How do you know that you’ll wake up a Christian tomorrow morning?
Is that a daunting question to think about? Try these: how do you know that you’ll still love God a few months or even a few years from now? How do you know that you’ll make it glory? This is a pressing question. We’ve all known people who’ve made a profession of faith and have even seemed to grow strong in faith only to later turn their back on such things. How do we know we won’t end up like that? Can we know we’ll make it? Or do we just hope that everything will be ok? Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, ‘Those who endure to the end will be saved.’ Church, we have a need to endure to the end if we’re going to be finally saved, so let’s ask the question today – how are we going to endure? Your answer to this question reveals not only your hope for eternal life, it reveals your understanding of the gospel, it reveals what you’re placing your hope in to finally save you.
To tackle these questions let’s spend some time on Philippians 1:6 which says, ‘And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.’
In order to understand the text of Phil 1:6 we must see it in it’s context, which is Phil. 1:3-11 where Paul prays for the Philippian church. In the beginning of this section Paul says this in v3-5, ‘I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.’
Here Paul, as He often does, begins with an opening prayer for the particular church in view. What we ought to notice is that it is in these prayers that we find the major themes of each letter. For the letter to the Philippians the main theme of Paul’s opening prayer is joy. Joy in thankfulness, joy in their partnership in the gospel, and joy in God’s continued work in them. Every time Paul remembers the Philippians in prayer, he thanks God for them joyously. Why is he so joyous and glad when he prays for them? v5 tells us, ‘…of because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.’ The foundation of Paul’s joy in the Philippians is that from the first day he came to them they’ve partnered with him in the gospel work. This word ‘partnership’ in Greek is the word ‘koinonia’ which is usually translated as ‘fellowship.’ This lets us know that Paul and the Philippians were working together, partnering together, and were joined together for, or had fellowship in, the one aim of spreading and advancing the gospel. This same word in v7 is used and translated as ‘partakers’ meaning the Philippians joined or shared in this great work of preaching, defending, and suffering for the gospel.
This shows us how intimately connected Paul and the Philippians were in his day. It also shows us how we’re do life with one another in the local church in our day. We are individuals true, but as we come together to worship and study and pray throughout the week we slowly over time become more than mere isolated individuals, we grow in ‘koinonia.’ We grow in our fellowship, we grow in our partnership in the gospel and for the gospel. So just as Paul and the Philippians worked together, partnered together, joined together for, and had fellowship in the one aim of spreading and advancing the gospel, there should be nothing different about how we do life within our congregations. This means the work of ministry is not just about what your elders do for you. It’s more about what we together. Following Christ is a community endeavor. In this context Paul writes Phil. 1:6.
So we’ve seen Paul’s context, let’s now see…
In Phil. 1:6 Paul begins with these words, ‘And I am sure of this…’
Paul is confident, and shows a deep conviction here. He’s sure of something about this church. He’s not guessing. He doesn’t say, ‘I may be right about this…’ or ‘I have a hunch about this church…’ No, he says, ‘And I am sure of this…’ Paul’s firm conviction about God’s work in the Philippians is deep and grounded, perhaps this is why he has such joy in praying for them. He knows they’re spiritually healthy, walking wisely, and loving each other as they ought to.
Their conduct with the gospel gives Paul a firm conviction that they’re truly in the gospel.
Because he has a firm conviction that they’re truly in the gospel, he is confident of one thing – that God is working in them. This is why Paul can confidently say later in 2:12, ‘Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, so now, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.’ Paul is very confident in this church, even when he’s not with them he knows they’re living as they ought to.
His certainty he feels for them is great, but it doesn’t come from them, it comes from God. How so? Stay tuned later this week…