Chapter 1: The Gospel’s Progress Amidst Opposition and Suffering
Section 1: Verses 1-11 – Introduction: Greetings, Thankfulness, and God’s Work in the Saints’ Lives (continued)
The Glorious, Immutable Destiny of the Saints
At the same time, Paul also rejoiced in the work that the Almighty was doing in them, v. 6. As the hymn exults,
‘The work which His goodness began The arm of His strength will complete. His promise is “Yea and Amen” And never was forfeited yet’.1
‘Here is confidence indeed’, another writer concludes, ‘Our salvation can no more be forfeited than the Father can break his pledged word to glorify his Son’.2 The sovereign omnipotent God, who in His grace began to work in the saints, will not cease until He has completely finished it on ‘the Day of Jesus Christ’, v. 6. This future day encompasses a number of events, including the Lord’s return, and judgement seat. Having called, justified, and sanctified the Christians, He will not fail to glorify them with Himself, Rom. 8. 28-30.
Paul’s affection for the Philippian believers is indicated further in the graphic metaphor ‘I have you in my heart’.3 They shared in a common grace with Paul, which strengthened them for witness in the midst of persecution and difficult circumstances. Their support aided the apostle in ‘the defence and confirmation of the gospel’, v. 7. The former word, ‘defence’, refers to the reasoned arguments they made for the gospel among the lost. The latter term, ‘confirmation’, assures the reader that the good news also builds up and establishes the saints. In the contemporary scene, there is a definite need for both of these activities. Thank God for Christians who respond to challenges to the gospel, such as evolution, atheism, new age philosophy, ‘emergent’ deceptions, and false gospels. Not only must unbelievers know that the gospel credibly answers all challengers, the believers must also be assured that ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’ is worth suffering and dying for because it is absolutely true!
The Wise Love that accompanies the Gospel
The gospel produces a love that transcends simple emotion, it is much more than a feeling, as the world supposes. The love produced in believers by the gospel is discerning. It is able to test different things, choosing what is best for God’s glory. As VINE wrote, ‘Love is not impulsive, as though it were a mere emotion; love is intelligent, and therefore seeks that full and accurate knowledge which enables it to bestow itself worthily’.4 Paul prayed that the Philippian saints’ love would ‘abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgement; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ’, Phil. 1. 9-10. Believers must not settle for what is good at the expense of what is best. Everything must be evaluated in the light of God’s interests and glory.
The gospel also produces righteous behaviour in the lives of those who believe it. They are to be ‘sincere’ and ‘blameless’ in their conduct, v. 10. Moreover, by abiding in the True Vine, of whom the Christian message speaks, they produce much fruit, John 15. 1-8. The work of the Son of God in the saints, brings about an astounding ethical change that redounds unto ‘the glory and praise of God’, Phil. 1. 11. Thus, Christ’s labour in and through His people results in His Father receiving His proper honour.
The gospel of the grace of God has a formative effect on Christians. Believers today must return to the principles that are contained within the glad tidings because we are set apart for the purposes and pleasure of God. We must also love and pray for one another in keeping with the example of the early church. Evangelism, apologetics, and the confirmation of the believers must be activities to which the church of the 21st Century devotes itself. Discernment is at a premium, and we must test all things in regard to their helpfulness or possible impediment to the spread of God’s message. Above all, whatever good or ill we experience, we must do so for the glory of our Lord, remembering that He is working within us to produce fruit for His glory. He will not cease until He has completed His good work in us.
References 1 AUGUSTUS M. TOPLADY, A Debtor To Mercy Alone, stanza 2: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/d/e /debtorto.htm
2 J. ALEC MOTYER, The Message of Philippians in The Bible Speaks Today series; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984, P. 45. Electronic edition (Logos).
3 Greek scholars assert that it could also be rendered ‘you have me in your heart’, but most translations favour the rendering in the KJV. In my estimation, this translation best fits the context.
4 W. E. VINE, The Collected Writings of W. E. VINE. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Electronic edition (Logos).