Other than verses 13 and 19 in Philippians 4, perhaps one of the most often quoted passage from this epistle is: “Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) What a precious promise from God! What a powerful statement of reality! He Who has begun a good work in you, WILL complete it! He cannot fail to do so.
If you have repented of your sins and trusted in Christ alone for your salvation, but feel like you’re floundering a bit, be encouraged. Jesus said that He gives to His sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, and nobody can snatch us out of His hand. (John10:28). That is security, my friend!
- 1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus, which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Servant (doulos) of Christ, as the King James and Revised Standard Versions have it; but doulos is more than servant, it is slave. A servant is free to come and go; but a slave is the possession of his master forever. The term “servant” is an expression of intense fervor and devotion.
Note that both Paul (the older brother) and Timothy (the younger brother and his disciple) regard themselves as servants of The Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul and Timothy call themselves the slaves of The Lord Jesus Christ, according to the culture and understanding of the term in those days, it would mean 2 things.
- It would mean that they are the absolute possession of The Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ has loved him and bought them with a price (1Cor.6:20), they belong exclusively to Him, and can never belong to anyone else.
- It would mean that they owe absolute obedience to The Lord Jesus Christ. The slave has no will of his own. So as slaves of The Lord Jesus Christ, their one will is to submit to the will of God.
They considered themselves to be the exclusive property of their heavenly Master, Jesus Christ and their one aim in life was to carry out the Lord’s will and work.
According to Scripture, the highest of all titles of honor is to be called the servant of The Living God. There is a Latin phrase when translated into English reads like this: to be His slave is to be a king.
Jesus said, No man can serve two masters. The Greatest Master is Jesus Christ and therefore the ultimate purpose in life is found by serving Him.
Everybody in the body of Christ is called and gifted by God to serve somewhere or in some capacity within the local body. There is an unbiblical notion that the pastors, elders, deacons and their wives and perhaps a few other committed volunteers run the church. The rest of the folks just come, sit, listen, and go home. Kind of like a going-to-the-movies mentality. You file in, find a seat next to folks that you don’t have any relationship with, and have no intention of having a relationship with, watch the performance, and file out.
I truly believe that this is because the church in America has become filled with a consumer mentality instead of a servant’s mentality.
The point of the church is decidedly not to meet the needs of folks who decide to give them their business! The church is a fellowship of those who serve Jesus because He bought them with His blood. The church is to be God-centered and people-focused, not me-centered and program-focused.
Paul would write to this congregation, For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (1:29) [it’s a gift!]. Can you picture the Philippian church taking out an ad in the local paper to market the church: “Come, join our church! You’ll love suffering with us! We have the best persecution program in town!
Beloved, if The Spirit of God is truly dwelling within you and me, and His ministry is to conform you and me into the image of The Lord Jesus Christ, than we will be a congregation of servants, because that is Who Jesus was.
Motives, motives, motives…..but when it comes to being a servant, we also need to be careful about who our eyes are upon. When we have our eyes upon serving others, and our eyes are on those people, we will find ourselves disappointed over and over again. God wants us to keep our eyes on Him. We are servants of Jesus. He will never disappoint you. We serve for an audience of One.
The word translated saint is hagios. Hagios, and its Hebrew equivalent qadowsh, are usually translated “holy”. In Hebrew thought, if a thing is described as holy, the basic idea is that it is different from other things; it is in some sense set apart. In order to better understand this, let us look at how holy is actually used in the Old Testament.
When the regulations regarding the priesthood are being laid down, it is written: They shall be holy to their God (Lev.21:6). The priests were to be different from other men, for they were set apart for a special function.
The tithe was the tenth part of all produce which was to be set apart for God, and it is laid down: The tenth shall be holy to the Lord, because it is the Lord’s (Lev.27:30,32). The tithe was different from other things which could be used as food.
The central part of the Temple was the Holy Place (Exo.26:33); it was different from all other places.
The believers at Philippi here are called saints, because by virtue of Christ’s perfect sacrifice and their faith in Him, they are set apart for God, or sanctified by his Spirit for His exclusive use and purposes within the body of Christ here on earth.
Contrary to the traditions and beliefs of some people, all believers in Jesus are saints, not just a select few. Sainthood is not an achievement, it is a position that we have through faith in Jesus Christ.
Every Christian is positionally perfect in Christ Jesus, while at the same time, we are conditionally imperfect, and in a life long phase of being conformed to the image of God.
Note of the two residencies of every believer…our real home is in Christ Jesus; in heavenly places…our apartment is where we get our mail every day. One is permanent, the other is temporary. As we read in Ephesians 2, we are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. But on earth, these saints were in Philippi. No one can read Paul’s letters without seeing how often the phrases in Christ, in Christ Jesus, in the Lord occur. In Christ Jesus occurs 48 times, in Christ 34 times, and in the Lord 50 times. Clearly this was for Paul the very essence of Christianity. What did he mean? Marvin R. Vincent says that when Paul spoke of the Christian being in Christ, he meant that the Christian lives in Christ as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, the roots of a tree in the soil. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. He is our Lord and He is our life.
Paul mentions expressly the bishops and deacons of the congregation, not as a hierarchy separate from the congregation, but as a part of the congregation.
As early as the middle of the first century, therefore, the Christians recognized special ministers of the Word. The bishops were those members of the presbytery that were engaged in the ministry of the Word, in the capacity of preachers. The deacons were also members of the presbytery of the congregation, but were more properly engaged in the external business of the congregation, in the care of the poor, etc.
He mentions the church before the bishops and deacons, because the leadership are raised up by The Lord to edify, benefit and build up the church…. Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy, 2Co 1:24.
The primary purpose of the leadership of any church is to feed the sheep of Jesus and to take good care of His bride while He is away.
- 2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace- grace is that holy influence upon our souls that convicts us and draws us to the saving knowledge of Christ. It is that divine gift from God that affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm and loveliness of character. It is that grace of God that keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.
Peace- the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.
God’s grace is unconditional and undeserved and is not from this world. God’s peace is relational and inward, not of this world. A person will never experience the peace of God until they have experienced the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. No peace without grace. There is no peace our works because you never know if you have done enough…the rest of God ceases from our own works. Heb 3,4.
- 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
The first thought which Paul voices is one of gratitude and thanksgiving toward God. Whenever he thinks of the congregation at Philippi, he finds cause for grateful prayer to God.
Paul is going to tell us the kind of things that we are set out minds upon in chapter 4. Paul could have thought of Philippi and thought of being beaten and jailed. He could have remembered the pest that the demon-possessed girl was. Instead, he remembered the saints and his fondness for them.
- 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, Vs. 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
The specific reason for his joy was their fellowship in the gospel from the first day until the present moment. These believers eagerly assisted Paul in evangelizing Philippi from the beginning of the church there (Acts 16:12–40).
Note: Please observe in verses 4 and 5 that Paul isn’t saying that he is praying for them to support him. He prays for them because they support him.
- 6 He who began from the start in you a good work will carry it out to the end until the day of Christ Jesus.
The good work of which Paul is speaking is the work of regeneration. This is a good work because God has wrought it, not because of any cooperation in man; it is God’s work all alone. Paul Kretzma
A Work Of God
- Eph. 2:1; John 6:44. Salvation is a work begun by God in eternity past – Eph. 1:4-6; Rev. 13:8; 17:8)
A Work Of Grace
- Eph. 2:8-9 – God does in us what we cannot do for ourselves. He comes to those who are helpless to come to Him – Rom. 5:6-8. Salvation is a gift from God and is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Salvation is an ongoing work! Every single believers testimony is I was saved – I am being saved – I will be saved. The present phase of our salvation is the process of sanctification. And God’s plan is to reproduce Jesus in each of us – Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18. It Was Ruth Graham Bell I believe who had it mentioned at her memorial service these words. Construction is now complete, thank you for your patience!
Before we move on beloved, would you please observe here in verse 6 that we are not able in our own strength and power to remain faithful to the end, but it is God who began this work in us Who will be faithful to will complete it. This confirms the doctrine of eternal security. The only salvation that is spoken of in Scripture is the one that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of.
The work of salvation is a complete work. Nobody is able to pluck us out of the hand of our Heavenly Father or our Lord Jesus Christ. We are kept by the power of God unto salvation, Peter writes.
- 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
Heart- the heart as it is used here and in many other places in Scripture refers to the center of our thoughts and feelings, not the physical, blood pumping organ.
Defense and confirmation– During his imprisonment, the Philippians sent Paul money and Epaphroditus’s services to support the apostle, thus sharing in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.
- 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
The affections (KJV, bowels). The Greek word for affections is the strongest Greek word to express compassionate love—a love that involves one’s entire being. Thus, the mercies Paul has for this congregation is actually the overflow of the mercies and love that The Great Shepherd of the sheep, Christ Jesus has poured into him.
- 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; vs. 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; vs. 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
He prays that their love would abound more and more. This means that biblical love is something we need to work at constantly. Did you give any thought to it this past week? Husbands, are you working at loving your wife? Wives, are you working at loving your husband? Parents, are you working at loving your children? Children, are you working at respecting and loving your parents? Singles, are you working at loving your roommate? Saints are we actively working on loving one another in the flock here. Growing in love is a lifelong process.
Would you notice beloved that Biblical love is bound up with knowledge and discernment. There is a tendency to think of love as being undiscriminating. To the natural mind, discrimination and love seem like opposites. But Paul prays that the Philippians would grow in discerning love. Discerning love is not blind. It does not close its eyes to reality. It is not a feeling devoid of content. Biblical love is related to true knowledge and it operates with careful discernment.
To grow in the love and knowledge of God will cause us to be perceptive, and the objective is that we are able to distinguish between right and wrong. Heb 5.12-14
Again, we see the need for sound, biblical theology and a biblical worldview of life, because biblical discernment is the ability to understand, interpret, and apply truth skillfully. Discernment is a cognitive act. Therefore no one who spurns right doctrine or sound reason can be truly discerning.
Thus the “I feel good” about taking this job or “leaving this company” or “venturing into this area of ministry” is in actual contradiction to what Paul is talking about here. Beloved, I do not need to tell you that there are plenty of things that feel good that are not God’s will for any of us!!
The purpose of discerning prayer is that we might approve what is excellent. The NIV translates, “to discern what is best.” Moffatt paraphrases, “Enabling you to have a sense of what is vital.” In other words beloved, God does not want us to dissipate our energies and to waste our time by forgetting what is vital and giving ourselves to second and third rate issues.
What is vital is that you focus your life on loving God and others based on true knowledge and discernment. If that is at the center of your life, everything else will fall into its proper place.
Sincere and without offense. The Greek word for sincere has been traced by some to originally describe something that was “tested by sunlight.” Let me explain, in the ancient world, dishonest pottery dealers filled cracks in their inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them, making worthless pots difficult to distinguish from expensive ones. The only way to avoid being defrauded was to hold the pot to the sun, making the wax- filled cracks obvious. Dealers marked their fine pottery that could withstand “sun testing” as sine cera —“without wax.”
Without offense can be translated “Blameless” and it refers to relational integrity. Christians are to live lives of true integrity that do not cause others to sin. To be blameless means to walk without stumbling. Paul used the word “blameless” to describe his own conscience before God and men (Acts 24:16). Since God looks on the heart, to be sincere and blameless means to live openly before God, judging sin on the thought level. It means that you don’t live a double life, putting on a good front around the church folks, but living another way when you’re alone or with your family.
Please note that the purpose of bearing fruit is for the glory and praise of God beloved. The word “fruit” implies, this is a process, not something instantaneous. The word picture also implies that it is the life of Christ working in and through us that produces the fruit (John 15:1-6).
- Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Our lives are to shine that people may see our good works and glorify our Heavenly Father. God is truly glorified when His people abound in discerning love.
The mood today is that if you are critical of anyone’s doctrine or personal life, no matter how unbiblical it may be, you are not loving and you are arrogant to judge this person. Jesus’ words, “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matt. 7:1) are wrenched out of context and misapplied. If people would just keep reading, Jesus goes on to say, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6). How can you deter- mine if someone is a dog or swine if you don’t make discerning judgments? A few verses later He warns us to beware of false prophets who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). It takes a discerning sheep to see that this isn’t a fellow-sheep whom we need to embrace, but a ravenous wolf we need to avoid! Thus biblical love cannot be divorced from the true knowledge of God and from the discernment between truth and error and right and wrong that comes from a careful knowledge of Scripture.
These believers, along with Paul, were true servants of God, and of one another. Servant = Slave, one devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. This is the mark of genuine Christianity, a willingness to put others ahead of self – Phil. 2:4; Rom. 12:14; Rom. 14:19-22; Rom. 15:1) Salvation is only the beginning! Eph. 2:10; James 2:18
Jesus Christ never saves anyone so that they can just add church attendance or church events to their list of weekly “things to do”. Nor does He save anyone so that they can live happier lives that are just as self-centered as they were before. Every believer is saved to serve God.
Genuine Christian servanthood and love will always manifests itself in action one toward another– 1 John 3:18; James. 2:15-16. Love is a command and not an option –Matt. 22:39. Genuine love among brethren is a mark of true salvation – 1 John 4:7; 20. It will always be costly, it will rarely be convenient.
Paul, who knew that it was God who started the work and God who would finish it, prayed fervently for these people. He exhorted them and taught them to apply sound biblical principles. Beloved, a proper belief in the sovereignty of God will never lead a person or a congregation to stoic passivity, but rather to diligent and fervent labor.
Why do I need to pray? Why do we have prayer meetings throughout the week? Why are we having another Week of Prayer in September? If God already knows everything, and He’s going to accomplish His sovereign will anyway, what’s the point of praying?” It is because the prayers of the saints are a vital part of God’s method for accomplishing His sovereign will. And He uses prayer to change the heart of the one doing the praying, as well as to work in the hearts of others.
Paul and Philippi had a wonderfully close relationship because they shared some wonderful things. They prayed for one another faithfully. They served one another lovingly. They supported the work of God’s kingdom practically and financially. In other words, seeking first the Kingdom of God was not just another “thing” to juggle along with other things in life. They lived and invested their lives in the kingdom of God and every other thing revolved around that, not the other way around. They had a kingdom perspective of fellowship, a kingdom perspective of vocation; a kingdom perspective of marriage and family; a kingdom perspective of finances.
Those same characteristics they shared are just as needed today as they were then. I challenge every one of us to strive together to make this church even greater in the coming days than she has been in the past, or is right now.
Standing still in the knowledge and love of The Lord Jesus Christ is not an option for the born again follower of Jesus. We do not grow in the Christian life by looking in the rear view mirror.
Salvation IS the work of God, but what is the work of God?
- This is the work of God, that you believe on Him Whom He has sent. John 6.29