Two days ago I asked you some hard questions about whether or not you’ll still be a Christian in the future. Today I want to give you confidence that God will keep you.
God Begins and Completes the Work in Philippi
1:6 continues, ‘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.’ Here we see the foundation of Paul’s confidence in this church. It’s not them who began this great gospel work, it is God who did so. And it’s not them who will complete this great gospel work, it is God who will do so. God began a work of conversion in the hearts of many Philippians, and this work shows itself in fruit. Fruit that looks like working together, partnering together, joining together for the spread and advance the gospel. Paul saw this, rejoiced in it, happily prayed about it, and then concluded that just as God had begun this work, so too He’ll complete it.
Front and center here we the sovereignty of God in salvation as well as the sovereign faithfulness of God to keep them until the end.
Even though the Philippian church suffered so much Paul encourages them with the sovereign faithfulness of God to keep and preserve them in 1:6. He does this later in 1:27-29 saying, ‘Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…stand firm in one spirit with one mind…don’t be frightened in anything by your opponents…for it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but suffer for His sake.’ So God has granted two things to the Philippian church. God has granted them the gift of believing in Him and granted them the gift of suffering for Him. In these things the Philippian church is reminded that the only reason they will persevere in faith to the end is because God has promised to faithfully preserve them to the end.
What does this mean for us?
God Begins and Completes the Work in Us
Phil. 1:6 is not just a promise for the Philippian church, it’s a promise to the universal Church throughout all time. The same way God encouraged and taught the Philippians of His sovereign faithfulness to keep and preserve them to the end is the same way God encourages you and I when we face the questions like we posed two days ago: how do we know we’ll remain Christians throughout our lives? How will we endure? What is our confidence that we’ll last to the end? Phil. 1:6, ‘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.’
We will persevere in faith because God has promised to preserve us.
Jesus in John 10:28-29 said, ‘I give My sheep eternal life, and they will never perish, no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.’ Paul in Romans 8:30 said, ‘And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.’ Everyone whom God has predestined, called, and justified God will glorify. When God begins a work, He always finishes it. In Eph. 1:13-14 Paul says, ‘In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.’ The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a promise of and evidence for God’s great keeping power. Jude addressed his small letter in Jude v1 to ‘those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.’ And at the end of Jude in v24 we read, ‘Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy…’
Be of good cheer Church, God promises to keep us, and make us blameless and happy before the presence of His glory. God began this great work, God grows this great work, and one day God will finish this great work.
Yes, we cannot lose our salvation, but people have a habit of twisting these things to their own evil ends. The doctrine of the preservation of the saints is twisted in this manner, ‘I’ve got my ticket, I know that the ‘man upstairs’ and me are good…once saved always saved right?’ It is true that once we’re saved/converted, we’ll always be saved/converted, but if you use that as a license to do whatever you want to do, or just sit back and passively and do nothing, you’re not saved/converted. Those who are truly saved, work out their salvation with fear and trembling because God is act work within them to act according to His own good pleasure.
But another question comes up. What do we do about those who claim to have fallen away from the faith? If we can’t lose our salvation what happened to them? 1 John 2:19 makes it pretty clear saying, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.’ On this passage R.C. Sproul comments, ‘If you have saving faith you’ll never lose it, if you lose it you never had it.’
So Church, rest well.
The doctrine of the preservation of the saints is God’s sovereign faithful promise to keep us through all the affliction and suffering of life, so that we will one day gain an inheritance of pleasures at God’s right hand forevermore. Rest well, the doctrine of the preservation of the saints reminds us on our worst days and even on our best days God has a firmer grip on us than we will ever have on Him. Rest well, this doctrine of the preservation of the saints points us to the gospel truth – “Before conversion we we’re in a battle we couldn’t win (after conversion, because of the preserving work of God) we’re now in a battle we can’t lose” (Tim Keller).