Monday, March 5, 2007

God Finishes What He Starts--Philippians 1:6

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”

As I scan through my Microsoft Office files I notice many unfinished projects. Many projects abandoned forever, some I intend to pick up later. Walking through town I notice this same phenomenon. Unfinished houses, business that never quite reached their goal, or worse yet friendships and marriages that did not make it. Our culture has more information, more opportunity, more technology, and yet more unfinished business than any other culture. We far too quickly move from one project to the next and we often lack the virtue of perseverance. I am very thankful that God is not like us; God always finishes what He starts.

Paul is in the midst of thanking the Philippians for their partnership in the gospel. He thanks them that they have partnered with him from the first day until now, but not only will their partnership continue but God is going to carry on this “good work” until the “day of Jesus Christ”. But, what is this good work?

Three major opinions have been advanced concerning this text. One view holds that the “good work” is primarily referring to the financial giving of the Philippians. Those who hold to this view would point out that “partnership” in verse 5 almost always is referring to a financial transaction. Therefore, God is going to use the Philippians financial giving for His eternal purposes. John MacArthur, among others, notes that the verb translated “has begun” is used only here and in Galatians 3:3-both times referring to salvation itself.
[1] Therefore, Paul is saying that God began this work of salvation and therefore God is going to continue it.
I agree with MacArthur that God begins the work of salvation and God finishes the work of salvation. However, I do not agree with establishing that doctrine from this text. I do not believe that Paul is here referring to the Philippians salvation. Nor do I believe it is only referring to the financial giving. I agree with P.T. O’Brien as he further defines the Philippian partnership, “The meaning is not restricted exclusively to the monetary support given by the Philippians to the apostle, but denotes co-operation in the widest sense, their participation with the Apostle whether in sympathy or in suffering or in active labor or in any other way.”

What we must realize is that in Philippi they would have perhaps understood the word “work” to refer to the advancement of a military campaign. We see this military advancement theme all throughout the letter to the Philippians. It appears that Paul is saying they have “partnered together in the advancement of the gospel from the first day until now, and will continue in the good work of gospel advancement that God has begun in them.” Paul’s point then is that God will continue to advance the gospel until the day of Christ Jesus when it is brought to completion.
The point then is still the same, God finishes what He starts. Whether it is financial giving, gospel partnership, or salvation itself; God’s work will be accomplished.

Ask yourself:
  • Has God begun a good work in my life? (Salvation, Advancing the Gospel, etc.)
  • Do I see the continuing work of God in my life?
  • Stop and reflect upon how awesome and mighty God is that He will bring all things to completion, thank Him for not giving up on you, but for finishing His work.
[1] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. p.1711
[2] O’Brient, P.T., NIGTC Commentary Philippians. p.62.

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