God works through us.
It’s not that He can’t work in other ways; obviously He can and does. But because He believes in us — that astounding fact of scripture which simply cannot be denied or dismissed — He wants to work through us.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ~ Philippians 1:3-6
Can you conclude anything from this that there is a partnership in the gospel? That “he who began a good work in you” can be anyone other than God? So is this partnership just between Paul and the folks at Philippi?
(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), ~ Galatians 2:8
No! It’s God working through Peter to the circumcised and through Paul to the Gentiles! How does He do that?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10
Is it just to Peter and Paul? Does He just makes work for us? No! It’s for all, and for every:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8
Does He just give us the grace to prepare ourselves for the work? Not by a long shot! There are gifts attached to that grace:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ~ Romans 12:3-8
So He gives us specific gifts to prepare us for the work He has prepared for us to do. But prepared us in what way?
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
He empowers us. The Spirit, the Lord, God. How much power are we talking about?
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-22
That’s a lot of power! Does He do it long-distance?
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ~ Colossians 1:24-29
No; from within! Christ in us. It’s His energy working powerfully within us. That makes us partners in the gospel with God, through Christ!
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20
How does Christ dwell in us? Through His Holy Spirit:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~ Romans 8:9-11
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
The Spirit of God! The Spirit of Christ! Without His Spirit within us, we have no hope of resurrection! We have no chance of escaping destruction! Without His Spirit, we have no way to partner with God in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
We can know scripture forward and backward and think we know everything it means, and if we do not have the Spirit dwelling within us, we are pointless and powerless in our attempts to minister. By the Spirit, God speaks through us:
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3
And the One who knows how best to prepare and empower each of us does so at His own discretion, not ours:
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Therefore we work for the common good, Paul says, in partnership with God to build His building, sow and water and tend His field:
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:9
So how do we respond to this offer of powerful, dwell-within partnership?
Do we say, “Well thanks, God, but I’ve got my Bible and I understand it completely and perfectly; that’s all I need and I don’t really want your help”?
Or, “I’m just not sure about all that miraculous stuff or being a part of that; it’s not that I believe You can’t do it, but it scares me a little bit and I’d rather just believe that You don’t work that way anymore because it’s too likely to be perceived as fake and I don’t want to have my credibility damaged”?
Perhaps just: “Oh, You don’t need me, Lord. Use my brother; he talks better than I do”?
Maybe: “I’m catching the next outbound boat for the other direction.”
Do any of those sound familiar?