Where there is even a spark longing for grace, there is faith. For faith is nothing else than longing for mercy. A person in whom this takes place is not merely awakened in the false sense of the word, but converted. Note that in Philippians 2:12-13 the apostle says, first, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” and then he continues: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
We need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for the very reason that our heavenly Father must do everything necessary for our salvation. This is what the apostle tells people who have been converted. A person who is hardened, blind, and dead cannot work out his own salvation. But a converted person can–and actually does–work out his own salvation. If he fails to do it, he is again stricken with spiritual blindness and relapses into spiritual death.
Our opponents these days claim that God first awakens a person and thus gives him the power to decide whether he wants to be converted or not. That is simply a reworking of a false doctrine of long ago. It overlooks the fact that a person is either spiritually dead of spiritually alive. These people claim that a person must first be given a free will, which means that he must be awakened before he can be converted.
Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C. F. W. Walther (A Reader’s Edition)