[This sermon was preached by me a few weeks ago. I don’t have the audio yet, but it doesn’t deviate much from this sermon which I basically read out loud :) The focus text is Philippians 1:6, the text quoted in the above image, but I read the whole chapter for context, and I also make some references to it in my sermon. If you want a fuller grasp of my argumentation and exposition here, read the whole first chapter of Philippians here, or read the whole epistle here.]
1. He Who Began a Good Work in You
As we begin our study of the text, we must note that the Scriptures teach us very clearly that the entirety of our salvation is the work of God. In verse 2, Paul tells us that grace and peace are not the fruits of our human efforts, but the gifts of God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. In verse 11 of this chapter, Paul tells us that “the fruit of righteousness . . . comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” In verse 19, we are told that the Holy Spirit will help Paul render service to Christ and His people, to the praise and glory of God. As John Gill explains in his commentary, the help rendered by the Holy Spirit is
“the supply of the Spirit … a supply of gifts from Christ, fitting and qualifying men for his service […] ministered by the Spirit to them severally as he will; … a supply of grace out of the fulness of Christ, which the Spirit of grace is the applier of; and a supply of strength from the same by him, to enable the saints both to do and suffer whatever he is pleased to call them to; it is in short a supply of all their need, which the Spirit of God helps them to, according to the riches of grace, in glory by Christ.”
Father and Son and Holy Spirit, then, are the source of our salvation, not our intelligence or supposed willpower or anything originating in ourselves. Paul makes this even more explicit when he declares in verse 29 that faith in Christ [i.e. justification] and suffering for the sake of the Gospel [i.e. sanctification] have been granted to the Christian by God. To put the matter a little differently: God saves and preserves His people. This is why Paul states that he is “sure” that the Philippians will persevere unto the end. God began His work; He will finish it.
Where does our confidence lie, then? If it is in anything but the love of the Father sending Christ to be the propitiation for our sins, the finished redemptive work of our Savior on the cross for us, and the Spirit’s regenerating and sanctifying work in us – then our confidence is not where it ought to be. Paul’s words to the Philippians show us that salvation is God’s work, and as such we may be confident that God will not fail to complete His good work. Hence, while we are called to “work out” our own salvation with fear and trembling, we are told to do this because it is God who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. (Phil 2:12-13)
2. To All the Saints
The promise of God’s preservation of those whom He has called, justified, and is sanctifying is not made to a particular class of saints. No. The promise is to all of the saints. This doesn’t erase differences in the callings and responsibilities among all Christians, but it shows us that we are partakers of grace, sheep of Christ whom He will not fail to lead through the valley of the shadow of death and into His eternal presence. Apostles, pastors, overseers, deacons, and believers who have not been called to these ministerial duties are all partakers of the wholly free grace of God. They will all be preserved by God.
Thus, Paul tells the Philippians to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4) It is the rulers of the Gentiles who lord their authority over their subjects, as our Lord declares in Matthew 10:25, and not the members of Christ’s Body, as He goes on to declare: “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” There is nothing which we have not received by the grace of God. Just as it is God who is the author and finisher of our faith, it is also He who has “arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Cor 12:18)
And is there not comfort in knowing that God is not a respecter of persons? That His promise to save His people applies equally to all of His people? That God knows every individual hair on every individual head, every individual believer’s struggles with sin, and promises that every last one of His sheep will never be snatched out of His omnipotent grip? Salvation is all of God’s work. Therefore, all of the saints have been saved by grace, and all will persevere by that means as well.
High ranking or low ranking, powerful or weak, wealthy or poor – our perseverance in the faith is here shown to be our preservation by the One in whom we are placing our faith. We are preserved by God as servants of Jesus Christ, who for our sakes “ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…” (Phil 2:6-7).
3. From the First Day Until Now . . . Until the Day of Christ Jesus
As John Gill notes, the Philippians
“continued in the Gospel which they were made partakers of, and in fellowship with one another, in breaking of bread, and in prayer, and in hearing the word, which they constantly attended to, and were blessed with communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…”
Let us note the continual work of God in the hearts of the Philippians, and by extension the work He continues in all of His people. The Philippians did not cease to fellowship, hear the Word, grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and serve one another. Rather, these activities, Paul says, have not stopped since their conversion. And this verse teaches us that they will continue unto the day in which God completes the work He began in them.
Thus, the text before us effectively refutes two equally false doctrines. One of the false doctrines it refutes is what has become known as antinomianism. The word basically means “against-the-law,” and is defined by Pastor Michael Horton as “the view that the moral law summarized in the Ten Commandments is no longer binding on Christians.” He goes on to explain that
“The modern age is especially identified by the demand for freedom from all constraints. “Be true to yourself” is the modern creed. The rejection of any authority above the self, including obvious biblical norms, is as evident in some denominations as in the wider culture.”
The other heresy that Paul’s words here refute is known as “conditional security.” Whereas the antinomian believes that all professing Christians, no matter how deeply they indulge in sin, are assured of eternal life, those who believe the heresy of conditional security believe that a professing Christian’s eternal security depends on his obedience to God’s law. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6 show us that these two heresies are false by teaching us that:
Salvation, as we noted already, is all of God’s work. Our eternal security in Christ does not depend upon our works at all.
God’s faithfulness is displayed in the on-going sanctification of His people. Paul says that God will be “faithful” to complete the good work He began in the Philippians; therefore, if God does not complete the work, He is not faithful, Paul is wrong, and the Scriptures are in error.
But God is faithful. He cannot deny Himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). So the good work God began in His people cannot fail to be completed by God. And this means that the antinomian and the person who believe their salvation is dependent of his obedience to God’s law are both wrong. The Christian’s perseverance in the faith is a promise that God, who is faithful and cannot contradict or deny Himself, will necessarily fulfill. God’s sanctification of His people, the church, will continue unto the very end. Therefore, conditional security and antinomianism are both to be rejected.
4. Love, Knowledge, Discernment
Paul’s prayer, therefore, is that the Philippians’ “love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (vv.9-11)
Let us note that love abounds with knowledge and discernment, not apart from them. In our anti-intellectual culture, love is often set in contrast to knowledge, and discernment, or “judgment,” is said to be the mark of a person who is “intolerant” of others. Yet, this is not what God’s Word declares.
Rather, God’s Word here gives us, as Calvin says in his commentary, “a definition of Christian wisdom – to know what is [spiritually] advantageous or expedient.” Just as the Holy Spirit tells us in Romans 12:2, our transformation comes by the renewing of our minds by the Spirit and the Word. Therefore, we cannot separate love, knowledge, discernment, and the fruit of righteousness.
As our Lord teaches us, in fact, continuation in learning of Him, from Him, and by means of His Word is a mark of truly being His disciple/sheep. John 8:31-32:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
5. Every Circumstance
God is transforming His people. God is also equipping His people to continue to walk by faith, placing all of our confidence in the more certain Word of Scripture, no matter what circumstances we may face. Paul’s words throughout the epistle reflect this faith in God’s Sovereignty and Goodness, no matter what circumstances one faces. For instance, in this chapter Paul says that whether the Gospel is preached by brothers who want to glorify God or enemies of the church who want to add to Paul’s affliction, “in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (1:18) And again, at the end of his letter, in 4:10-13 Paul says that he has learned to be content in “every circumstance” – whether he has been brought low or is abounding, or is hungry or facing plenty.
Until the day our Lord returns, then, we are held by Him, transformed by His Word and His Spirit, equipped and strengthened by Him to walk with Him daily, regardless of what circumstances we face.
6. Two Circumstances
What are these circumstances? There are obviously very many. But we can talk about two general kinds of circumstances that are present in the epistle to the Philippians. The first kinds of circumstances are those within the body of Christ. In particular, serving one another in humility and unity, striving together for the sake of the Gospel. Paul identifies this as living in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ in v. 27, elaborating on the subject more in 2:3-4 & 2:14-16. In these verses of chapter 2, we learn that living in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ means having the same mind and love, doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, looking on the interests of others, counting others more significant than ourselves, doing all things without grumbling or complaining, and holding fast to the word of life. [Just as a sidenote: Observe that being immersed in the word of life and loving our Christian brethren are not separable. If we are doing one, we ought to be doing the other as well.]
The second kinds of circumstances we see in the epistle to the Philippians are those dealing with opposition to our Lord God, His Gospel, and His church. Paul makes note of the enemies of church, identifying them as (a.)those who preach the Gospel in order to add to Paul’s suffering (1:15-17), (b.)who are our opponents (1:28), (c.)who seek their own interests and not the interests of Christ (2:21), (d.)who believe in salvation by their own efforts (3:1-2), (e.)who walk as enemies of Christ (3:18), (f.)whose god is their belly (3:19), (g.)who glory in earthly shame (3:19), and (h.)who set their minds on earthly things (3:19).
Thus, between the beginning and ending of the work God is performing in His people, we are promised that God will sustain us, equip us, teach us, and empower us to strive for unity, grow in grace and humility, and grow in our knowledge of His will as well. He will also equip us to face His and our enemies – e.g. false teachers and false brethren whose end is destruction.
7. The Day of Christ
The Christian, on the other hand, awaits the “resurrection from the dead,” the transformation of our lowly bodies.” (cf. 3:17-21) Glorification. When Christ shall put away even the possibility of sin from His people. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Rev 22:3-5)
It is because the Christian is promised these things that he is called to live in a manner worthy of them. Hence, John the apostle says: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3) Our confidence is in the promises of God who will complete what He has started. Our confidence is in the promise of God that tells us we are citizens of the Heavenly City of God. We are already seated in heavenly places with our Lord God the King of kings.
We are those, Paul later says, who put no confidence in the flesh. And this is the promise we encountered in Philippians 1:6 today. God is, by His very nature, faithful. This is our confidence: He is faithful; He cannot deny Himself.