Since Paul tells the church in Philippi of His great confidence that the beginner of the good work in them will surely perfect it even unto the day of Jesus Christ, and since this is the reason for his thanking God upon every remembrance of this church, and also the reason for admonishing them unto the perfection set before them in the life to come, it is incumbent upon us to show the great implication of the certainty of God’s work as stated here by Paul in verse 6.
In the first place it must be pointed out that Paul stands upon the solid rock in the rock-bottom assurance that God is the Alpha and the Omega of our salvation. It is true, the text does not employ the terms Alpha and Omega. But that is the sense and meaning nonetheless. For when Paul speaks here of the certain of final and ultimate salvation he is not speaking simply of his confidence and faith in God’s work, but he is speaking of his confidence and faith in God Himself. It is true that God’s faithfulness is revealed in this work of our complete and final salvation. But this does not preclude the glorious reality that Paul rejoices in prison, that he has all things and abounds. For Paul believes in God! God is the rock of his confidence and boasting. The form of the Greek sentence indicates that Paul is here rejoicing in God, as the one who has begun this good work in the Philippian saints, and not simply in His work. Just as in the Twelve Articles of Faith, we do not say, “I believe in the work of creation,” but rather “I believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, so here too Paul trusts in God, the beginner of salvation. He believes in the Alpha, and, therefore, in the Omega of our salvation!
What a solid rock to stand on!
All other considerations are simply so much quick-sand. And certainly the winds bf the enemies of the gospel would blow down all Paul’s confidence were it not for this confidence in. the beginner of our salvation! But now Paul rejoices. God’s fountain of strength is the well-spring of Paul’s confidence with respect to the final glory of the Philippian church. And we may well add: all other ground of confidence is simply sinking sand also for us.
When Paul here speaks of the divine work of our salvation he does not view it primarily from the viewpoint of election. Notice, that we said “primarily!” This implies that the glorious truth of sovereign election is indeed presupposed in this “viewpoint” of Paul. For Paul’s viewpoint is that of applied salvation in time; he is viewing the church here as she must run the race; keep the faith, and look forward to the crown of life for all the faithful. But, even so, the glorious doctrine of election is still the heartbeat of salvation. That heartbeat of election is clearly stated in the gospel tidings in I John 3:10, “Herein is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins.” In, such a passage we have the election of God in the cross of Calvary. And when John adds: “Beloved, if God thus (outoos) loved us (we also ought to love each other” then let no one ever say: do not tell us what we ought to do! Rather let it be sounded from the pulpits that since God so loved us and gave His Son for us we ought to lay clown our lives for the brethren! And when this exhortation of the gospel is proclaimed let then no one complain that this is no preaching of election, nor should anyone “go over the horse” in the other direction and Say: this passage has nothing to do with election; this simply tells us what we ought to do. Let us not separate in either direction what God has joined together, lest we tempt God either with a walk of antinomism or with a walk of legalistic phariseeism! It is incumbent upon the-preacher that he accurately set forth the truth of Scripture!
That duty is also incumbent upon the undersigned in this rubric!
And therefore we say: the viewpoint here is not primarily that of election, but it is that of the applied salvation in Christ, namely that of regeneration, calling, faith, justification, sanctification and glorification. Such is the viewpoint here in this passage.
How wonderful for the struggling believer to know that, He, who worketh in him both to will and to do, is God, the Alpha and Omega of our salvation! How wonderful it is to turn unto God in thanksgiving and in the midst of the saints to utter in glad strains. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as He hath chosen us in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6.
And that wonderful song can only be sung by us because God “hath begun” the good work in us “according to His counsel.”
This means briefly that as the things are in God’s counsel thus they will also be in history! Notice the “even as” in the above quotation from Ephesians 1:3-6! However, we should not fall into the error of teaching that history and the counsel of God are identical!! “Before, the foundation of the world” certainly is more than temporal in its meaning, but nevertheless is also indicates that the counsel is “prior” to history. It is, only after the seals of the book of Him on the throne are broken, that the events of history in judgment and in salvation transpire historically.
For this reason we can distinguish between the “viewpoint” of “election” and that of “applied salvation” in the word of God. And for this same reason we also distinguish between the “fruit of righteousness in our life” and the chastisement and means through which it is wrought. And in this sense we distinguish also a good and sound “before” and “afterwards!”
According to God’s unchangeable purpose in Christ Jesus, our Lord, he began the good work in the Philippian church in Macedonia. It was God’s elective purpose in Christ Jesus that shows us the reason why the Holy Spirit did not allow Paul, Silas and Timothy to preach the word in Asia and, when they tried to go into Bithynia, they we not permitted to do so, and thus were directed to Troas in Mysia! And according to this unchangeable purpose of election Paul receives a vision of the Macedonian who says: Come over and help us! And, again, when Paul and Silas come to Philippi and find the worshipping women at a riverside, among whom is Lydia, a merchant women in purple, then it is elective love that opens their hearts for the gospel. And thus God began the good work in these Philippians here at the riverside, in the prison by giving the jailor and his house contrition of faith and repentance! What a fond and cherished memory for the prisoner of the Lord in Rome! God had begun a good work in them. Small wonder that Paul thanks God as often he thinks of this church! Indeed, he has all things and abounds!
For, when God thus began the good work in them through the Holy Spirit of Christ, and working efficaciously through the preaching of Paul, He will bring them all the way to glory. For this God is not only the Alpha but He is also the Omega. And he is this emphatically in the work of salvation of the church and the renewal of all things. For God will surely conform each believer unto the image of the Son of God, the firstborn amongst the brethren, according to his purpose. He will cause all things to work together for their good. And in this causing all things to work together He is finishing our salvation even unto the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He well not simply finish it then. But each step of the way He is so energizing us that He brings us to that end! He deals with us as with sons. He chastises us to correct us. Thus faith must be perfected in us. And this process of justification and sanctification is energized into us each step of the way!
What a confidence!
This is what Paul believes concerning the elective, saving work of God.
And, therefore, he prays for the concrete sanctification of these believing Philippians. They were not yet in heaven. The day of Christ Jesus had not yet come. They still are in the flesh, and in this flesh there dwells no good at all. And so Paul prays in Rome for their perfecting of sanctification in the fear of God. It must be worked out in their whole life. However, in this church at Philippi, it is especially in the sphere of the brethren that it must be worked out. Love was not perfected in them yet, and their joy could, therefore, not be full! And since love was not perfected in this church Paul’s cup of joy was not overflowing either. And how passionately Paul desires this! O, how he admonishes this church to so walk that his joy may be full!
He prays that their love may abound more and more! And it must abound in the practical walk in gratitude for God’s redemption. For if we shut up our bowels of mercy for the brethren, then the love of God does not abide in us, controlling our thinking, willing and all our aspirations. Love is then not perfected in us, casting out all fears! For perfect love hath no torment. In perfect love there is exhibited a thorough knowledge and understanding of all life’s problems in the light of the law of God aa the spiritual guide to our feet. And such knowledge certainly manifests itself in all spiritual sensitiveness, in that moral discernment of ethical matters as its plain from verse 10, where we read in order that ye may approve the things that differ, in order that ye may be sincere and blameless into the day of Christ.”
When such love thus abounds more and more in all knowledge and spiritual discernment we shall very readily perceive the difference between a walk of good works out of faith, according to God’s law and unto His glory, and one that is not. The latter we shall abhor. What a difference we will then notice between the discerning with holy joy the work of the Spirit and of grace in us and that of the flesh, and how shall we then not crucify the latter. Hatred and love, forgiveness and lack of forgiveness will be then clearly distinguished by those who fight against sin and unbelief in a good conscience. Lack of zeal for God and true and pious zeal will clearly be immediately recognized. The distinction between stubbornness of the flesh, which is as the sin of witchcraft, and the steadfastness of godliness will be discerned with great clarity. In a word we will then work out our salvation in holy fear and trembling, standing in holy awe before God!
Then we shall be sincere and without offence into the day of Christ.
To be sincere means that when our life, our works are judged by God in the clearest and penetrating light of the sun they are able to stand the light of day. And that thus our walk is such that we do not cause the brother to stumble! Nor that our walk will cause the name of God to be blasphemed among the unbelievers of this world. On the contrary our life must have in it the fruit of righteousness, the righteousness in Christ Jesus.
Why does Paul tell the Philippians of this prayer of his?
He tells them this because in so doing he admonishes them unto the very walk for which he prays to God. It is Ora et Labora! Paul planted many years ago in Philippi. Now he waters and nurtures. But God gives the increase through His own means: the exhortations of the gospel!
Paul does this because He believes not only, that the one who has begun the good work in the believers shall surely perform this, but because he is equally certain that he shall perform this also (not: only) through admonitions of the gospel!