“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
To be confident is to be persuaded and, then, to trust. The life of a Christian in this present evil world () makes real, lasting confidence most desirable. Life in this world is filled with many uncertainties. And there is much that opposes every believer. Satan and a host of fallen angels work to destroy every Christian and the church of Christ. And every Christian has countless weaknesses. Every Christian may be in communion with God’s Son and may delight in the law of God after the inward man, but he also has a law in his members warring against the law in his mind and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin that is in his members ( ). The result is daily sins of weakness and spots adhering to his best works. We are weak! And Satan is strong.
Therefore, to live with assurance while yet in this world the Christian must look up. Whenever he looks at himself, at his foes, or at the uncertainties of this world, he will be frightened. Confidence arises from looking up to God. The sovereign God has graciously and unconditionally established a relationship in which He is our heavenly Father. In this relationship, He saves unto Himself a people in Christ. Though sin remains in us, we may be certain and assured that we will receive the inheritance God has prepared for us. We will not perish, but have everlasting life!
Our text speaks of a “work” that God has begun to do in us. It is the “work” of saving us. This is the work of rescuing us from the greatest evil and giving to us the greatest good.
The work of saving unto Himself a people in Christ is a work that God does for us and also in us. The saving work for us is that which God accomplished before the foundation of the world. He sovereignly chose unto Himself a people, which He gave to His Son, Jesus Christ. He wrote their names in His book of life. God works for us when in time He sent His Son into the flesh and blood of His people. In our human nature, Jesus accepted the responsibility of bearing the punishment of all of our sins. He perfectly paid the price for us in His death, so that He could say, “It is finished.” This work Jesus did out of loving obedience to His Father, by which devotion He earned righteousness for every one of those given to Him of the Father. And God works for us with Jesus sitting at His Father’s right hand ruling over all things for the sake of His church and every individual member. At this position Jesus also works their salvation by interceding for them with the Father. God has done a saving work for us.
And God does a saving work in us. This He accomplishes in His people by His Spirit. The spiritual heart of natural man is sinful, powerfully contrary to God because it desires only to serve self. God gives us the new life of Jesus in regeneration, and He irresistibly works in us true conversion. To save us, the Spirit powerfully illuminates our minds so we can rightly understand and discern the things of God. This “regenerating Spirit pervades the inmost recesses of the man; He opens the closed and softens the hardened heart.” He “infuses new qualities into the will,” rendering it “good, obedient, and pliable.” He “actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruit of good actions” (Canons of Dordt, III/IV; 11).
With a new heart all the regenerated are able to acknowledge their own sinfulness and sin. They are able to see their personal need for Jesus. By faith they embrace Jesus as the Son of God, trust Him, and love Him. The Spirit calls them effectually by the gospel, so they receive it and believe it.
God also works in us so that we begin to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. He changes us so that we love Him, strive to render grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great a love for us. We begin to desire to be like Him.
Paul is inspired to identify this work in us as “good.” The Greek word translated “good” can refer to something as being morally right. But this same word can also mean that someone has accomplished what he designed to do. That is the way we are to interpret the “good work” in our text. God began a good work in the elect that will surely accomplish what He designed it to do. By calling God’s saving work “good,” we are already assured that it will not fail in its design. God will most certainly accomplish His purpose.
The Perfecting of God’s Work
God “will perform it.” The idea is that God will do it. The Greek word means that it will be brought to an end; it will be accomplished, perfected, completed.
The clear implication is that this good work of salvation in us is all God’s work. It is not the case that God waits for man to initiate the work by opening the door of his heart. Nor is it the case that God does His part and then He needs man to finish it. Rather, our text declares that this good work is all of God! The continuation of the saving work He began in us is something that He will do until He brings every one of His elect into heaven. The beginning and the end and everything in between are of God. Even our willing and doing are God’s work in us ()!
This passage of Scripture reveals the truth of the preservation of the saints. God is faithful. Having conferred grace, He mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves each elect in that grace, even to the end (cf. Canons of Dordt, V; 3). Not one of those in whom a work of grace has begun will ever perish or fall away. Every one of them will persevere through every uncertainty, every difficulty, and against all opposition until the day of Jesus Christ.
This means that God’s work of regeneration is an irreversible work. What God begins, He will certainly finish! One who is now alive in Christ will live forever in glory. If Christ is with you and in you today, then He will never leave you. It is utterly impossible that any elect will fall totally from faith and grace because “His counsel cannot be changed, nor His promise fail, neither can the call according to His purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated” (Canons of Dordt, V; 8).
This most comforting truth is taught throughout Scripture. Our heavenly Father will bring to perfect completion every saving work He begins: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (). “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” ( ). He regenerates us unto a lively hope of an inheritance that is “reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” ( ). All who believe in God’s only begotten Son shall “not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Nothing can “separate us from the love of Christ” ( ), nor will His call ever be revoked ( ). Jesus promises to give to His sheep “eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” ( ). “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day ( ).
Of this truth we may be “confident,” that is, be persuaded and assured.
How very sad to have this blessed assurance taken away with the teaching that salvation is man’s choice. Or when God’s people are told that they can fall away from grace and fall out of the covenant. Or when justification is said to be partly man’s work. Or when a believer is told that he cannot know for sure that he will reach heaven.
Our text gives confidence and assurance. Notice that all our confidence is in God and in Jesus. Confidence is lost when it is put in man. But God is sovereign, and thus His grace is irresistible, His work irreversible, and His promises sure! God is unchangeable () and His plan cannot be changed ( ). God is eternal, whose election took place in eternity ( ) and who works all things after the counsel of His own will ( ). God loves His chosen people and His love is unconditional and eternal ( ), from which we cannot be separated.
God performs His work of salvation in us “until the day of Jesus Christ.” This is the day when Jesus Christ will be glorified before all and every knee shall bow and confess that Jesus is Lord (). This is the day when all the credit and glory for the work of salvation will be given publicly to Jesus. All the glory for salvation will go to God and to the Lamb.
Thus every believer, who is yet in this world with their sinful nature, may be confident of his salvation and of his place in glory. This confidence and assurance springs from faith in God’s promises, from the Spirit’s witnessing with our spirit, and from a holy desire to preserve a good conscience and to perform good works (Canons of Dordt, V; 10). While Satan is constantly working to create doubt and fear, God declares that He has begun a good work in us and He will perform it to the end.
This comforting truth does not produce presumption or remissness, but humility, godliness, and patience (endurance) (Canons of Dordt, V; 12, 13). This confidence is an incentive to be serious and constantly striving to practice gratitude and good works. This confidence makes one more careful to continue in the ways of the Lord, so that we experience His gracious countenance, which experience is dearer than life and, if withdrawn, is more bitter than death.