COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6, KJV)
The role of the Lord in our salvation is generally understated. The thrust of much contemporary preaching and teaching appears to be on the responsibility of the individual. There is, indeed, an important place for declaring the necessity of our involvement. That needful participation, however, will become effective only to the degree that we perceive Divine commitment to our salvation. The Spirit here affirms the interaction of the Lord with us from the beginning of life in Christ until its conclusion in the world. The apprehension of this declaration will produce unparalleled confidence and consistency in the believer. There are to be no apologies for straightforwardness of this word, or for its prominent position. Faith can embrace what is said in this text, build upon it, and realize victory in life.
THE INDISPENSABLE CONFIDENCE
“Being confident of this very thing . . . ” The awareness of consistent Divine involvement in the salvation of individuals is a source of great confidence. The ingenuity and wisdom of men, however effective they may appear, can never produce such confidence. There is an obvious thread of this kind of confidence in Paul’s writings. It reflects a faith that is strong, and a heart that is rooted and grounded.
Paul affirms his confidence in those who received the Truth, and does so with remarkable freedom. He does not worry about it contradicting a theological stance, or producing spiritual lethargy in the hearers. To the Corinthians, for example, Paul wrote, “Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything” (2 Cor 7:16, NKJV). Again, when challenging them to contribute liberally to necessity of poor saints, he said,“because of the great confidence which we have in you” (2 Cor 8:22, NKJV). He knew the Source of new life, and reckoned upon its effectiveness.
When writing to the retrogressing Galatians, Paul also expressed confidence in them. “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is” (Gal 5:10, NKJV. Mind you, that was affirmed in the face of false teachers who were seeking to lure them away from Christ.
The Thessalonians experienced some confusion concerning the coming of the Lord. Included in his elaboration of the facts concerning Christ’s return, Paul expressed his confidence in the Thessalonians. “And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you” (2 Thess 3:4). Compare that with the expression of Moses to the recalcitrant Israelites. “You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Deut 9:24). What was the difference? It was not in the speakers Moses and Paul. Both were godly, and were being used mightily by God. The difference was in the people. Israel was not regenerate and the the Thessalonians were.
Paul wrote to Philemon about a very sensitive situation. Onesimus was Philemon’s run-a-way slave. He had been converted through Paul’s ministry, and now Paul sent him back to Philemon. What would this master do? Knowing of his faith, Paul wrote, “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say” (Phile 21). The rarity of such an attitude confirms it comes from closeness to the Lord and clear spiritual perception.
Every person who labors in the Kingdom needs this kind of confidence. It is difficult enough to expend our energies for the Lord without entertaining continual doubt about those who receive our words.
The results of receiving and obeying the truth are not only realized by those who do it, but by those who sow the seed. When there is evidence of Divine working, confidence can be expressed with joy. If that evidence is lacking, doubts will assault the laborer concerning his work. What a marvelous ministry each believer has when they live by faith and walk in the Spirit. Those who have taught them will have confidence in them.
THE WORK WAS BEGUN BY GOD
“ . . . that He which hath begun a good work in you . . . ” Ungodly men trust in strategies. Godly men trust in the God of salvation. How was it that Paul knew who had “begun a good work” in the Philippians? Some might suppose it was revealed to him. Indeed, I do not discount that is involved. However, as in other cases, there was evidence that God has started a work in the Philippians. Of the Colossians, Paul said, “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ” (Col 2:5). Indeed, he had heard of the excellent progress of the Colossians from Epaphras (Col 1:4,6-9).
Wherever the Lord works, there is evidence. He does nothing “in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Take the Thessalonians as an example. Paul knew they were elected by God: “knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God” (1 Thess 1:4). This knowledge was prompted by evidence. “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 1:5-6). The same was true of the Ephesians. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13). The same was said of the Colossians (Col 1:6).
This same type of evidence was found in the Philippians. They had been noted for their instant response “from the first day until now.” That response was not the result of self-discipline, but of Divine working! Paul knew it was the exclusive “power”of God that is at work in believers, and had confidence it would continue (Eph 3:20).
The Lord does not simply “begin” the work, but is also pledged to“finish” it. He truly is “The Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2). The authoring of faith is the same as the beginning of the work. Faith is the well from which the experience of spiritual life springs–and it was authored by Jesus! It is a “good work,” as any who have participated in it will confess.
Holy beginnings are the source of joy and confidence in those who have them, as well as those who behold them. How often the apostle would call upon believers to recall their beginning in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:17,20; 1 Cor 6:10-11; Eph 1:13; Eph 2:12-13; Eph 5:8; Heb 10:32). And why so? Because the recollection of God’s work in our conversion will stimulate confidence that He will it, performing it until the day of Christ!
Let every child of God think often, and in an extended manner, upon their beginning in Christ Jesus. It was God who “began a good work in you.” It was good in its inception, and it is still good. If you are ever tempted to think there are no advantages to life in Christ, consider your beginning. Consider how good it was. Whatever sorrows life may have dealt you, life in Christ Jesus is a “good work.” It is something GOD did! It is HIS work. There is nothing faulty about it, but it is altogether good, even as the One Who gave it to you. The work is not the point, but the ONE Who performed it!
PERFORMED UNTIL JESUS COMES
“ . . . will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” While men tend to glory ONLY in spiritual beginnings, the eye of the Apostle reaches further. He looks at the work of God as consummating in “the day of Christ.” As marvelous as regeneration is, it is the beginning, and not the ending. Men count how many start the good fight of faith – the Lord counts how many finish! It takes God to finish the work as well as to start it! Were the Lord ever to stop working, we would instantly be severed from Him, and consigned to the lake of fire. I do not believe many have seen this.
“The day of Jesus Christ” is the day of His revelation–when He will be unveiled in all of His glory to an assembled universe (1 Tim 6:15). Later in this epistle, Paul refers to “the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9). To the Corinthians, he spoke of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14). To the Thessalonians, he wrote of “the day of the Lord” coming as a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2). Peter also referred to it as “the day of the Lord” (2 Pet 3:10).
This is the consummate day–the most significant day! If the individual does not stand in that day, life has been lived in vain! For that reason, it is simply called “the day,” emphasizing its singular importance (1 Cor 3:13). The eyes and hearts of the faithful are toward that day–the revelation of Jesus Christ. The work that was started in us must continue until that time, advancing and being perfected. If, in that day, we are rejected, it will make no difference what occurred throughout the entirety of our lives!
There is a certain essentiality to be seen here–the working of God throughout the duration of our lives. There is no place of mythical safety in this world, where Divine activity is no longer required! What the Lord has started, He must finish! The work must continue in this world until the Lord comes, for only then will our adversary be once and for all removed. Only then will the living be relieved of the handicap of a mortal frame.
Paul had confidence this working would occur in the Philippians because of their obvious faith and love. They were living by faith, walking in the Spirit, and resisting the wicked one. God continues the work in such as this. It is for this reason that stern Apostolic warnings are issued to the spiritually lethargic and indifferent. Divine working will not continue where the door of entrance is shut to Him. One has only to review the word of Jesus to the church of the closed door–Laodicea–to confirm this (Rev 3:20).
Child of God, if you will avail yourself of the Divine fellowship into which you have been called (1 Cor 1:9), the Lord will perform the work until the day of Christ. If you will live by faith and walk in the Spirit, the Lord will“finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness” (Rom 9:28). The Father can “make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” (Heb 13:21). When we know this, and behold the beginning of spiritual life in our brethren, we can have confidence the work will be completed. There is a certain relief ministered to the soul in the awareness of these things that cannot be induced by human wisdom or self-confidence. Thanks be unto God for it!