Some people rip this sentence out of the context in order to show that God is the one doing everything for you, maneuvering every step you take. They believe that he believes for you, repents for you and even do the good works for you. If God is the one responsible for doing the good works in us, how come we sometimes mess up and end up in sin, and how come we sometimes don’t show any good fruit? Can we then blame God and assume that he simply doesn’t want us to show good fruit at all times, because then he would surely have arranged it that way? If the responsibility is God’s, then he either fails miserably with us at times or he wants us to be sinning. Let’s say that you didn’t become born again until you were 40. Does this mean God didn’t “will” that you became a christian at an earlier point? Are you telling me that God wants people to be sinners for a few years before he intervenes and finally makes them good and fruit bearing christians?
Jesus says in John 15 that we can’t do anything without him and that a branch must be in the vine. He WARNS us about this (most importantly his own believing disciples) and tells them that THEY must make sure to abide in him. He is not going to do this for them. Paul basically says the same thing in Phil 2:13 – that without Jesus you can do nothing. We must be IN HIM in order to accomplish good fruit, so we must seek him and let the Holy Spirit guide us. Jesus says “IF ye abide in me”, and he also says “Continue ye in my love”, so he is NOT saying that he is the one responsible for doing this but WE are. Read the below and read the many IF:s and warnings:
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
The context of Philippians 2:13
The verse prior to 2:13 says that we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling:
12Wherefore, 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.
Why the need for fear and trembling if we can sit back and relax while God is the one doing the will and the work for us? Why does it say that WE must work, if God is doing all the work? That is because WE must make sure to abide in Jesus so that he can use us for what he has intended, and WE must be eager to know and to do his will and OBEY.
2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
14Do all things without murmurings and disputings:15THAT ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Notice that Paul says there is a risk that he has run in VAIN and labored in VAIN, and this wouldn’t make sense if GOD is the one responsible for doing the good fruit for us. The chapter is filled with Paul’s warnings and suggestions about actions that WE must take in order to be able to stand blameless before God one day. The reason why we can stand blameless before him, is because he is able to cleanse us from our sins which we certainly couldn’t do ourselves. We are also able to continue in that blameless state if we remain clean and obey the holy Spirit, and we are promised that we can stand blameless before him if we “do all things without murmurings and disputings”. Clearly Paul doesn’t expect God to do this for us, but WE must be willing servants and perform the work that God wants us to do. He is not going to force us, and one day we will also be rewarded for our DEEDS if we don’t give up. If God is doing the work for us, then he is the only one that should be rewarded since we are just puppets in his hands, and we could blame our shortcomings on him.