The Gospel and the Command, by George Ophoff
Reformed Free Publishing Association
In the Scripture grace and the command or exhortation are always connected, and the former, grace, presented as the cause, reason and fountain of obedience to the command in faith and repentance and holy living.
This point is well illustrated by the Scriptures at Phil. 2:5-12: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, And that every tongue should confess that Jesus is the Lord, to the glory of the Father.”
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do.”
Let us take notice of the command or exhortation contained in this Scripture passage directed, as it is, to the believers. It is this:
“Work out your own salvation.”
Second, let us take notice of how this command or exhortation does not stand alone, but that, on the contrary, it is logically related to what in the above cited passage precedes and follows it and this by the two Words “wherefore” and “for”, so that the reasoning of the apostle here is verily this:
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (the command) for, or, because:
a) Christ, having taken upon Himself the form of a servant, and having been made in the likeness of men humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death, even the death of the cross, and God therefore highly exalted Him that at His name every knee should bow.
b) God worketh in you both to will and to do.
In other words, what the apostle says to the elect, historically the believers, and certainly to them alone is this, Brethren, my fellow believers in Christ, just because Christ atoned your sins on the cross and in reward of His obedience was highly exalted by His Father, and accordingly has both the power, privilege and ability, as Lord of lords and King of kings and as head over all things in the church to gather His church, and just because God, through Christ’s Spirit has imparted unto you the fruits of His atonement, working in you both to will and to do, therefore my brethren, beloved in the Lord, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
In other words, believe in God through Christ, crucify your members which are upon the earth and put on Christ, because it is God who, by imparting unto you the life of Christ and working in you both to will and to do, makes you to believe in God through Christ. Desire and will to walk in every good work and do walk in them actually, because it is God who maketh you so to desire, will and do. He worketh in you both to will and to do.
Take notice then, how that in this discourse of the apostle the work of God whereby He worketh in His people both to will and to do, and His command to His people: work your own salvation, and their obedience to it, are linked together not only, but set forth in the relation of cause and effect or fruit. The total of good works of the believer—their willing and doing the will of God, their faith and repentance, their laying aside sin and putting on Christ and their walking worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called with humbleness and meekness and with long- suffering bearing one another—are God’s works in them, one and all. For of them all He is the creator. And as a result, and in obedience to His command that they work out their salvation—a command spoken in their hearts by Him, they work, walking in all the good works prepared for them by Christ’s atonement and worked in them by Christ’s Spirit.
To separate in the preaching the exhortations of the Scriptures from the Gospel, the obedience of the believers in repentance, faith, conversion and their holy conversation from the Gospel that God works in them both to will and to do, to fail always to set forth in the preaching how things here are related, or even to lay onesided emphasis on the exhortations of the Scriptures and the obligations under which they bring men, and definitely the believers, is not to preach the Scriptures. It is not to preach as Paul preached, nor as any of the other of the apostles and prophets of the Scriptures preached. In all the Scriptures, gospel and the command or exhortation, the work of God whereby He works in His people both to will and to do, and the fruit of this work of God in them are always linked together. In combination, the one with the other, they constitute the gospel of Christ to the believers.