“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Paul has just had a moment of prayerful thanksgiving for these friends of his in Philippi. He is thankful for their partnership in the Gospel, and in verse 6 he further explains to them why he is so confident in his thanksgiving to God. In this one sentence, Paul sums up the entire Christian life.
- We can have confidence in one thing in life.
- Possessions will come and go. People will always fail us. Paul is joyful that the Philippian church is faithful, but he does not place his confidence in them. He places his confidence in the one Person who will never leave us nor forsake us: Jesus Christ.
- Our confidence is found in the work of Christ in our salvation. In this one verse, Paul explains the three parts of our salvation in Christ. There are theological terms for each aspect of salvation; look them up, study them, and consider how God is still working out your salvation, even today.
- God began a work in us—this is justification. This is the moment that you receive salvation from the Lord. In Baptist circles, this is when you “get saved.” J There’s a handy book you can buy or order from Lifeway called Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. It’s helped me tremendously when I have been in classes and didn’t understand the conversation because I didn’t know the terms being used. It’s very handy, and I would encourage you to pick one up!
- The Pocket Dictionary gives this definition of justification: A legal term related to the idea of acquittal; refers to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous.
- The simple fact that God even chose to begin a good work in us should cause us to praise Him! Paul says in Romans that humanity is the enemy of God when we are in our sin, yet “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).” We would never choose God on our own. There is nothing good in us; even the best things that we do with the best of intentions are but filthy rags when compared to the holiness of God. Paul described our situation this way to the church in Ephesus: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Sounds like a great place to be: dead people, walking in indulgence and wrath and lust. Lost humanity is a pleasant group to be around. We weren’t in a neutral spot, we weren’t good people who just needed a relationship with God to be complete. WE WERE DEAD. And then comes the greatest transition in all of Scripture: “But God.” We were those things, but God was rich in mercy, and because of his great love for sinful dead humanity, made us alive in Christ Jesus!
- Justification means that the penalty for our sin, which is death (Romans 6.23), was paid for by Jesus, and we are now seen as sinless and forgiven, debt free in the eyes of God. All of that was done for us, through no work or merit of our own.
- The work God began in you will be completed—this is sanctification.
- Again, from the Pocket Dictionary: From the Hebrew and Greek, “to be set apart” from common use, “to be made holy.” The nature of sanctification is twofold in that Christians have been made holy through Christ and re called to continue to grow into and strive for holiness by cooperating with the indwelling Holy Spirit until they enjoy complete conformity to Christ.
- If you are a Christian, if you have surrendered your life to the calling and work of Christ, this is where you are in your walk of salvation. Sanctification is the hard part of salvation. While our justification is a work done by God, sanctification requires our participation. We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to conform to Christ’s image, but we must daily choose to die to self and become like Christ in word and deed.
- So often, we spend our time focused on thanking God for our justification and then looking forward to our glorification—that time when we will be with Christ for eternity. But hear this and think about it carefully: God did not save us just so we could go to heaven when we die! If that were the sole purpose of salvation, he would take us the moment He saved us! But He leaves us here to do a work for Him. We are to be His ambassadors; we are to take time to learn about Him and to teach others about Him as well. Our purpose is not to just make it through this life so we can get on to eternal life. Our purpose is live abundantly to the glory of God! We are to laugh and love and serve and sacrifice and LIVE for Jesus! Our Christianity should not be compartmentalized into Sundays and Wednesday nights. Instead, our Christianity should permeate every part of our lives. We should eat and drink and do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31). This means we should scrapbook to the glory of God. We should play ball to glorify God. We should care for our children or our grandchildren or our parents for God’s glory. We should have coffee with our friends and God should receive glory through what we do and say. As we enjoy life on earth (which is what God intended for us to do here), we are to enjoy it in a way that points a lost and dying world to its Creator.
- The bulk of the New Testament is devoted to letters written to churches, explaining to them how to walk in this life in a manner that is set apart and holy in the eyes of God. There is a two fold reason for striving for sanctification: 1) a life set apart from this world brings glory to God, and 2) anything that brings glory to God will be a light for a lost and dying world.
- I know in my own life, I have looked at sanctification as a list of things to mark off of a To-Do List. My To-Do List inevitably becomes a prideful list of the things that I have accomplished. Sanctification is not about us and how good we become. Rather, it is about pouring ourselves out as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to the God who loved us enough to save us from ourselves and an eternity in Hell.
- The day of Christ Jesus will come—this will be our glorification.
- One more time from the Pocket Dictionary: The last stage in the process of salvation, namely the resurrection of the body at the second coming of Jesus Christ and the entrance into the eternal kingdom of God. In glorification believers attain complete conformity to the image and likeness of the glorified Christ and are freed from both physical and spiritual defect. Glorification ensures that believers will never again experience bodily decay, death or illness, and will never again struggle with sin.
- I don’t know about you, but that’s the first time in my life that a dictionary entry has caused me to rejoice! It’s no wonder that we spend so much time pining away for heaven and glory. Paul says later in Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven. He told the church in Corinth that “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13.12).
- Our glorification is a work of God that is worthy of our praise. It is an act of His grace and mercy that we do not deserve. It is something to look forward to. But never let a preoccupation of what is to come distract you from the work He left you here to do! While our citizenship is in heaven, we are ambassadors of Christ in this world, and as a good ambassador, you are to do the work of the One who sent you until He calls you home again. Paul was torn when he thought about this: He wanted to stay and do the work of an ambassador, but he desired to be with his Lord. He says in Philippians 1.21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We love to talk about the gain we will receive when He calls us home. No more dying, no more pain, no more sin. But we miss the first part of that statement so often—to LIVE is Christ! We are to live for Him powerfully and victoriously for as long as He has on this planet.
So here’s what I want you to think about the next few days:
1. Take a few minute and think about your justification. When were you saved? How would you share that experience with another person? How is your life different now than it was before you surrendered your life to Christ? While remembering the exact date and time is not that important, you should be able to tell about a time when you realized that you were a sinner who was separated from a holy God and that you knew that trusting Jesus to save your sins was the only way for you to be reconciled to God. For some people, it was an instantaneous moment and they can give you the exact date, time and location. For others, like me, it was a journey, a process of learning truth and trusting God slowly. But think about how you would share your story of salvation with another. First Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
2. The above verse goes along with the next question: in view of God’s command that we live lives set apart for the Gospel, since we are to be working towards sanctification, what about you will cause people to ask you about the reason for the hope that you have? Do you live a life that is set apart from the world? Would your co-workers be surprised if they found out you go to church? What do you intentionally do to keep you walking in a direction toward Christlikeness? Sanctification will not happen passively. It is an active, intentional process; what’s your plan?
3. Do you think about your glorification? Take some time in your “sanctified imagination” and picture what it might be like when we finally see our Savior face to face. Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His mighty love and grace and mercy. Think about what it is that He has called you to accomplish before that day. More than anything else, as a way of thanking Him for what He has done for me, out of love and gratitude, I want Him to be able to say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25.21). He gave His life for us, as a ransom. What more can we give Him but our very lives in return?