I. God works with man
The Biblical God alone possesses infinite perfect unchangeable power. He is omnipotent (Job 42: 2; Psalm 32: 9; 71: 9; Mark 10: 27; Luke 1: 37; Matthew 19: 26; 24: 35; etc.). He never fatigues (Psalm 121: 3-4; Isaiah 40: 28). He could do whatever he wills without assistance. However, in this present age, he is pleased to work in partnership with man to accomplish his purpose in man’s history. This cooperation is between two unequal forces: the unlimited divine power and the limited human will. "... be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2: 4). God does what man cannot do, and leaves the rest for man to do. However, what God does is the most important and the greatest part of the task. The Scriptures provide striking attestations to this concept:
(1) God planted a garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8). He had Adam tend and keep it (Genesis 2:15).
(2) God created animal life. He had Adam name the animals and birds (Gen. 2:19-20), and gave him dominion over them (Genesis 1:28b).
(3) God created the earth (Genesis 1:1). He commanded man to “subdue it” (Gen. 1:28b). That is to acquire knowledge and mastery of the earth, in order to bring its elements into the service of the human race. This is the basis of all scientific discovery and progress.
(4) God worked with Noah. God provided the design of the ark, which Noah could not do (Genesis 6: 14-16). Noah provided the labor and acquired the material to build the ark, as God had commanded him.
(5) The children of Israel were fleeing from the powerful army of the pharaoh of Egypt. They reached the shores of the sea of reeds. Moses lifted up his rod and stretched out his hand over the sea as the Lord God had commanded him (Exodus 14: 16); "… and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left" (Exodus 14: 21-22).
(6) In 586 B.C., the Babylonian army looted and destroyed Solomon temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 25: 9; 2 Chronicles 23: 19). Many of the native Israelites were deported to Babylon. This came to be known as “the Babylonian captivity.” God wanted Jerusalem temple rebuilt (the second temple). In order to accomplish that, He did the following:
a. God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia who ruled Jerusalem at that time, to command and facilitate rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1:1-2).
b. God stirred up the hearts of some of His own exiled children to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:5-6).
As a result, a remnant returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zarubbabel, and the building of the second temple began. However, due to difficulties that subsequently arose, the building effort stopped for sixteen years. Then God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1). Through their ministry, the work resumed till the completion and dedication of the second Jerusalem temple in 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:14-17).
(7) In the miracle of feeding the multitude of five thousand men, besides women and children (Luke 9: 12-17), a lad in the crowd offered his small lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6: 9). Jesus took that modest human offering, blessed and multiplied it many folds to feed the huge crowd of people. At the end, the disciples gathered the remaining fragments which filled twelve baskets.
(8) In the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11: 34-44), Jesus Christ did what man could not do by raising Lazarus four days after his death (Jn. 11: 43-44). However, He insisted that man should first do the little he was empowered to do, which was rolling the stone from the mouth of the cave-tomb (John 11: 39).
(9) St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the supreme example of synergism (cooperation) between the purpose of God and the free human will. The incarnation of the Son of God was a divine-human synergistic activity. God initiated it by sending his angel Gabriel to announce his purpose to Virgin Mary. He waited for her voluntary response, because God, who always respects the free human will, did not wish to become incarnate without the willing consent of his mother-to-be, who would contribute his human nature. St. Mary could have refused. But she chose to freely give her full consent, saying to the angel: "...Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word..." (Luke 1: 38).
(10) The process of having a baby is a divine-human synergistic activity. The human parents provide the physical body of the baby with its hereditary features. God provides his rational soul.
The process of salvation is a divine-human synergistic activity. It requires the cooperation of two unequal, but equally necessary forces: divine grace and human will. Christ said: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3: 20). God knocks at the door of the human heart, but waits for the person to open it to receive him. The grace of God invites all, but compels none. God makes the first movement toward man, as salvation is impossible from man’s will alone. The work of divine grace precedes human decision and the cooperation of the person with the saving power of God. It enables and empowers the person to exercise his God-given free will to freely choose either to accept or to reject the salvation offered by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. The ability of the human will to respond to divine grace and to provide personal consent is itself conferred by grace. "Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored. Renew our days as of old" (Lamentations 5: 21).
The Lord said: "...Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jeremiah 31: 3). "Thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick..." (Ezekiel 34: 11, 16; Luke 15: 4-7). "The Son of Man (Christ) has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19: 10). Christ said: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6: 44). "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2: 12-13).
God has provided the grace of atonement in Christ, and has sent the Holy Spirit to prompt, guide, and empower, and do God’s work through the yielded believer: “But when the Helper (the Holy Spirit) comes, whom I (Christ) shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15: 26). Through the grace of God, the believer accepts Christ by faith, repents, abides in Christ in full obedience to him, and allows the good works of the Holy Spirit to be manifested through him. Accepting and cooperating with the grace of God does not earn the person any merit.