Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Yesterday, we looked at the reason for Paul’s joy and thankfulness regarding the Philippians. We said that the reason for it is because God is at work in the totality of a believer’s salvation.
And so I want you to see six things that we learn here. The main thing is: God is at work in your salvation, it is God’s work from start to finish. We’ll look at one thing this week and the other five over the next couple weeks.
I. Salvation is God’s work.
Paul emphasizes that:
“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you….”
Paul is emphasizing the initiative of God in salvation. Salvation is God’s work and his of initiation. Paul emphasizes this over and over. Think of Ephesians 2:1 – “For you were…” what? “…dead in your trespasses and sins.”
Verse 5: “But God made you alive in Jesus Christ.” Who took the initiative in that salvation? You? No! You were dead. Dead people are notoriously bad initiators! But God took the initiative and made you alive in Christ!
And not just Paul, the Apostle John emphasizes this. In John 1:12, he explains where belief in Christ comes from, and he describes it beautifully in the first part of that verse:
“As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God.”
What John is saying in that verse is that those who receive [trust in Jesus Christ…those who place their faith for salvation in Jesus Christ] are accounted by God, appointed by God, adopted by God, as His own children. And John is just marveling at this glorious thing, and he’s speaking about faith in Christ with the beautiful image of “receiving Him.”
But after showing you that picture of faith, and saying that all those who believe are the children of God – they’re not just pardoned of their sins, but welcomed into God’s family – you welcomed Jesus into your home, and God welcomes you into His.
Then he tells you (second half of the verse) – how did this happen?
“To those who believe in His name…who were born not of blood….” It was not by genealogy that you believed in Jesus Christ.
And then he says, “…nor of the will of the flesh.” It’s not our own human nature in our innate ability and will power that leads us to be able to exercise saving faith.
They are born “…of God.” God takes the initiative? Why? Because we’re dead. We can’t, and Paul is celebrating this truth that salvation is God’s work.
Luke talks about this in Acts 11. Peter has just come back to the church in Jerusalem, saying, ‘I was with some Gentiles and I saw the Holy Spirit poured out on these Gentiles. I think the Holy Spirit has been given to the Gentiles, too.’
And the church in Jerusalem responds, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’ But notice, it’s not that the Gentiles have taken the initiative in this. God has granted it to the Gentiles.
Paul, in II Thessalonians 2:13-14, says:
“…We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation…and it was for this He called you through our gospel…”
So Paul says, ‘Your salvation started, before the beginning, when God chose you. And even when we were preaching, it was God who was calling you through our preaching of the gospel. It was God who was taking the initiative to draw you to Himself.’ It is not that I sought the Lord, and then He sought me. No, John says it this way: We love because He loved first. Or, as we sing it in that beautiful old Southern hymn,
“I sought the Lord, but afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me.
It was not I who found, O Savior true;
No, I was found of Thee.”
He was the seeker, mover, initiator.
Paul is emphasizing that in this passage: He was the one who, “…Began a good work in you.”
Paul is not just saying that God began that work and then left the rest up to you; he is saying that this salvation is all of grace; that from beginning to end it is the work of God.
He’s not saying that there is nothing that you have to do. He’s not saying that faith is not important. He’s not saying that your living is not important. He’s not saying that your actions are not important.
Paul is emphasizing the initiative of God’s grace in your salvation from beginning to end, and he does it all the time.
Paul is emphasizing that God is at work in you now, and this gives Paul enormous confidence; it is the basis of our confidence and assurance as well. God’s involvement, His initiative, His preservation of us, is the very ground of our experience of confidence in the Christian life.
If you’ve been a Christian very long, you’ve found occasion when you have had to look into your heart and see things there that you would hope nobody else saw. If your goodness and improvement is the ground of your confidence, you’re never going to have confidence. But if God’s work in you is the ground of your confidence, the fact that He will persevere to the end, or as John Newton put it:
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
Grace has brought me safe thus far,"
[And now I’ll take it from here? No, no, no, no, no!]
“And grace will lead me home.”
This is what Paul is celebrating. He knows they're going to be persecuted and still sin, but Paul is joyful and thankful and confident because it is God who is at work in them! Paul is not being rosy-eyed. He is not in denial. He is wide-eyed at the realities the Philippians face, but he is even wider-eyed at the reality of God’s sovereign initiative in salvation which goes from beginning to end.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 10:14 AM