Realizing God’s Plan in Life – PT.1

Realizing God’s Plan in Life – PT.1

Editor’s Note: In this writings, A.T. Robertson gives a good insight of Philippians 2:12-18

Philippians 2:12-18

PAUL is eminently practical as well as really profound. He is equally at home in the discussion of the great problems of theology and in the details of the Christian life. He is a practical mystic who does not leave his mysticism in the clouds, but applies it to the problem in hand. There is in Paul no divorce between learning and life. Speculative theology as philosophy he knows and uses as a servant to convey his highest ideas, but he never forgets the ethics of the man in the street or at the desk. He has just written a marvelous passage on the Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ Jesus, scaling the heights of Christ’s equality with God and sounding the depths of the human experience of Jesus, from the throne of God to the death on the Cross and back again. But Paul has no idea of leaving this great doctrinal passage thus. “So then, my beloved,” he goes on with an exhortation based on the experience of Christ. He returns to the whole lump. There are men and women in our churches who remain true when pastors come and go and when others fall away.

Working In and Working Out (verses 12-13)

In Paul’s absence he desires that the Philippians shall press right on with the work of their own salvation in so far as the development is committed to their hands. The eye should rest upon the final goal and so Paul uses a verb that puts the emphasis on the final result. Salvation is used either of the entrance into the service of God, the whole process, or the consummation at the end. The Philippians are to carry into effect and carry on to the end the work of grace already begun. Peter (2 Pet. 1 : 10) likewise exhorted his readers to make their calling and election sure. They must not look to Paul to do their part in the work of their salvation. His absence cuts no figure in the matter of their personal responsibility. It is “your own’ salvation.” It is the aim of all to win this goal at last. If so, each must look to his own task and do his own work. The social aspect of religion is true beyond a doubt. We are our brother’s keeper and we do owe a debt of love and service to one another that we can never fully discharge (Rom. 13:8). But it is also true that each of us is his own keeper and stands or falls to God. Kipling has it thus: For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two.”

Work it out “with fear and trembling,” Paul urges; “with a nervous and trembling anxiety to do right” (Lightfoot). People today do not tremble much in the presence of God and most have little sense of fear. Jonathan Edwards’ great sermon on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” finds little echo today. We live in a light-hearted and complacent age. The Puritans went too far to one extreme, but we are going too much to the other. We all need afresh a sense of solemn responsibility to Almighty God. Paul did not feel blindly complacent about himself (I Cor. 9:27). Religion is both life and creed. The creed without the life amounts to little. We touch a hard problem here, to be sure, but Paul feels no incompatibility between the most genuine trust and the most energetic work. The two supplement or rather complement each other, though we cannot divide them. Divine sovereignty is the fundamental fact in religion with Paul. He starts with that. But human free agency is the inevitable corollary, as Paul sees it. The two are not inconsistent in his theology. Hence Paul is not a fatalist like the Essenes and the modern Hyper-Calvinists nor is he a mere Socinian like the Sadducees.

The Pharisees held to both divine sovereignty and human free agency as most modern Christians do in varying degrees, to be sure. Paul seems to see no contradiction between them as Jesus did not (cf. Matt 2:27+). All our modern efforts to explain the harmony between these two necessary doctrines fail, but we must hold them both true nevertheless. God must be supreme to be God at all. Man must be free to be man at all. The difficulty probably lies in our imperfect processes of reasoning for two such far-reaching truths. But Paul gives the divine sovereignty as the reason or ground for the human free agency. He exhorts the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling precisely because God works in them both the willing and the doing and for His good pleasure. We can at least feel that the working of God’s will has provided the whole plan of salvation in which we are included and at which we are at work. We toil in the sphere of God’s will. But far more is true than that, though we are conscious also that our own wills have free play in this sphere. God presses His will upon ours. We feel the impact of the divine energy upon our wills which are quickened into activity thereby.

A child can grasp this, and rest upon it. A boy of four said joyfully to his mother, “When we do anything, it’s really God doing it.” So then in one sense God does it all. God is the one who energizes in you both the impulse and the energy to carry out the impulse. No one knows what energy is. It is the scientific name for God. It is ceaseless as the sea, restless as the rapids of Niagara. One of the theories of matter is that all matter is in a vortex of inconceivable velocity, whirling round and round these bombarding electrons. What makes them whirl so? The particles of radium can be seen darting violently into space. We were dead in trespasses and sins till God’s Spirit touched us and we leaped to life in Christ This is the mystery of grace. They that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:7). God plants in our souls the germ of spiritual life and He does not let it die. His Spirit broods over us and energizes us to grow and work out what God has worked in us.

This is the ground of hope and joy that makes Romans 8 so different from Romans 7. We are in league with God. God’s grace is not an excuse for doing nothing. It is rather the reason for doing all. In religion as in nature we are co-workers with God. We plant the seed and plan the plant and hoe it and harvest it. But God gave us the seed and the soil and sends the rain and the sunshine and supplies that wondrous thing that we call life and makes it grow to perfection. “God has more life than anybody,” said a child. It is idle to split hairs over our part and God’s part. We must respond to the touch of God’s Spirit else we remain dead in sin. Jesus is the author and the finisher of faith (Heb. 12: 2), of our faith, but we must believe all the same and keep on looking to Him, the goal of faith and endeavor. There is no higher standard of rectitude than God’s good pleasure^ by which He regulates our lives. Happy is the man who finds God’s plan for his life and falls in with it.

Be continued tomorrow

2 Comments

  1. Deanna Lynn
    May 11, 2018, 7:50 pm   /  Reply

    Happy is a man that finds God, for surly will not hunger nor want. Steadfast your feet deep into God’s soil for He will surly grow roots far deeper than this world could ever bring.

  2. Bobbi
    May 11, 2018, 9:30 pm   /  Reply

    Free will is a marvelous gift from God. We are free to turn away from sin, free to stand against the evil one. And, we are free to live in the Kingdom of God and His will. This is the opposite of living a confining, restricted life. Having free will in and of itself can be disastrous. Freely willing to do as one pleases will come to an abrupt end in eternal destruction. Freely willing to do as God pleases will never end and will come to eternal life and pleasure with Him.

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