You are here: Home >> Living as a Disciple >> The Need to Grow PDF of article


(New Testament Greek Word - katergazomai)


Many of us hope that, when we reach the end of our lives, we will be able to look back and say that we accomplished something for God. We don't want to say that our lives were a waste.

This study focuses on the New Testament word that is often translated as "accomplish." Interestingly, this word leads us into areas we don't expect. One of its themes focuses not on what we can accomplish, but on what sin has accomplished in us. Sin renders us powerless, unable to accomplish anything that pleases God. Thanks be to God, however, that our study doesn't stop there! We discover that God has accomplished some wonderful things in and for us. And because of what God has done, we can accomplish things for God!

Once we realize the significance of God's accomplishments in our lives, we will desire to give him (not ourselves) the praise and glory for the accomplishments that we do. Without him, nothing would have been possible.


Definition of katergazomai

(Based on Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament)

  1. To perform, accomplish, achieve; passive: to perpetuate - Romans 1:27; 2:9; 7:15; 7:17-18; 7:20; 15:18; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 6:13; 1 Peter 4:3.

  2. To work out (that is, to do that from which something results); to bring about, result in (something) - Romans 4:15; 5:3; 7:8; 7:13; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 7:10b; 7:11; 9:11; Philippians 2:12; James 1:3. [A few ancient manuscripts use this word in 2 Corinthians 7:10a and James 1:20, and this is the basis for the King James Version. Most of the ancient manuscripts use a related word (ergazomai), which communicates approximately the same message.]

  3. To fashion (render one fit for a thing) - 2 Corinthians 5:5.

Several word choices are available, when translating this N.T. Greek word into English. Examples are: to accomplish, to bring about, to do, to produce, to work out, to commit, to effect (something), to prepare, etc.

A paraphrase of the verses is given, which tries to include any contextual information that would be helpful for understanding what is being said. Because there are so many ways to translate this word, the word "accomplish" will be added in parentheses after the English word that was considered the best choice for the context.

Back to the top


PART 1 - Sin Does (= "Accomplishes") Horrible Things in Us.


A. Sin Produces (= "Accomplishes") Every Kind of Covetous Desire Within us.

B. Ultimately, Sin Causes (= "Accomplishes") Our Death.

C. Even When We Want to Obey God, Sin "Accomplishes" Evil Things in Us. We Discover That We Are Trapped by It, and There Is Only One Way to Overcome It.

  1. NOTE: The word "do" occurs many times in these verses. Only the ones shown in italics come from the word we are studying.

  2. What I Want to Do, I Don't Do; What I Hate, That I do. 

  3. It Is Sin Within Me That Does it.

  4. Look at the Context. Don't Forget That Victory Is Through Christ (Ch. 8)! (This is the focus of PART 3.)


Back to the top

Because of Sin's "Accomplishments"...

PART 2 - It Is Our Natural Tendency to Do (= "to Accomplish") Horrible Things ... and (Because of That) to Deserve a Horrible Judgment.


A. Our Natural Tendency Isn't to Do What Is Righteous, but What Is Sinful.

  1. See PART 1, above.

  2. [KJV Only]: One Specific Example of a Sin Not "Accomplishing" Anything Good: Anger Doesn't "Accomplish" Righteousness. 

B. We Deserve Punishment and Will Receive it - Unless the "Accomplishments" Mentioned in PART 3 (Below) Apply to Us.

  1. Eternal Consequences Are Guaranteed (unless PART 3, below, applies to us).

  2.  Consequences May Also Occur to Us in this Present Life.


Back to the top

PART 3 - Only God Can "Accomplish" in Us the Salvation and the Good That We Ourselves Were Powerless to "Accomplish."


A. Our Efforts to "Accomplish" Good by Following the Law Are Useless: the Effect That Sin Has Had on Us Results in the Law Only Being Able to "Accomplish" Wrath.

 B. God Works (= "Accomplishes") Things in Us - Things Related to Eternal Life.

C. God "Accomplishes" Salvation - and He Uses People to Do So. (In this Example, He Used the Apostle Paul).

  1. Paul Faithfully Proclaimed God's Word; Through Him, Christ "Accomplished" Salvation Among the Gentiles.

  2. Note: As an Apostle, it Was Necessary That Paul Also Do (= "Accomplish") the Things That Proved He Was Truly an Apostle. 

D. The above Verses Focus on the Salvation that God Accomplishes for Us. PARTS 4 and 5 Focus on Some of the Other Things He Accomplishes for Us.


Back to the top

Once God has Accomplished Our Salvation...

PART 4 - God Uses Even What is NOT Good to "Accomplish" Good in (and for) Us!


A. Trials and Suffering: Good Things Are "Accomplished" by Them.

  1. Things Accomplished Now: Perseverance / Endurance; Godly Character, Hope; Maturity & Completeness; Joy & Rejoicing, Etc. 

  2. Things to be Accomplished Later: Eternal Glory.

B. When We Have Godly Sorrow for Sin: God Will Use it to "Accomplish" Good Things in Our Lives.

  1. The Sorrow That God Uses Is Described as "Godly Sorrow." (It is contrasted with the world's type of sorrow, which only "accomplishes" death. Note also that it is what God does, rather than the sin, that is good.)

  2. [KJV Only]: Repentance.

  3. Various Characteristics Related to an Increased Desire for Godliness, a Desire to Do What Is Right, Etc. - All Contrasted with the Results of "Worldly Sorrow."

C. Think about This: Sin uses even what is good, to accomplish what is bad; God uses even what is bad, to accomplish what is good! (That's one of the reasons Paul could write Romans 8:28!)


Back to the top

Finally, Because of What God Has "Accomplished":  

PART 5 - We Can Now Do (= "Accomplish") What Is Good!


A. Because of What God Has Done, We Can Describe Our "Former Lifestyle" of Sin as Being a Thing of the Past.

B. Our Obedience (Made Possible by God) Will "Accomplish" Our Salvation. [This is referring to the "present tense" aspect of our salvation - see Note 2.]

C. We Will Be Able to "Accomplish" All That Is Necessary in Our "Battle" Against Evil. After the Battle Is Over, We Will Still Be Standing, Rather than Being Destroyed.

D. Our Expressions of Love to Others Will "Accomplish" Good in Them: They Will Be Filled with Gratitude / Thankfulness.

Dennis Hinks © 1998, 2004

Back to the top