For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. - Phil. 2:13 (NLT)

As per the title, why is ἐνεργεῖν rendered as "power" in the NLT when it is rendered as "to do" in most other translations. Is this accurate? Does the verse facilitate this interpretation?

  • 1
    It is a right translation, the word is the root word for energy - G1756 ἐνεργής energes. It doesn't just mean "do" which is poieo ποιέω. Work or power both are good. Work is used in most versions.
    – Michael16
    Feb 19, 2022 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


You might notice in the KJV "which worketh" and "to do" is the same word. A participle for the relative and an infinitive for the infinitive.

For it is God which worketh [ὁ ἐνεργῶν] in you both to will and to do [τὸ ἐνεργεῖν] of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13, KJV)

The ἐν prefix on ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν makes sense because it follows with the prepositional phrase, "which worketh in you." Paul qualified this for the Christian with "to will" τὸ θέλειν. God works through the desires of the Christian. See:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. (Rom. 8:4–9, KJV)

This includes understanding what God wants you to do:

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:15–17, KJV)

The question is what does τὸ ἐνεργεῖν mean?, translated "to do" in the KJV. It can have the meaning:

  1. God acting through them ("to do" KJV, "to work" NASB, HCSV, ESV, YLT, NAB, ASV, CSV, LEB, RSV, "hacer" RVA, LBLA, ܠܡܶܣܥܰܪ Peshitta, "perficere" Vulgate, "the working" Darby, CJB, שֶׁתִּפְעֲלוּ HNT, לִפְעֹל Delitzsch, "das Wirken" Jantzen, "to accomplish" DRB)


  1. God empowering/enabling them to accomplish. ("able to obey" GNB, CEV, "the power to do" NLT, "be able to do" NCV, " the effort" NET, "gibt euch auch die Kraft, zu tun" NeÜ, "the ability to do" ISV)

The Message has the twist of making God the subject of "to will:'

That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

The NCV clearly make the reader the subject:

because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him.

Hopefully this gives you an overall picture of the differences in the translations.

  • Good answer +1.
    – Dottard
    Feb 19, 2022 at 5:52

Think of the word ἐνεργεῖν as energy. A good illustration is that of bicycling with one of those new e-bikes. You get the pedal assist with the energy of the battery being charged. In a similar manner we cooperate with God, although with great weakness, in sanctification.

God gives us the desire to do what he designed us to do. In the hermeneutical Lutheran tradition there is this helpful thought:

... as soon as the Holy Spirit has begun his work of rebirth and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that on the basis of the his power we can and should be cooperating with him (mitwirken können und sollen), though still in great weakness. This occurs not on the basis of our fleshly, natural powers but on the basis of the new powers and gifts which the Holy Spirit initiated in us in conversion, as St. Paul specifically and earnestly admonished, that “as we work together with” the Holy Spirit “we urge you not to accept the grace of God in vain” [2 Cor. 6:1O] (FC SD II.65-66).

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