We have been looking at Philippians 2:12-13, the great paradox between human responsibility and God's sovereignty, for the last couple of weeks. If you missed the last message, you need to get it in order to have a balanced view of this issue. Last time we talked about human responsibility, today we are going to be looking at God's sovereignty in sanctification.
I have entitled these verses, "The Great Paradox", because these truths, human responsibility, and God's sovereignty seem impossible for us to reconcile. How both of these can be true is a mystery but the Bible clearly teaches both. We must accept the truth and learn to live with it.
Believers through the ages have moved to one side of the paradox to the neglect of the other. The Quietist's have swung to the side of total passivity-- "Let go and let God." While the Pietist's moved to the other extreme-- you are to work in all of your strength to carry out the commands of God. Sanctification is the result of diligent, strenuous labor. In our last study we looked at verse 12, and we said that if verse 12 was all that we had, we would have to be Pietists. We are told in verse 12 to "Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." This implies human responsibility. We are to "work" which is from the Greek word katergazomai meaning: "to carry out to the goal, to work to completion." The word "salvation" is soteria which in this context means: "Sanctification, practical holiness, separation from sin." So verse 12 teaches that we are to diligently work out our sanctification through effort and toil. It clearly shows human responsibility in sanctification.
Keeping verse 12 in mind, look with me at:
Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Jesus boiled it all down to loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. This is our responsibility. We are to love God, which could be defined as obedience to his commands. Jesus said:
John 14:15 (NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
So our love for God will be manifest by our obedience to his commands, which would include:
Philippians 2:3 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
If you love God, you are going to esteem others better than your self. Do you love God? Loving God would also include obedience to:
Matthew 5:48 (NKJV) "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
We are to be perfect in our love for others. Do you love God? Let's look at another command given particularly to husbands:
Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
We are to love our wives as Christ loved the Church. Do you love God? If we love Him, we will obey His commands. This is all part of working out our salvation, we are responsible before God to do these things. Are you fulfilling the great commandment? This is enough to make us quit, to apostatize, to just give up and walk away because we just can't keep the commands given to us. We can't make it as Pietists, we can't keep the commands of the Bible, but we know the Bible teaches that we're responsible to walk in obedience. Where do we turn now? We turn to verse 13.
We talked about the dangers of Pietism last time. When you do succeed, you become proud. But most the time as a Pietist you do not succeed and thus experience despair because if you are left to your own resources where do you turn?
Philippians 2:13 (NKJV) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
The word "for" connects this verse to verse 12. "It is God who works in you." You are to work it out depending on God's strength. The words "it is" are from the Greek ei me which mean: "It keeps on being." "God" is theos. It is God who keeps on working in you, He indwells, empowers, controls and directs. The word "works" is the Greek word energeo, it means: "to work effectively, to be at work, to work inside." It is in the present tense which means it is an action begun in the past and continues into the present. It is in the active voice which means that God produces the action. It is God who has started to work in you and Who continues to work in you. He energizes and empowers us to live for Him. It is God who effectively works in us. Commenting on this verse, John Calvin said, "This is the true artillery for destroying all haughtiness; this is the sword for killing all pride, when we hear that we are utterly nothing and can do nothing except through the grace of God alone."
That is where Paul leaves us-- it is God who works in you. Let's go on and see how much he ascribes to God and what he leaves to us. "Both to will and to do" -- The word "will" is thelo, it means: "a wish of desire and a wish of purpose or resolve." Hence it means: "to purpose." The word "do" is energeo which means: "To work effectively."
In any action there are two principle parts, the will and the effective power. Paul ascribes both of these wholly to God--God makes us willing and able. What remains for us to glory in? God makes us willing and able.
Paul concludes the verse by saying, "for his good pleasure;" from the Greek huper eudokia. Thayer defines eudokea as: "will or choice." In other words God works in you according to His good will. We could translate eudokiaas: "satisfaction, delight or purpose."
So, verse 13 is saying that God effectively works in you, both in your will and in your actions according to His good pleasure. That sounds like Quietism! God does it all, He controls our will and our actions according to His own purpose. You can see where the Quietist get, "Let go and let God." But in truth, you don't even have to "let God." God is working in you and His will is never frustrated. God's will is always accomplished because God is sovereign.
We see in verse 13 that God is sovereign in sanctification. Sanctification is of the Lord. In verse 12, we saw that sanctification is our responsibility, we have to work at it. Last week we defined human responsibility, so this morning let's define God's sovereignty.
I think that all Christians would agree that God is sovereign, the problem comes when you define sovereignty. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and on earth, so that none can defeat His counsel, frustrate His purpose, or resist His will. The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible and infinite. God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases; so that whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed from eternity.
Psalms 103:19 (NKJV) The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.
Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
A.W. Pink said, "The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of maudlin sentimentality." This is no doubt how many in our day view God but this is not the God of the Bible!
Psalms 135:4-10 (NKJV) For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure. 5 For I know that the LORD is great, And our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places. 7 He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries. 8 He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, Both of man and beast. 9 He sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt, Upon Pharaoh and all his servants. 10 He defeated many nations And slew mighty kings;
God demonstrates his absolute power, he does what ever he chooses to do. Let's go to Isaiah and look at some of the divine decrees. The divine decrees are what God has chosen to do in eternity past, and providence is simply the working out of what God has decreed.
Isaiah 14:24 (NKJV) The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, "Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand:
God says, "Whatever I have purposed will come to pass."
Isaiah 14:27 (NKJV) For the LORD of hosts has purposed, And who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, And who will turn it back?"
Who can stop God from carrying out His purposes? Nobody can!
Isaiah 43:13 (NKJV) Indeed before the day was, I am He; And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?"
Who can hinder God's work? Nobody!
Isaiah 46:9-10 (NKJV) Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'
It is God who declares the end from the beginning. God plans and He carries out His plans.
Daniel 4:35 (NKJV) All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?"
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
God's plan is exhaustive, it includes the germ as well as the galaxies; the fly as well as the Pharaoh; the mosquito as well the monarch. Nothing happens outside of God's will.
God is sovereign over the elements-- the plagues of Egypt, rain, wind, the sun. The sun does not set by a blind instinct of nature but by God's decree.
Joshua 10:13 (NKJV) So the sun stood still, And the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge Upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.
This is the language of appearance; the sun does not rise or set, the earth revolves. This is the language we use, no matter how scientific a man is, he doesn't get up and say, "What a lovely earth revolving," he says, "What a lovely sunrise."
God is sovereign over the animals: In 1 Kings 17 the ravens feed Elijah; Balam's donkey speaks; the lions don't touch Daniel; two bears kill forty children; the ark of Noah is filled with animals; fish fill Peter's net. God sovereignly controls the animal kingdom.
God is sovereign over man:
Acts 17:28 (NKJV) "for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'
Paul was talking to the unsaved when he said this.
Proverbs 16:1 (NKJV) The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
This verse is saying that man makes plans in his heart but God controls his tongue. We see the same idea in:
Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
We make plans but God controls our steps. Some may object that this makes man a puppet. Do you feel like a puppet, has anyone yanked your strings lately? Did you come here today because God dragged you here by your strings or did you come here today because you wanted to? I'm here because I wanted to be here today. How does God sovereignly control us if we do what we want to do? I don't know, but the Bible says He controls all things, man's actions included, and I believe it. Look at:
Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV) There are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel; that will stand.
We plan all kinds of things but what God has planned will stand.
Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV) The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
God controls man's thinking. The sinner who tries to defy God's plan may shake his fist to the heavens, but God will determine how many times he shakes it and whether he lives to shake it tomorrow. God is sovereign.
Whenever you talk about God's sovereignty, one of the first questions that you will hear is, "What about free will?" If God is sovereign, what does that do to free will? If by "free will" you mean: "the ability to choose what we want," then I would say that man has a free will. We have the ability to choose what we want. But if by "free will" you mean: "Free to choose good or evil or that man could choose contrary to his desires," then I would have to say that man has no "free will." This was the big debate between Agustine and Palagus back in the fifth century.
The nature of the human will:
The will is the faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action. You think about something and then you do it. In every act of the will there is a preference, the desiring of one thing rather than another. To will is to choose, and to choose is to decide between two or more alternatives. But there is something which influences the choice. The will is not causative because something causes it to choose, therefore, that something must be the causative agent.
What is it that determines the will? If the will is not causative, then what is it that causes you to make a choice? Let's say that your boss comes to you and says, "You're going to California." You don't have a choice in that he's telling you. But he says, "Would you like to drive or fly?" He is giving you a choice. What determines which option you choose? What determines your choice is the strongest motive power which is brought to bear upon it. With one, it may be the logic of reason-- if I drive, it will take me five days and if I fly, it will only take me about five hours. I choose to fly; with another the impulse of emotion-- there are a lot of plane crashes and I'm not ready to die, so I'll drive. What you think, causes you to will. Which ever of these presents the strongest motive power and exerts the greatest influence upon us, is that which impels the will to act.
In other words, the action of the will is determined by the mind. The will is not free but is in bondage to the heart. The Word of God teaches that it is the heart which is the dominating center of our being:
Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV) Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Our choices are determined by our desires . When we have conflicting desires, which ever desire is greater at the time of decision is the desire I will choose.
Example: What causes a teenager to take drugs? Your mind will determine your choice. Daniel "purposed" in his heart not to defile himself with the Kings meat. If you desire to honor and obey God and your parents and if you believe that drugs are wrong, you will say, "No" to drugs. If you're really undecided if drugs are wrong and you want to please your friends, you'll say, "Yes." This is why we are to train up our children and this is why we are to guard our thinking -- the condition of our hearts will determine our choices. J. Edwards defined the will as, "The mind choosing."
Let's carry this idea of the will to the non-regenerate. Does the lost person have a free will to choose God or reject Him? By and far the majority of the church today believes that the lost person has a free will. The church during the days of the reformation, held that man had no free will. In the eighteenth century, Campbell, a Scottish preacher was excommunicated from the church for teaching that man had a free will. The church today is man-centered, so they want man to be able to determine his own destiny. Does the lost man have a free will? No! He can not choose God because he loves sin and hates God, he has no desire for Him. He cannot choose what he does not desire. He does not desire God because his heart is wicked.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Until God changes his heart through a supernatural sovereign act, he cannot choose God.
Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV) "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Our will is not free but is in bondage to our heart which is controlled by God.
Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV) The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Revelation 17:16-17 (NKJV) "And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 "For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
God put it in their heart to give their kingdom to the beast. God inclines men to fulfill that which He has ordained and perform that which He has foreordained.
If God controls all things and has determined in advance everything that happens, doesn't that make God responsible for sin? NO!
Psalms 145:17 (NKJV) The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.
God is the cause of everything, including sin, but God is not responsible for sin, because responsibility attaches to motives and intention of the one committing the act.
If you were shocked when I said that God is the cause of sin, let me ask you a question. Was it a sin for men to crucify Christ? Yes, it was. Did God foreordain the crucifixion of Christ? Yes!
Acts 2:23 (NKJV) "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
I believe that the Bible teaches that God is the cause of sin but He is not the author. God is the cause of this sermon, because He causes everything. But He is not the author -- I am the author, I am responsible for this message.
God is not responsible for sin but He is its cause. Let's look at some scripture and see if this is, in fact, what it teaches.
2 Samuel 16:22 (NKJV) So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.
Absalom, polluted his father's bed by an incestuous union and committed a detestable sin. Yet God says this is His work. Notice carefully what God says to David:
2 Samuel 12:11-12 (NKJV) "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 'For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'"
God said that he would judge David for his sin by raising up evil from his own house. God was the cause of Absalom's sin, but he was not responsible because Absalom did it out of his own wicked heart.
Jeremiah declared that every cruelty that the Chaldeans exercised against Judah was God's work.
Jeremiah 1:15 (NKJV) For behold, I am calling All the families of the kingdoms of the north," says the LORD; "They shall come and each one set his throne At the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, Against all its walls all around, And against all the cities of Judah.
Jeremiah 7:14 (NKJV) "therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
Jeremiah 50:25 (NKJV) The LORD has opened His armory, And has brought out the weapons of His indignation; For this is the work of the Lord God of hosts In the land of the Chaldeans.
The Chaldeans came in and pillaged and destroyed Judah and God said it was His work.
Nebuchadnezzar is called the "servant of God" in:
Jeremiah 25:9 (NKJV) 'behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the LORD, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.
God calls Assyria the rod of His anger in:
Isaiah 10:5 (NKJV) "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
Assyria was one of the most wicked nation to ever exist, and God calls them His rod.
Now, I want you to think with me for a minute about the story of Job.
Job 1:7-11 (NKJV) And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 "Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"
Satan, in effect, says, "Job only serves you because of what you give him, take away what he has and he'll curse you to your face."
Job 1:12 (NKJV) And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
You know the story, Job experienced great trials. The Sabeans took his live stock and killed his servants, fire fell from heaven and burned up his sheep and his servants, the Chaldeans took his camels and killed his servants, a great wind destroyed his children's home, killing them all.
What is Job's response to this? Does he curse the Sabeans and Chaldeans? Does he blame Satan for all his problems? No! He says:
Job 1:20-21 (NKJV) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
Who did Job say took his stuff away-- God! Job recognizes the Lord's work in all that happened. He understood God's sovereign control in everything that happens.
What was God's purpose in what happened to Job? God's purpose was to exercise the patience of His servant by calamity; Satan endeavors to drive him to desperation; the Chaldeans and Sabeans strive to acquire gain from another's property, contrary to law and what is right.
What the Chaldeans and Sabeans did to Job was sin but God was in control of it all . God had decreed that they should perform the acts they did, but in the actual perpetration of these deeds, they were justly guilty, because their own purpose in the doing of them was evil only. God does not produce the sinful dispositions of any of His creatures, though He does restrain and direct them to the accomplishing of His own purpose. Hence, He is neither the Author nor the Approver of sin. This distinction was expressed by Augustine in the fifth century: "That men sin proceeds from themselves; that in sinning they perform this or that action, is from the power of God who divideth the darkness according to His pleasure."
God is sovereign over the universe. God is sovereign in salvation. And in Philippians 2:13, we see that God is sovereign in sanctification. Sanctification is not a human achievement in any of its aspects, it is totally a Divine work. Holiness is a work of God. Salvation is of grace through faith and so is sanctification.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Why did he pray for God to do it? Because sanctification is a work of God. Sanctification is a work of God but man is responsible to use the means. Sanctification is done by the immediate work of God in the inner life, but God does his work through means. In testing Job, God used the Chaldeans and the Sabeans; in feeding Elijah, God used ravens. God normally uses means to accomplish His ends. God uses two means in our sanctification. If you separate your self from the means, you will never grow in sanctification.
1. Word of God-- nobody is ever saved, and nobody is ever sanctified apart from the Word of God.
John 17:17 (NKJV) "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
If you don't spend time in the Word, you will never live the life of separation that God has called you to. If you have no victory in your Christian life, it's because you ignore the power of the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
It is the Word of God that will mature you.
Acts 20:32 (NKJV) "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
1 Peter 2:2 (NKJV) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
The Word of God is the means of growth but it is God who uses the means of growth to mature us. I think that one of the most important things that we can do as believers is to spend time in God's Word.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV) For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
The words "effectively works" are from the Greek word energeo which is the same word used in Philippians 2:13 -- "it is God who works in you." God works in us through His Word. God normally uses means to accomplish His purposes.
So God uses the means of the Word of God and he also uses:
2. Providence -- all you have to do with providence is to react correctly to it.
James 1:2-4 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
If you have been spending time in the Word of God, the trials of life will strengthen and mature you. If you neglect the Word of God, the trials could cause you to become bitter and resentful.
We could use the analogy of the Word of God as being protein. Taking in mass amounts of protein won't cause you to get stronger unless you exercise. The Word is the protein and the providence is the exercise.
Everything that happens in your life, happens by the sovereign decree of God, everything! A bee sting, flat tire, trouble at work, problems at home, sickness, everything is from the loving hand of the sovereign God. If you view everything that happens in your life as part of God's school to mature you, it will stop you from complaining (verse 14).
In view of God's absolute sovereignty in our sanctification, why verse 12? Why does Paul tell us to work out our own salvation"? If God has foreordained everything that comes to pass, why does 1 Timothy tell us to "exercise ourselves unto godliness"? Why does Titus 3:8 tell us to "maintain good works?" Why? I don't know why, it is a paradox. God teaches us through His Word that He is sovereignly in control of everything and He also teaches us that we are responsible for how we live. God didn't teach us the reality of His rule so that we could neglect His orders.
Instead of hindering the development of Christian character, a proper understanding of God's sovereignty will help our growth. Just as the sinner's despair of any help from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer's growth in grace; until you come to the point where you say, "I can't do that," you won't receive God's help. We need to learn to cast our selves upon Him.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (NKJV) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When we recognize our weaknesses, we turn to God for HIS STRENGTH. But when we think we are strong, we think we don't need God. The truth of His sovereignty should drive us to our knees in dependance upon Him for everything.
John 15:5 (NKJV) "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Until we learn this lesson, we will not grow. The promise of God in Isaiah is:
Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV) He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
When we realize that we have no strength, we rely on His great strength.
A.W. Pink says this, "The secret of development of Christian character is the realization of our own powerlessness, acknowledged powerlessness, and the consequent turning unto the Lord for help. The plain fact is that of ourselves we are utterly unable to practice a single precept or obey a single command that is set before us in the Scriptures."
Augustine said, "God gives us commands we cannot perform, that we may know what we ought to request from Him." A consciousness of our powerlessness should cast us upon Him who has all power.
Christ, in his incarnation, was dependant upon God in everything and so must we learn to be.
If you are confused as to how you can possibly be responsible when God is absolutely sovereign, think about this; When God ordered Abraham to offer up his son as a burnt offering, he might have objected that this command was inconsistent with His promise "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." But instead of arguing, he obeyed and left God to harmonize His promise and His precept.
Jeremiah might have argued that God had him do that which was unreasonable when he said:
Jeremiah 7:27 (NKJV) "Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.
But instead, the prophet obeyed. For forty years he faithfully preached the Word of God. We might have reasoned, "If no one is going to listen, why preach?"
God's revealed will (the Bible) is the measure of our responsibility and the determiner of our duty. God's secret will is His concern. Calvin said, "Let those for whom this seems harsh consider for a little while how bearable there squeamishness is in refusing a thing attested by clear scriptural proofs because it exceeds their mental capacity. For our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in sacred Scripture." (Book 1, chapter 18, paragraph 4). Our wisdom is accepting what God teaches and believing it. We don't have to understand it all.
Gordon Clark said, "Sinful human nature is much more apt to deny or to circumscribe God's authority in favor of human independence than it is to exaggerate the power of God."
Taking Philippians 2:12-13 together we see that sanctification is by dependant discipline. Verse 12 teaches discipline and verse 13 teaches dependance. The truth is found in both of these verses taken together. We are to discipline our lives to live holy all the while trusting God for the desire and power to work out our sanctification.
If you are confused and feel like grumbling and complaining about how difficult verses 12 and 13 are, look at:
Philippians 2:14 (NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing.
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