Philippians 1:6 – Confidence in God's Complete Work
Being confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
Fear and insecurity are common to man. Who is not often afraid? Small children are often frightened. Young People often fear the future in this constantly changing, dangerous world, threatened by nuclear war. Parents are afraid regarding their children. Old people become more afraid and insecure as they get closer to death. All people are too familiar with fears.
With all of our fears we must go to the Bible. It contains more than 350 passages that tell us, "Don't be afraid," "Fear not." In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks about the personal security every Christian may have. What the Lord has begun, He will never leave unfinished. He will complete it "until the day of Jesus Christ."
Assuming that all the readers of these words are Christians, each one of us can say to himself, "I am a child of God today." But what about tomorrow and the rest of my life? So much can happen. I in myself am very weak. Let no one boast that he cannot fall into grievous sin, or even fall away. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. There are always our three mortal enemies, the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. If I would face tests that many Christians and martyrs have faced, would I remain standing? Suppose that you or I would have to give our lives for the Lord, would we be willing and able to do that? Would we have the necessary strength and courage?
We all face death. More than once, as a pastor I have seen the undertaker lock the lid of the coffin and then see men let the coffin down into the cement vault, which is covered with a very heavy lid. The body is completely sealed in. The sight is terrifying. I don't want to be locked in like that down in the ground. Foolish thoughts? Perhaps they are. But they are real. And if the Lord tarries in coming back, our bodies will return to dust. Once I saw a coffin several hundred years old. In the side of it was a hole some three or four inches in diameter. With others, I took a peek inside. We saw nothing. Even though there was enough light inside, why didn't we see anything? Because there was nothing but a little dust. The body of that person had been reduced to nothing but a little dust that could be blown away by a puff of wind.
At the return of Christ we all will have to face the Judge of heaven and earth. The book of my life will be opened, showing all that I have ever done, said or even desired. All the evidence will be there. This lies in the future for us. To say the least, it is all frightening.
Amid these fears, God's Word gives us "good news." Paul says that he is confident that what the Lord has begun in us, He will complete "in the day of Jesus Christ."
The apostle speaks first of all of what the Lord "has begun" in us with regeneration, causing us to be born again. The Lord began this work in us, as Christians. We may never make of this some kind of cooperation between God and us, in which He did His part and we did ours. Neither was He dependent upon our free will to accept His salvation. He and He alone, began and worked it all in us, by His Spirit and Word. Of course, man is responsible; we have to believe, accept, receive — whatever words we want to use here — the Bible uses all of them. But all of that was the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work within us. Also here, without Him we can do nothing.
These words, what He has "begun in us," bring us to the present time of our lives. Now, what about the future? Our future must be viewed in the light of what the Lord has done in the past. There is comfort for us in the future, because of what He, the unchangeable God, has done for and in us in the past.
He will finish, will complete, what He has begun, says Paul. That means that from the present moment to the end of our lives, whenever that will be, and whatever the circumstances will be, He will keep us in the faith and never let go of us. It also means that He will carry out this work after we have died. At that moment of death He will take our souls into glory. Perhaps He will send His angels to take our souls into heaven, as they did with the soul of poor Lazarus.
He will also watch over our bodies in the graves. He won't even forget the dust of our bodies. As the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, He will make most glorious bodies even out of dust. And we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
All this will take place in "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." It will be a day in which Christ will be made great. All will be centered around our great Savior. Why? Because all this will be His work and the fruit of His great, incredible love in saving us from the beginning to the very end of time.
Because of these truths the Lord says to us, hundreds of times, "Fear not."
All we can say now about our salvation is that there is a beginning. And it will remain that way throughout our lives. The Heidelberg Catechism says that even the most holy in this life have "only a small beginning" of this new obedience.
When we see things that have only a beginning, we are not sure they "will make it." When one sees a small plant in a flower (or vegetable) garden there is often little hope that it will survive. That beginning is so small, and our hope of survival is determined by the size of the beginning. This is different. It is the work of the Lord. Therefore it is certain to succeed. It will be completed through the infinite mercy of our God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a comfort this is for us, and what peace it gives.
The Lord wants us to live in this security and with this peace. Let no Christian ever despair, or live without hope. Our covenant God is faithful.
Does this mean that we can enjoy this comfort, regardless of how we live? Of course not. First of all, Christians may not talk this way. They love the Lord and don't become indifferent about living for Christ. But all Christians can fall into sin. Think of David and Peter. And sin is never cheap, not for God's people either. But the Lord brought them back. What does all that say to us today? This, that even though we may fall into sin, we may be assured that our faithful God will not let the devil conquer us. He will bring His own back, somehow, and at His time. Sometimes that may take years. But come back, they will.
The Lord wants us to persevere, to continue in the way of faith, and to fight the battles of faith. And when we do this we must realize that we can persevere because He is preserving us.
God's ways are different from ours. Many times among us, it cannot be said that what we have begun, we will also finish. We may lose interest in the project we have begun. We may also lose or lack the courage to continue. Perhaps we won't be able to continue for some reason or other. There may also be insurmountable barriers that hinder us from finishing what we have begun. The truth is that often we just can't complete what we have begun. For the natural man everything leads to death. Man's life is "in bondage" to the vanity of death. Everything man undertakes is subject to death and "vexation of spirit," says Solomon.
What a comfort we have in this changing and scary world! What a comfort this is for the church and for us as individuals! And what a comfort this is for parents when they know that their children are also children of God! And what a comfort for people of God when they reach the evening of life!
I remember a saint, old and feeble, who could no longer walk. He had cancer and his wife had preceded him in death. He said to me, "I really have nothing left in life, except one thing, the great promises of God."
He knew the truth expressed in this beautiful text.
He knew that God is the "Rock" of all ages.
Thank You, Lord.