Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…
I. HUMAN AGENCY in things which concern salvation.
II. DIVINE AGENCY.
1. Its reality.
(1) Christian character begins by Divine agency; for it begins in regeneration, which is unquestionably the work of God.
(2) It is maintained by the same, for God works in His people to will and to do.
2. Its necessity.
(1) From the corruption of human nature. Were man naturally inclined to what is good, a counteracting influence would be superfluous.
(2) From the temptations to evil, which necessitate Divine protection.
3. Its source — the Divine will. God works because "of His good pleasure." He chooses to work.
(1) Not arbitrarily in the sense of capriciously. We are assured from a consideration of the wisdom, rectitude, love, and unchangeableness of God that for all His doings there are adequate reasons.
(2) Not arbitrary in the sense of having no law. His own perfection supplies laws, which, like their sources, are perfect, and in conformity with them He uniformly acts.
4. Its effect. God works in His people.
(1) To will, under which term we understand desires, intentions, resolutions, and affections. This Divine energy does not impair our will. We are conscious of acting at all times as we will, and never more so than when we seek the things of God. "I have chosen the way of truth, incline my heart," etc.
(2) To do. The effect should never be disjoined from the cause, nor the cause from the effect. It is not God works in us, therefore we need not work; but therefore we work.
III. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO. Both are matter of fact, and must be believed as facts whatever may be our opinion of their relation.
(1) A theory which should harmonize them would supply no additional reason for believing the facts.
(2) The absence of such theory affords no warrant for disbelieving them.
2. A knowledge of the point is unattainable, since it is none other than the manner in which the Infinite mind acts on created minds. We have three sources of knowledge.
(1) Consciousness; the knowledge of what passes in our own minds affords no assistance.
(2) Observation; the cognizance of what comes before the senses avails us nothing.
(3) No testimony but what is Divine could make us acquainted with the subject, and none has been given.
3. But while we know nothing of the internal working of the Infinite mind, we know something of the methods. God's gracious influence on the soul very much consists in His causing clear and realizing apprehensions of things as they are to abide in the mind. For this purpose He removes hindrances which prevent Divine truth from being known and considered, and consequently from yielding its appropriate fruit.
(1) Inattention. The person whose heart the Lord opens attends to the things that are spoken.
(2) Pride. God shows man things as they are, himself abominable, God excellent.
(3) Love of the world. "Things which are seen," being "temporal," appear, as they actually are, next to nothing in comparison with the "things which are not seen and eternal." Thus trust in God, love to God, hope of heaven, etc., are called into habitual exercise, the will directed to God and goodness, and the conduct proportionably changed for the better. Conclusion: The subject affords materials for —
1. Examination. We may learn from it whether our creed and our practice in relation to the topics discussed are scriptural or erroneous.
(1) Are you rendered careless respecting your affections and conduct by the consideration that God worketh in you?
(2) Are you disposed on the other hand to think lightly of the Divine influence?
2. Encouragement to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, but are conscious of their moral weakness. The very desire is a proof that God has done much for you, and a pledge that He will do more.
(G. Burder, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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.