working" too! Notice the play on words. We are to "work out" (katergazomai) and God is at work (energ).163 Both words in Greek are from the root ergon, "deed, action, work." This is Spirit-assisted sanctification.

Paraphrase

Let's conclude these rich verses with a paragraph that sums up what the verses mean:

We were dead to God spiritually, our wills turned inward to follow our own desires, ready dupes for the great Tempter. We were under God's righteous judgment, no denying it. "But God" who is "rich in mercy" acted out of his own generous heart of love and bestowed upon us his gracious favor -- no credit to us here -- which rescued us from ourselves, from Satan, and from the pull of the world, and set us on a new path. This path of Life is destined to receive acts of kindness from God throughout all eternity as we fulfill our destiny to do good works, the deeds for which God has specifically and individually equipped us -- true significance for the present and for the future, world without end. Amen.

Q22. (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:17) How does the Spirit work in us after we are saved to form Christ in us? In what ways is this a process of "working out" our salvation? Why should you expect a person's life to change when they put their faith in Jesus? What is happening if there is no discernable change?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2157-q22-sanctification/

Lessons for Disciples


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Ephesians 2:8-10 is a meaty passage. Here are some of the lessons we can learn from it.

  1. We are spiritually dead and need a rescue (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  2. "Saved" (sōzō) might be better understood as "rescued." The word means "to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve, rescue" (Ephesians 2:8).
  3. We are rescued by grace, God's favor that is undeserved (Ephesians 2:8).
  4. Pharisees believed that if they were obedient to the Mosaic Law, and the oral law (the "hedge" around the Law), they would earn God's favor and be saved. Paul says that salvation can't be earned; it is a gift. To think that you could earn it is an insult to the cross (Ephesians 2:9; Romans 4:4-5).
  5. God grants righteous standing to those who trust in him and his Messiah; salvation is by faith (Ephesians 2:8)
  6. James' statement that "faith without works is dead," isn't opposite of Paul's teaching that salvation is a gift that can't be earned. Rather, James is saying that true faith will show up in our actions (James 2:17).
  7. The gift of God that is "not from yourselves" includes both grace or favor, as well as the salvation. Even the faith and the ability to repent are aided by the Holy Spirit through prevenient grace, grace that precedes salvation. We can take credit for nothing (Ephesians 2:8).
  8. Grace influences us to put our trust in Christ. It does not compel us against our will. Grace is not "irresistible."
  9. Grace also inspires sanctification and the "good works" that we do now that the Spirit lives in us (Ephesians 2:10).
  10. "Working out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:11-12) refers to sanctification, not to our initial salvation.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for saving us so freely, for doing all the work for us on the cross, and for even sending your Spirit to draw us to you through faith. Thank you! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

"On arriving [in Corinth, Apollos] was a great help to those who by grace had believed." (Acts 18:27, NIV)

"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," exclaims Peter.
"This wasn't revealed to you by man," Jesus retorts, "but by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:16-17, NIV)

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44, NIV)

"14 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 14 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV)

End Notes

References and Abbreviations

[149] Sōzō, BDAG 982, 2b.

[150] Colin Brown, "Redemption," NIDNTT, 3:205ff.

[151] Charis, "a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care/help, goodwill (almost a technical term in the reciprocity-oriented world dominated by Hellenic influence). Active, that which one grants to another, the action of one who volunteers to do something not otherwise obligatory" (BDAG 1079-1081, 2a).

[152] Otto Michel, "Faith," NIDNTT 1:594.

[153] Hans-Christoph Hahn, "Work," NIDNTT 3:1147, ergon.

[154] NIDNTT 3:1149. "... of the deeds of humans, exhibiting a consistent moral character, referred to collectively as 'works'" (BDAG 390-391, 1cβ).

[155] Acts 3:26; 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25.

[156] Peter T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175, fn. 91.

[157] Geoff Bullock, "The Power of Your Love" copyright 1992, Word Music/Copycare.

[158] Prohetoimazō, BDAG 869, from pro-, "before" + hetoimazō, "get ready, hold in readiness." Siegfried Solle, "Ready, Prepare, Gird," NIDNTT 3:116-118.

[159] Katergazomai, BDAG 531.

[160] "Obeyed" is the Greek verb hypakouō, "to follow instructions, obey, follow, be subject to" (BDAG 1028-1029).

[161] Peter T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 282.

[162] Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; Eerdmans, 1987), p. 116.

[163] God who "works" (NIV) or "is at work" (NRSV) is the Greek verb energeō (from which we get our English word "energize"). Here it has the connotation, "to bring something about through use of capability -- work, produce, effect." The phrase in Philippians 2:13a is "the one who produces the will in you." An infinitive of this same verb occurs later in the phrase, "to will and to act...." It has an intransitive connotation, "to put one's capabilities into operation, work, be at work, be active, operate, be effective." The phrase in Philippians 2:13b then refers to "the will and the action" (BDAG 335).

Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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