Monday, February 07, 2011
Over the past several days, we’ve been looking at this verse and six things I wanted to study more closely within it. We began by, first, reflecting on the joy that Paul has for the Philippians because of the salvation they have, because it is God’s work, and His work from start to finish. We also looked two more things last week: the second, salvation is a good work, because it makes us fit for the enjoyment of God and the third: our salvation, this good work, is unfinished here.
Fourthly, salvation is a certain work, because God always finishes what He starts. Yes, the Apostle Paul says, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” and therefore by implication it’s not going to be perfected, it’s not going to be completed, it’s not going to be finished until then; but it is a certain work. It is absolutely certain that He will complete it, and that’s why in the song that by Augustus Toplady he writes that in heaven you will be “more happy, but not more secure.” Because God finishes what He starts. God doesn’t leave off in the middle of His work. He finishes what He starts.
Fifth, salvation is a perfect work of God, because God only does things perfectly. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it in the day of Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul is saying you can bet your bottom dollar that God will complete His work, because God does not fail to complete what He starts; God does not do imperfect work; God always, to the fullest degree of perfection, completes the work that He begins; and so, you will be made perfect. And you can be confident that not only will God not forsake you, but that one day He will perfect you, because God doesn’t do second-rate work.
And sixth and finally, Paul teaches us that salvation is a work that will only be perfect in the day and the appearing and the judgment of Christ:
“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.”
The Apostle Paul is saying that this will be the day when you are fully and finally perfected: in the day of the appearing of Christ Jesus. He’s saying that your perfection will not occur until then, and it will not occur until the perfection of all other saints.
The author of Hebrews talks about this in chapter 11. In verse 39 (he’s been talking about these great saints of the Old Testament and New), and he says,
“All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised….”
He’s saying that the things that God had promised them they did not receive in this life. Why? He tells you in verse 40, he says:
“Because God had provided something better for us.”
Now is that the word you’re looking for? You’re waiting for "them," aren't you? Because God has provided something better for – them? No! Suddenly it’s because God has provided something better for us. That’s a strange argumentation. God didn’t give to them what He had promised, because He has something better for – us. What in the world does he mean? Look at the next phrase: “…So that apart from us they should not be made…..perfect.”
You see what the author of Hebrews is saying (and I have a sneaking suspicion he learned this from Paul): that it will be the day of the coming, the appearing, the judgment, the reign, the rule of Jesus Christ, when all the saints at the same time—from Adam to the very last person who is converted before the coming of Christ—at the exact same moment, we will be perfected. Nobody before anybody else in Christ. All at the same time. All to His praise and all to His glory. .
And the Apostle Paul says, ‘Philippians, I can only imagine what you’re going to go through in this life. (Now, Paul had a pretty good guess, similar to what he himself had experienced for the gospel.) But though he could only imagine what they were going to go through in this life, he was certain of this: that God was going to perfect in the Last Day what He had started in them, and therefore the Apostle Paul could be confident.
If your ultimate assurance and confidence in this life is because of something that you have done, because of something you have achieved, because of something you have attained…well, you’re in for a long, discouraging life. That rug can be pulled out from under you any time and a hundred times. But if your preservation is based on God’s work, then nothing can shake you. And that’s the kind of confidence we need in this kind of a world.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 5:20 PM