For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13 ESV

Relevant Scriptures

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.

1 Corinthians 12:6
There are different ways of working, but the same God works all things in all men.

Hebrews 13:21
equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Select Commentary

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
(13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do.–In this famous paradox St. Paul calls on men to work by their own will, just because only God can grant them power both to will and to do. The origination of all in God, and the free action (which is in some sense origination) of man, are both truths recognised by our deepest consciousness, but to our logic irreconcilable. In one passage only (Romans 9:14-24) does St. Paul touch, and that slightly and suggestively, on their reconcilement: generally Holy Scripture–in this confirming human reason–brings out each vividly and profoundly in turn, and leaves the problem of their reconcilement untouched. Here the paradoxical form of the sentence forces on the mind the recognition of the co-existence of both. If that recognition be accepted, the force of the reasoning is clear. The only encouragement to work, in a being weak and finite like man, is the conviction that the Almighty power is working in him, both as to will and deed.

The word “worketh in you” is constantly applied to the divine operation in the soul (see 1Corinthians 12:6; 1Corinthians 12:11; Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:2); rarely, as here (in the word rendered “to do”) to the action of men. It must necessarily extend to the will as well as the action; otherwise God would not be sovereign in the inner realm of mind (as, indeed, Stoic philosophy denied that He was). We are familiar with the influence of one created will over another–an influence real, though limited, yet in no sense compulsive. From this experience we may catch a faint glimpse of the inner working of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man. Hence, while we cannot even conceive the existence of freedom under an unbending impersonal law or force, the harmony of our will with a Supreme Personal Will is mysterious, indeed, but not inconceivable.

Of his good pleasure.–Literally, on behalf of His good pleasure; that is, in harmony with it. On the double sense of “good pleasure” see Note on Ephesians 1:5. Here, probably, the meaning is His “gracious will” for our salvation.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

  1. For—encouragement to work: “For it is God who worketh in you,” always present with you, though I be absent. It is not said, “Work out your own salvation, though it is God,” etc., but, “because it is God who,” etc. The will, and the power to work, being first instalments of His grace, encourage us to make full proof of, and carry out to the end, the “salvation” which He has first “worked,” and is still “working in” us, enabling us to “work it out.” “Our will does nothing thereunto without grace; but grace is inactive without our will” [St. Bernard]. Man is, in different senses, entirely active, and entirely passive: God producing all, and we acting all. What He produced is our own acts. It is not that God does some, and we the rest. God does all, and we do all. God is the only proper author, we the only proper actors. Thus the same things in Scripture are represented as from God, and from us. God makes a new heart, and we are commanded to make us a new heart; not merely because we must use the means in order to the effect, but the effect itself is our act and our duty (Eze 11:19; 18:31; 36:26) [Edwards].

worketh—rather as Greek, “worketh effectually.” We cannot of ourselves embrace the Gospel of grace: “the will” (Ps 110:3; 2Co 3:5) comes solely of God’s gift to whom He will (Joh 6:44, 65); so also the power “to do” (rather, “to work effectually,” as the Greek is the same as that for “worketh in”), that is, effectual perseverance to the end, is wholly of God’s gift (Php 1:6; Heb 13:21).

of his good pleasure—rather as Greek, “FOR His good pleasure”; in order to carry out His sovereign gracious purpose towards you (Eph 1:5, 9).

My pondering

I like the way the NLT version renders this text:
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

I relish and truly appreciate what these commentators wrote, which I shared above. We are made in God’s image with some of His attributes. Sin has marred us but God is working it out to reclaim us.

What a wonderful mystery and journey.

My prayer:

Your Word tells me that I am created in Your image. God, without You I am just an animal of sorts. With You, someday, I will be more like You and higher than the angels for so says Your Word. Until then, lavish me in thy grace and truth.

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