He who began a good work in you will perfect it
Philippians 1:1-26 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 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. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
In today’s text, Paul says: 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. Eternal life, through salvation, is not the end result of believing in Christ. It is the beginning. John 3:16 says: God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Eternal life is what is done for us. It is what we are given through believing. Believing in Christ also begins to do a work in us. Not only then is our eternal status changed by Christ, so too is our temporal condition changed. The gift of eternal life is both immediate and eternal, the work in us also last a longtime. It lasts for our lifetime. Romans 8:28-29 says: God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. God’s purpose for us is not simply that we would have eternal life in heaven, when we die. God’s desire, His will is that we would become conformed to the image of Christ, while we are alive. That is the good work that begins with salvation and it is what God will use everything in our lives to perfect or to complete. In Revelation 22:13, the Lord says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." In the beginning God said: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) The good work that is begun in us is redemption from sin, reconciliation to God and restoration to what He intended from the beginning. The completion of the work is that we would be like Christ, made perfect in Him.
In the end of today’s text, Paul says: I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Death is not something we should fear as Christians. It is the completion of the good work that God does in us through Christ. When these bodies and our own minds no longer inhibit us, we are perfected in the likeness of Christ. Here’s the thing though, Christ died for us, not so we too would die, but rather so we could live. There are some who are called to die for Christ. They are martyrs for their faith. We all though, are called to live for Christ. Along with eternal life, in John 10:10 Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” As we live for Christ, even though we are not yet perfected, we have been given the abundance of Christ. Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) We have the indwelling Holy Spirit of God in us. As we live for Christ, we learn to yield to Him. It is not we who choose whether or when we will die, but we are called to choose to live as fruitful labor in and for Christ.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; thank You for the gift of salvation and the result of eternal life. Thank You that You not only call me, but You also empower me to live for You. May all that I do be used for Your purposes to complete the good work, to conform me to the image of Christ just as You intended. Amen.