“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The work of salvation is a work of co-partnership, a joint operation. No man can work out his own salvation without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The co-operation of divine and human forces is necessary for the formation of right principles in the character. Man is to make the most strenuous efforts to overcome the tempter, to subdue natural passions; but he is wholly dependent upon God for success in the work of overcoming the propensities that are not in harmony with correct principles. Success depends wholly upon willing obedience to the will and way of God. Character develops in accordance with conformity to the divine plan. But man must work in Christ’s lines. He must be a laborer together with God. He must submit to God’s training, that he may be complete in Christ.
God has originated and proclaimed the principles on which divine and human agencies are to combine in temporal matters as well as all spiritual achievements. They are to be linked together in all human pursuits, in mechanical and agricultural labor, in mercantile and scientific enterprises. In all lines of work it is necessary that there be co-operation between God and man. God has provided facilities with which to enrich and beautify the earth. But the strength and ingenuity of human agencies are required to make the very best use of the material. God had filled the earth with treasure, but the gold and silver are hidden in the earth, and the exercise of man’s powers is required to secure this treasure which God has provided. Man’s energy and tact are to be used in connection with the power of God in bringing the gold and silver from the mines, and trees from the forest. But unless by his miracle-working power God co-operated with man, enabling him to use his physical and mental capabilities, the treasures in our world would be useless.
We can not keep ourselves for one moment. “We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” We are utterly dependent upon God every moment of our lives.
God desires every human being in our world to be a worker together with him. This is the lesson we are to learn from all useful employment, making homes in the forest, felling trees to build houses, clearing land for cultivation. God has provided the wood and the land, and to man he has given the work of putting them in such shape that they will be a blessing. In this work man is wholly dependent upon God. The fitting of the ships that cross the broad ocean is not alone due to the talent and ingenuity of the human agent. God is the great Architect. Without his co-operation, without the aid of the higher intelligences, how worthless would be the plans of men. God must aid, else every device is worthless.
The human organism is the handiwork of God. The organs employed in all the different functions of the body were made by him. The Lord gives us food and drink, that the wants of the body may be supplied. He has given the earth different properties adapted to the growth of food for his children. He gives the sunshine and the showers, the early and the latter rain. He forms the clouds and sends the dew. All are his gifts. He has bestowed his blessings upon us liberally. But all these blessings will not restore in us his moral image, unless we co-operate with him, making painstaking effort to know ourselves, to understand how to care for the delicate human machinery. Man must diligently help to keep himself in harmony with nature’s laws. He who co-operates with God in the work of keeping this wonderful machinery in order, who consecrates all his powers to God, seeking intelligently to obey the laws of nature, stands in his God-given manhood, and is recorded in the books of heaven as a man.
God has given man land to be cultivated. But in order that the harvest may be reaped, there must be harmonious action between divine and human agencies. The plow and other implements of labor must be used at the right time. The seed must be sown in its season. Man is not to fail of doing his part. If he is careless and negligent, his unfaithfulness testifies against him. The harvest is proportionate to the energy he has expended.
So it is in spiritual things. We are to be laborers together with God. Man is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in him, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. There is to be co-partnership, a divine relation, between the Son of God and the repentant sinner. We are made sons and daughters of God. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” Christ provides the mercy and grace so abundantly given to all who believe in him. He fulfils the terms upon which salvation rests. But we must act our part by accepting the blessing in faith. God works and man works. Resistance of temptation must come from man, who must draw his power from God. Thus he becomes a co-partner with Christ.
The infinitely wise and all-powerful God proposes co-operation with his frail, erring creatures, whom he has placed on vantage-ground. On the one side there are infinite wisdom, goodness, compassion, power; on the other, weakness, sinfulness, absolute helplessness, poverty, dependence. We are dependent upon God, not only for life and all its blessings, but for our entrusted talents, and for all the resources required in the work we must do if we accept the invitation to work with God. Man’s intellect, his understanding, his every valuable thought, the opportunities and privileges that are placed within his reach, all come from him who is the way, the truth, and the life. We have nothing of ourselves. Our success in the Christian life depends upon our co-operation with Christ, and our submission to his will. It is not a sign of pure, consecrated service for a worker to follow his own way. Every worker is to willingly obey his Leader, to receive and practise every word of God.
We are to be individual toilers. Character can not be bought or sold. It is formed by patient, continuous effort. Much patience is required in the striving for that life which is to come. We may all strive for perfection of character, but all who come into possession of it will earn it step by step, by the cultivation of the virtues which God commends. The Holy Spirit presents before man the agencies provided for his transformation. If he heeds the words, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,” he will receive help from a power that is infinite.
Man is given the privilege of working with God in the saving of his own soul. He is to receive Christ as his personal Saviour and believe in him. Receiving and believing is his part of the contract. This means abiding in Christ, showing in him at all times and under all circumstances a faith that works by love and purifies the soul from all defilement. Christ is the author of this faith, and he demands that it be constantly exercised.
The apostle Paul declares, “Ye are God’s husbandry; ye are God’s building.” The material for the building is plainly specified in the words: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here we are shown how we may co-operate with God. Man is to work constantly upon the plan of addition, while God works on the plan of multiplication. Thus man grows in spirituality, until he presents to the world, to angels, and to men, such perfection of character that in the heavenly courts the words are spoken, “Ye are complete in him.”
The plan of redemption was arranged in the councils between the Father and the Son. Then Christ pledged himself to render an account for man if he proved disloyal. He pledged himself to make an atonement which would unite every believing soul to God. He who lays his sins upon the substitute and surety, thus becoming a partaker of the divine nature, can unite with the apostle in saying: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” In his infinite love Christ devised the plan of salvation. This plan he stands ready to fulfil in behalf of all who will co-operate with him. In their behalf he says to the Father, Do not impute their sins to them, but lay them on me. Be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities remember no more. They have accepted my merits, and made peace with me; and they shall make peace with me. My righteousness is theirs, and for my sake bless them with all spiritual blessings.1The Review and Herald, May 28, 1908
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|1.||↑||The Review and Herald, May 28, 1908|