In my last post in this series, I wrote about the Monergistic Work of the Holy Spirit in the process of Sanctification. In this post, I will talk about how we work alongside the Holy Spirit to bring about change in our lives, which occurs through the Synergistic Work of the Holy Spirit.
The Synergistic Work of the Holy Spirit
When I speak of the Synergistic Work of the Holy Spirit, I have in mind how we and the Holy Spirit work together to bring about change in our lives. In order to understand how we work alongside the Holy Spirit, we need to look at the concept of Dependent Responsibility.
We cannot change on our own apart from the Holy Spirit. Meaning that change only occurs in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us the power to change (Ezekiel 36:27; 1 Cor. 6:19; John 15:4-5). The Holy Spirit living in us and empowering us to change does not mean that we do not work. Rather, it means that we depend on the Holy Spirit to enable us to do God’s will. We do not let go and let God. We still have work to do, but the work we do is not done in our own power, it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit, who resides in us as we abide in Christ.
So when I talk about Dependent Responsibility, I mean that we depend on the Holy Spirit to empower us, but we are still responsible to work as well. Hence the term Dependent Responsibility .
Scriptural Support for the Idea of Dependent Responsibility
In Philippians 2:12-13 we read,
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
And in Philippians 4:13 we read,
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
In the first of the two references, we see that we are responsible to work out own salvation. In the second reference, we see that we can do all things. Even though we are responsible to work out our own salvation and we can do all things, if you notice, in each verse the reason we can work out our own salvation and the reason we can do all things is because God works in us, as well as He strengthens us. So, while it is our responsibility to work, we are also to depend on God to work in us and empower us to do the work. We are responsible, yet dependent at the same time.
How Does This Work Out Practically?
One way in which this works out in our daily lives is through our reading of God’s Word. Romans 12:2 says,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this verse, Paul gives us a command. The command is for us to “be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind.” If you notice the command is not in the present tense, it is a passive imperative, meaning we are commanded to be transformed, but we must rely on someone else to do the transforming. The someone else we rely on is the Holy Spirit. The way He transforms us is through the Word of God. As we read and study God’s Word, He convicts us of our sin and renews our mind, causing us to think differently, as well as He changes our will so that it becomes God’s will.
Why does the Holy Spirit use Scripture to transform us?
The reason the Holy Spirit works through our reading of Scripture is because He is the author of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:21). As the one who gave us Scripture, He is the one who enables us to understand and apply Scripture to our lives. Thus, renewing our minds in the process.
What is the connection with Dependent Responsibility?
As you can see, we are responsible to be transformed, but the way we are transformed is by depending on someone else to do the transforming. In this case, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us by renewing our mind. In addition, if the Holy Spirit transforms us by renewing our mind through our reading of God’s Word, it is our responsibility to read His Word, and as we read, we are to depend on Him to work in us to transform us.
So we see that one way in which Sanctification occurs in our lives is through a Synergistic working relationship with the Holy Spirit. In that, we are responsible to work to bring about change in our lives, but we cannot bring about that change on our own. We are to depend on the Holy Spirit to transform us and empower us to change. As He works in us, we are also working by depending on Him, as well as we are working by doing things that will allow Him to work, such as reading and studying Scripture.
 Dependent Responsibility is a term coined by Jerry Bridges in The Transforming Power of the Gospel, kindle location 196 (ch 1) and 1530 (ch 8).
Jerry Bridges, The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Ch. 8-11.