In Search of a Better Country

Exercised to the Fullest Extent

John Murray, WTS

We are always liable to distort emphases. Out of deference to all the stress that falls upon God’s agency in sanctification we must not fall into the error of quietism and fail to take account of the activity of the believer himself. The imperatives directed to the believer imply nothing less.

Perhaps the most instructive text is Philippians 2:12,13, a text frequently misapplied. The salvation spoken of is not initial salvation, but that to be attained at the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is salvation as completed and consummated that we are to work out. And this means that our agency and activity are to be exercised to the fullest extent in the promotion of this salvation.

Hence, the implications: our working is not dispensed with or made superfluous because God works; God’s working is not suspended because we work. There is the correlation and conjunction of both. The fact that God works in us is the encouragement and incentive to our working. Indeed, God’s working is the energizing cause of our working both in willing and doing. Our working is the index to God’s working; if we do not work, the working of God is absent. Presumptuous self-confidence is excluded; fear and trembling in us are the reflection of our helplessness.

Yet, the more assured we are that God works in us, the more diligent and persistent we are in our working. Our whole personality is not only drawn within the scope of but also enlisted in all its functions in that process that moves to the goal of being conformed to the image of God’s Son.

John Murray, “Sanctification (The Law)”, Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. Carl F.H. Henry (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1962), 232–233.