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What the Bible says about Cooperation with God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 6:2-8

God says He is going to do all this, which has a direct connection to why we eat unleavened bread. "I, I, I, I"—all uttered by God about what He will do. But the Israelites did not agree because the persecution that they had received just prior to this had put fear into them. So what does God have to do?

He could have thrown up His hands, but He said He would do these things. He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring Israel into the Promised Land. Since God does not go back on His word, He decided to do it anyway, even though they do not agree. So God, in His mercy, began to work in a way to bring them into agreement with what He wanted to do. He did not give up, even though they were resisting Him stoutly at this time.

God had set His mind. Do we think God has made His mind up to save us? We had better believe He has! Nobody can resist Him! He will save us! But He will not save us until we come to the place where we really know that we did not do it. As hard as we might think it is, the part that we have to do—so tiny in comparison to what God does—He gave us the power to do! That is what Pentecost is about.

We have to come to understand that God is our Savior. All we have to do is cooperate! When we cooperate with His will, it works! His way of life works, and what He is creating in us will be created. As we see here, Israel dragged its heels, just as we do from time to time, resisting Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost

Exodus 23:23-30

Some people draw a careless assumption from a surface evaluation of Exodus 23:20-33, leading to a shallow conclusion: that if the Israelites had just obeyed God, they would have marched into the land and taken it over without a fight. Such submission would have undoubtedly made their course easier and produced better results.

However, many other contexts show that God tests His people because He is preparing them for future responsibilities. Israel failed many tests. The march through the wilderness and the conquest of the Promised Land was a school, a vast, almost fifty-years-long training ground, for appreciating, using, and governing the Promised Land. This "schooling" included tests by which the Israelites could measure their progress, and at the same time, prove to God their growth and readiness.

We concluded that God's promises in Exodus 23 were indeed conditional. Their fulfillment depended on Israel's obedience, and part of that obedience was confronting their enemies, the people of the land, in warfare. The episode recorded in Numbers 13-14 reveals that the Israelite spies fully expected to have to fight the Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, etc. They did not understand Exodus 23 as a free pass, as many do today. Their responsibility was to drive them out in cooperation with God, as He promised to be with them, enabling them to drive the people out, which they were incapable of doing without His involvement. But they refused to do their part.

They were to drive out the inhabitants even as we, in cooperation with God, are to confront and drive out old habits, attitudes, and loyalties. These are negative characteristics left over from our pre-conversion days. Christian living parallels this Old Testament instruction. This is one reason why the New Testament has so many illustrations and exhortations regarding Christian warfare.

Our warfare is in many ways different. It does not involve bloody engagements featuring swords, spears, or rifles with bayonets. It is a spiritual warfare, one that takes place primarily within ourselves. Nonetheless, it requires qualities such as loyalty, patriotism, courage, self-denial, vision, understanding, and sacrifice for us to be victorious overcomers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)

Numbers 13:30

After the census (Numbers 1), Israel, organized into armies, traveled the rest of the distance to the border of the Promised Land. Scouts spied out the land, and the majority gave a negative report. However, Caleb's response was positive: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).

Both Caleb and Joshua knew that with God on their side, they would be victorious in the battle. These righteous men understood God's intent for the clearing of the land to be a cooperative effort between God and Israel. Both parties would fight, and God's side would prevail. Of course, it did not turn out that way. Israel refused to follow God's lead in going to war, and as a consequence they had to wander for 38 years.

David C. Grabbe
Why Did God Command Israel to Go to War?

Deuteronomy 10:16

This does not contradict Deuteronomy 30:6, where it is said that "the LORD your God will circumcise your heart." It is instead a clarification. The changing, the growing, the overcoming, the transformation of the heart, the writing of the laws on the heart, is cooperative. God does His part; we do our part. If God would do everything, then what would be the need of removing the fault? Why do it? God removes the fault so that we can do our part! It is a cooperative effort.

How does God do His part? He calls us and gives us His Spirit. As John 14 tells us, the Spirit shall be with you and in you. The goodness of God by His Spirit leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). So God calls and opens up the mind, working with us by His Spirit in a way that He never did before. He makes things mean more to us in a far deeper and more meaningful way. He provides us with greater understanding and more passion so we desire to yield to Him. He begins His miraculous work of changing our hearts.

What remains to be seen is what will we do with this altered situation? He does His part by giving us knowledge and increasing our faith. He reveals to us the true Christ, His law, and what the purpose of life is. He spurs an interest in His Word that we never had before. What are we going to do? We must respond. As we respond, changes begin to take place.

Sometimes, Israel's attitude toward God was good, and He delighted in it. However, they could never sustain it. In the book of Judges, when Israel had an outstanding leader like Gideon, things went along smoothly for a good while. But Gideon died, and the country went downhill. God had to raise up another leader. Such is the gist of the historical relationship between God and Israel.

We have had relationships with people that were similar—good for a little while, bad for a long while, good for a little while, bad for a long while. However, God does not want to marry someone about whom He must always worry whether or not He must fight with them. He wants to have a marriage with someone like Him—who thinks as He does, whom He can really be "one" with. He does not want a relationship that is "hot" one minute and "cold" the next, nor one in which the couple throws their arms around each other and everything is warm and fuzzy, but in an instant, one is giving the other the cold shoulder.

That is the kind of relationship He had with Israel. He does not want that kind of a relationship with the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). Thus, there must be a cooperative effort between God and the believer to change our hearts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twelve)

Ecclesiastes 7:18

Perhaps the most important counsel regarding the paradox of Ecclesiastes 7:15-22 appears in verse 18: “He who fears God will escape them all.” He means that the God-fearer will escape all the paradox's pitfalls. Notice he says escape, which means we will face them, not miss them entirely.

Why is the fear of God the solution for the godly? David explains in Psalm 34:11 that the fear of God is a resource the godly must have, but they must learn it. We do not have it by nature. Why? Consider first that the carnal mind is enmity against God. Yet, to fear God is to have a deferential, reverential respect for Him. Those qualities are direct opposites. An individual does not even begin to grasp God's character until he is called and experiences a close, intimate relationship with Him, coming to know somewhat of God's power, purpose, and character as a result.

That knowledge is why the deference and respect are part of his thinking. The fear of God thus includes some measure of experience with Him and therefore trust of Him. When we trust Him, we know He is involved. He never tries us beyond our abilities, and He is ever-faithful. With that package, we are equipped to face our trials with humility, letting Him carry on with His creative purposes without our getting in the way by doing our own thing, as the super-righteous would surely attempt. This combination opens the door to true wisdom.

The apostle Paul's example shows, certainly in his revelation of his own fight with his sinful nature (Romans 7:13-25), we will come through the trial knowing that God has delivered us by His grace. There will be absolutely no room for boasting before Him, which, if done, could very well seal our doom by keeping us from His Kingdom. Regardless of what others are doing in their situations, those with the fear of God will strive by faith to face life's trials humbly and patiently. This principle will guide and guard us from the temptations that the evil fall into so easily.

The wisdom for us lies in having faith that Christ is our righteousness, our wisdom, our sanctification, and our redemption (I Corinthians 1:30). Christ in us is our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Therefore, we do not need to put ourselves under the frustrating pressure of super-righteousness, to manufacture our own righteousness and wisdom that will never measure up anyway.

True wisdom is that we must patiently discipline ourselves not to allow ourselves to be persuaded or even goaded by the misdirection that the unconverted can fall into because Christ has revealed more important matters for us to attend to. He encourages us to have a “single” eye (Matthew 6:22, KJV), that is, to be single-minded in following our Savior. We must let God do His creative works at His pace and not try to outdo Him by our own misguided efforts. We are preparing for an eternity of cooperating with Him. So let Him do His perfect work.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Twelve): Paradox, Conclusion

John 3:1-7

Jesus describes the beginning of the process that ultimately leads to salvation and the Kingdom of God. We could also say that this is what triggers a person's calling into the church. He reveals to Nicodemus that the spiritual Creator God must deliberately begin the process. It is not an event that will randomly happen when an individual shows an interest in matters of the Kingdom of God. The new creation will take some time, as the person must be taught of God, experience life in a relationship with Him, and voluntarily cooperate with Him within the relationship.

Spiritually, the Father is totally involved right from the get-go. As the ultimate Creator and Sovereign Ruler, in His salvation process, nothing happens randomly to those He calls. One of the central issues in this spiritual creation is God's sovereignty over His purposes on the one hand, and on the other, as shown by history, mankind's lack of submissive conversion. God, through His creative wisdom and powers within the relationship, must bridge this huge gap. If He is not involved in the birth process from the very beginning, framing us in His image, how can He truly be called our Father?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)

Romans 8:24

It is fairly easy to understand that, once we have what we desire, we no longer have to hope for it. As a hope fulfilled, we do not need that longing or desire for it anymore. Right now, we do not have what we are hoping for in its fullness. We have a vision of it, and that vision may not be very clear, but we can see it and believe in it. However, we need to focus mainly on how important Paul says this is: We are saved by it. But are we not saved by grace through faith? Yes, we are!

That is ultimately how salvation comes, but God is not merely trying to save us. Saving us is the easy part. The more difficult part is to achieve the fullness of His purpose for each one of us, which is for us to be created in His image. For that to occur, our cooperation is required. We will not cooperate unless we are hoping in the right thing. If we are not hoping in what God wants us to hope for, we will begin heading in a different direction. If we have a different vision, we will go off the path God has set us on. Having the right hope is absolutely essential.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead

2 Corinthians 3:3

Paul specifically says that the law will be written in the fleshly tables of our heart by the Spirit of the living God! However, the circumcision of the heart is a co-operative effort. God does His part, and we do ours by submitting to Him. Both parts are involved within this process, by which God is enabling us to have the power to sustain a relationship with Him. And that power is given only to the children of promise, the children of God, the church, the remnant, those who are in Christ, those who have received God's Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Eleven)

2 Corinthians 6:1

In other words, "Do not receive the grace of God to no purpose." That is what vanity is. It has no purpose, no contact with reality. God is reality, and the Kingdom of God is reality. The law of God is reality because it is truth, and truth, by definition, is reality.

Again, Paul's appeal is, "Do something!" What are we to do? He replies, "Cooperate with God! Truly work with Him to accomplish His will in your life." Jesus says, "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" He is the One who says in Luke 16:29-31 that, if we want to know how to avoid the Lake of Fire, look to Moses and the prophets. This is why Paul says in II Corinthians 5:20, "Be reconciled to God through the repenting of sin. Quit breaking His law."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Sixteen)

2 Corinthians 6:1

J.B. Phillips' New Testament in Modern English renders this verse, "As cooperators with God Himself we beg you, then, not to fail to use the grace of God." The apostle Paul warns us against receiving grace with no purpose in mind for making the very best use of God's wonderful gift.

God gives grace to be used by those who receive it. The sanctification process that follows justification requires our cooperation with Him so that the right qualities, understanding, and sensitivities are produced by His creative efforts. This cooperation produces Christian works. We must stop resisting Him through neglectful drifting—thus receiving God's grace in vain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 




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