John MacArthur writes a great blog post about the apparent paradox of sanctification. Is my sanctification due exclusively to God’s work apart from anything I do or is my sanctification exclusively only my effort in moral obedience to the Scriptures? The great thing about this apparent paradox is that Paul in Philippians 2:12-13 does nothing to reconcile this issue but rather places these two truths in the sanctification of the believer right next to each other.
How do you overcome sin and live the Christian life? Is defeating sin something God does in you, or do you defeat it by obeying the commands of Scripture? In other words, is the Christian life an exercise in passive trust or active obedience? Is it all God’s doing, all the believer’s doing, or a combination of both?
The truth is that sanctification is God’s work, but He performs it through the diligent self-discipline and righteous pursuits of His people, not in spite of them. God’s sovereign work does not absolve believers from the need for obedience; it means their obedience is itself a Spirit-empowered work of God.