Monday, September 23, 2013

God Finishes What He Starts

Part 1 of To Live Is Christ, a series through Philippians

You can listen to this sermon here.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). 

Unfinished Projects 

It’s common for us to start a project but never finish it.

Sometimes a project is not completed because of the death of its creator (Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood) or it becomes too costly (the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, which would have been the tallest hotel in the world) or it becomes too overwhelming (the Tower of Babel in Gen. 11:1-9).

But what God starts, he always finishes.

The Church at Philippi 

In Acts 16, we learn how the church at Philippi began.

  • Paul traveled to Philippi after having a vision of a Macedonian man (vv. 10-12). 
  • A wealthy woman named Lydia and her household were saved (vv. 10-15). 
  • Paul cast a demonic spirit out of a slave girl (vv. 16-18). 
  • Paul and Silas were imprisoned (vv. 19-24). 
  • The prison’s jailer and his household were saved (vv. 25-34). 
  • The church may have met in Lydia’s house (v. 40). 

Now about ten years later (c. A.D. 62), Paul is writing to this church that originally consisted of Lydia and her family, the jailer and his family, and possibly the slave girl (Acts 16 doesn't tell us if she was saved or not). If Paul had a favorite church, it might have been the church at Philippi. (But we shouldn't think of this church as a perfect church. It appears that they struggled to maintain unity, 2:1-4, 14; 4:2.)

Paul wrote this letter from prison (1:7, 13-14, 17) and was facing possible execution (1:20, 30; 2:17). The traditional (and probably best) view is that he was in prison in Rome. Paul mentions that the gospel had become known “throughout the whole imperial guard” (1:13) and sends greetings from believers among “Caesar’s household” (4:22).

Salvation Is the Work of God 

The “good work” in verse 6 is salvation. “Salvation” is deliverance from sin’s punishment, power, and presence. There is a progressive nature to salvation. We “have been saved” (Eph. 2:8); we “are being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18); and we will be saved (Rom. 13:11).

1. Our salvation was started by God. 

Paul states that God “began a good work in [the Philippians]” (v. 6). Salvation is a work of God’s grace: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

2. Our salvation is evidenced by our lives. 

The Philippians gave evidence of their salvation by helping Paul in his ministry (v. 5; cf. 1:28; 2:12-13). They were known for their generosity (4:15-16) and had recently sent him a gift to encourage him during his imprisonment (4:18).

3. Our salvation will be completed by God. 

Paul’s recollection of the Philippians’ partnership with him in the gospel “from the first day until now” (v.5) causes him to think of the future. Paul is “sure” that God “will bring [the Philippians’ salvation] to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). The “day of Jesus Christ” is the day on which Christ will return. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24; cf. v. 23).

God Won't Give Up on You 

I started a home improvement project a couple of years ago that still isn’t finished. My wife probably has doubts if I’ll ever complete it. But we shouldn’t doubt God’s ability or willingness to finish the work (salvation) he began in us.

No matter the difficulty you’re facing (think of Paul’s imprisonment), God is still at work in your life. No matter the spiritual struggle you’re experiencing (think of the Philippians’ struggle with disunity), God will not give up on you.

“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What God starts, he always finishes.

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