10 October 2008

Verse by verse through Philippians (1:3-7)

Last week we looked at how those in the church are to relate to one another. We saw the example Paul gave us when he told these people that he thanked God for them every time he thought about them, prayed about them, prayed for them. For they were participants in the gospel from the first day that Paul spoke to Lydia and the other ladies—from that first day until now. And that this participation was not just getting together and having coffee and doughnuts. That it was as though they were partakers in the very sufferings that Paul endured throughout the years of his ministry. And he mentions in some of his letters to the other churches, not so much as a kind of guilt trip, but to put forth the churches of Macedonia as a kind of example. Because these churches of Macedonia, which included not only Philippi, but also Thessalonica and Berea, were the only ones to support him financially in the beginning of his ministry. They were faithful when no one else was.

Have you ever had that happen? You’ve been faced with some dilemma, some situation that seemed hopeless, and you looked for your friends, and—where are they? Hello, can anybody help? People will say, “I love ya buddy! There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for ya!” Then you see them in church on Sunday, you ask him, “Can you give me a ride to work this week? My car’s in the garage getting some work done. I know it’s a couple miles out of your way, but…” “Well, you know, I like to get there a little early, have me a cup of coffee. I’d love to help but…” Granted, we can't solve every single problem someone goes through. But we should always be looking—looking—to do good. We should be setting our heart on doing good. Because if our hearts are set on things that are not that important, we won’t be so inclined to help when we have the opportunity.

Suppose yesterday—there was some big doing’s over at UT yesterday, wasn’t there? Something to do with gators or something. Anyway, suppose you were on your way to that game. Driving down 275, and you get a call. A friend of yours. You were the only number they had, or the last number they tried—they knew you were going to the game, but this is a real emergency, and you are the only one that could help. “Well, you know, we’ve got tickets for the game...” But these people in Philippi—it wouldn’t have been a question. They would have gladly eaten those tickets. Now, what I'm about to say would get me kicked out of churches around here but—folks, it’s just a football game.

It’s not natural for us to give up something in order to benefit someone else. It’s not. It is something we have to learn. Now, does that mean unbelievers can't do good things for other people? Of course not. And since they can, and do, shouldn’t we do those things, having the Spirit of Christ in us? This was the work that God had done in these people. He had taken them, and had reformed them, and given them a heart that was ready to give Paul whatever he needed to spread the gospel. This was not an attitude that came about naturally. It was not the product of their society. It was a work of God. Starting in verse 3, through verse 7, Paul writes, 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, and here is today’s text—6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.

We will not get to verse 7 today, but we will definitely get through verse 6. We’re not going to look at this verse in the order that it’s written. We’re going to look at Paul’s confidence, then the good work, then He who began the work, and how He who starts the work finishes it. First, let’s look at that word confident. What do we think of when we say someone is “confident?” many people were "confident" the Vols were going to beat Florida. I think we know how that turned out. Paul uses this word 6 times in Philippians. I think he was trying to tell them something.

We live in a society today that is much like the one these believers lived in. James White once called Rome a “spiritual supermarket.” He compared it to a set of Tinkertoys™. That you could take some core belief, and stick in something from this religion and something from that religion and here—you’ve got a new religion! And it’s much like what we live in today—take the Jesus of the Bible, and add a little bit from Islam and a little bit from Buddhism and throw in a Book of Mormon, and take away the cross—because you know, it might offend someone. And you could ask 100 people in the US what they believe about Jesus and you would probably get at least 100 answers.....if not more. And that is what people are putting their confidence in—a “God” of their own making. And that is what they put their confidence in. Which means, ultimately, who are they putting their trust in? Themswelves. “This is the God I have created. And I am confident that this is God!

Anybody know that passage in Isaiah 14, that talks about Lucifer’s rebellion? What did Lucifer say he was going to do? 13 For you have said in your heart: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14). That is exactly what people do when they create their own religion, and when they try to “earn” their salvation. They are saying that their works, their righteousness is more acceptable to God than the blood of Jesus. They are saying that the work they do is worth more than the finished work of Christ on the Cross. But we have our confidence in the One, True, Living God and in His Christ. On the one hand, they have a “God” created by fallen, sinful, rebellious, hateful, men. Versus the eternal, unchanging, holy, righteous, almighty God. Which one are we going to trust? We know which one Paul put his confidence in.

Now, let’s look at the good work. We need to look at the “good work” before we talk about who did the work. What is the “good work?” Some people may try and argue that the “good work” Paul is referring to is the establishment of the church at Philippi. Two reasons I believe that is not the correct way to read this. One, the preposition Paul uses. He says that He who has begun a good work in you… By using the word “in,” he is making it personal. He is saying that the good work took place inside of the people themselves. If he had meant the establishment of the church at Philippi, he would have more than likely used the word “among.”

Reason number two is what he says right after this—He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ… Some translations say He will perfect it. I tend to like that rendering better. Has the Day of Jesus Christ come yet? No. Paul is referring to something that will last for all eternity. Because those who have been saved—who have been TRULY saved—will always be saved. And we will look at that in a moment. So, Paul is confident—fully assured, completely persuaded, absolutely positive—that He who started the work will complete it for all eternity. Now, who is it that has begun the good work inside of you? God. Amen.

We see this thought again at the end of this chapter, when he writes, For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake… (Philippians 1:29). Funny, Joel Osteen doesn't mention this verse too often. The ability, the desire to believe in Christ was given to us by God on behalf of Christ. It is God who begins the work. Galatians 1:15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace… Did Paul choose to follow Christ, or did Christ take the initiative? You can find that answer in Acts 9. 2nd Timothy 1:8-98 do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel--there's that suffering thing again--according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. He told the church at Ephesus that God predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5). It is God who begins the work of salvation. It is God who sustains our salvation. Do we keep ourselves saved? Ok, dumb question. In fact, if we look at this verse, Philippians 1:6, it is very similar to something that Paul told the Galatians. Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3).

Now, God not only begins the work of salvation, He continues the work of salvation, and HE FINISHES IT. God is not TDOT. He does not start something, and leave it unfinished. I found a quote from a fellow named FB Myer. Listen to what he wrote—
We go into the artist's studio and find there unfinished pictures covering large canvas and suggesting great designs but which have been left either because the genius was not competent to complete the work or because paralysis laid the hand low in death. But as we go into God's great workshop we find nothing that bears the mark of haste or insufficiency of power to finish and we are sure that the work which His grace has begun, the arm of His strength, will complete.”

In that passage from 2nd Timothy I mentioned a few moments ago, Paul finishes up that line of thought by writing, nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (2nd Timothy 1:12). I am persuaded—confident of this very thing. Confident, persuaded—same Greek word. What had Paul committed to the Lord Jesus Christ until that Day? And what Day was he talking about? The Day of Christ. What do we all entrust to the Lord Jesus Christ? How could we ever be confident, persuaded, comforted, fully assured, how could we ever trust a God who would hear our cries—who granted to us the ability and desire to cry out to Him when we did not have it in us—how could an eternal, unchanging God, that when we cry out to Him, “Lord save me! I commit to you my soul, my life, my all! Save me, Lord! Keep me saved!”--how could we ever trust our eternity to a God that would say, “Eh, I'll think about it.”

Psalm 27:1-7—1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. 4 One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. 5 For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
Do those sound like the words of a man who trusts in a God in whom there is variableness and a shadow of turning? A God whose gifts and calling are revocable? Augustus Toplady, the man who wrote “Rock of Ages,” wrote another hymn called “A Debtor to Mercy Alone.”

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.

Then there’s the song we sing here sometimes, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
So to grace how great a debtor/Daily I’m constrained to be.
And let Thy goodness like a fetter/Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it/Seal it for Thy courts above.

The word Paul uses that is translated complete is επιτελεω (epiteleo). “To bring to an end, accomplish, perfect, execute, complete.” It comes from τελεω (teleo), and we find the word τετελεσται (tetelestai), which is a form of this word in John 19:30When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, τετελεσται—It is finished” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. The work that Christ does in saving a person is just as complete as the work He did on the cross.

Told ya we weren’t gonna get to verse 7. We’re gonna look a little bit more about what we call “the eternal security of the believer” or “the perseverance of the saints” next week, because there’s a couple illustrations that I want to use that we don’t have time to go into today. But you know, this verse is just filled with hope. We are confident—fully assured, promised—that God was the one who began the good work of salvation in us—and even more than our salvation, God being glorified in us and through us, that is the good work that He began, and that he will complete And He will sustain us, He will deliver us, we are his for ever. And He will not stop building us and growing us and conforming us to the image of Christ—until the Day of Jesus Christ, and after that there will be no more death, no more sin, this corruption will put on incorruption, and our redemption, our purchase will be complete. What a way to start a letter!

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