“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 which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
The term synergism, literally means “working with.” A more expanded definition would be the “interaction of discrete agencies, agents, or conditions” (Merriam-Webster’s). When we turn to the pages of Scripture, we see that God has been working with, through, and for His created order from the very beginning. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” declared Jesus to His critics (John 5:17). The wonder is that God would choose to use simple people like us, limited, flawed, and prone to error, in order to accomplish great things on the earth. This is a wonderful and mysterious synergism that God has chosen to exercise in order to accomplish His purposes. For us as individuals, the process began the moment we received Christ for salvation. The decision to do so was ours; it was our faith that we exercised that God recognized as the appropriate currency for the salvific transaction to take place. Even so, we must admit that none of us would ever have taken that step of faith without divine persuasion. This is just one aspect of the mysterious relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility. Once we are counted saved and part of God’s redeemed community, we find ourselves called to engage in meaningful, God-honoring work (Ephesians 2:10). Our primary job is to share the Gospel with others so that they too may be saved and experience fellowship with God and His redeemed. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,” wrote the beloved disciple, “that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). He then adds a precious footnote: “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). God has ordained that His life-saving Gospel be preached by redeemed people to the (as yet) unredeemed (Romans 10:13-17). Here we see a mysterious and blessed synergism also. The Holy Spirit is in the world, convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). Nevertheless, it is the redeemed of the Lord, forgiven but still imperfect, who are called upon to disclose the content of the Gospel to others. Not only so, but they are called to defend the Gospel when necessary (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 1:3). What an awesome privilege it is to be working with God in the great enterprise of saving souls (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1). Though we often feel inadequate and ill-suited to the task, we may be very sure that God is at work, both in us, His fellow-helpers to the truth (3 John 8), and in those hearing our message. God has ordained these things to be so, for the salvation of souls and for our reward, and all these things to His own glory. Hallelujah!