Real Choice, Divine Sway, and the Way Paul Lived

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One of the most influential passages in the Bible that God used to open my mind to his sovereignty over my will is Philippians 2:12-13.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

So my working and willing are necessary. They are real. But they are not first or ultimately decisive. God’s willing and working is decisively under and in my willing and working. The word “for” is crucial. I work because he is working in me. I will, because he is willing in me.

Believing this precedes understanding how it works. God says it. I believe it. Now I am spending a lifetime learning what it is like to live this way.

Paul did not just tell me to live this way. He modeled living this way one chapter later. He said in Philippians 3:12,

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

His pressing on to secure the resurrection from the dead (v. 11) is rooted in Christ’s decisively securing him for the resurrection from the dead. In other words, all Paul’s striving is real, and it is certain because Christ makes it certain.

He modeled the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

So abandon any anti-Bible intellectual baggage you have inherited from planet earth, and recalibrate your brain to embrace the paradoxes of real human choice and decisive divine sway.