Sermon on Philippians 1:6 – “God’s Follow Through”

Sermon on Philippians 1:6 – “God’s Follow Through”

Sermon for Sunday Evening, April 14, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Sermon Text

[Phl 1:1-11 ESV] 1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Sermon Text:

[Phl 1:6 ESV] 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.

Introduction

I played a little Little League baseball. I was even fortunate to be on a league championship team one year. So I usually played 2nd base, but I did try pitching a few times. My father had been a solid pitcher back in the 1960s when he played Little League and so he taught us (my brothers and I) how to through the ball. And there is, let’s say, three stages of pitching. The wind up, the pitch, and the follow through. I did the fairly straightforward wind up — nothing crazy — then threw the ball (hard but somewhat erratically which I why I never made it as a pitcher), and then there was the follow through. You don’t stop when the ball is released out of your hand, you continue your motion, even pointing where you want the ball to go. The follow through improves the pitch. Its not a good pitch without a good follow through.

So I came upon a text Tuesday just before our Session meeting which I read there.

[Phl 1:6 ESV] 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.

Here we see God’s follow through.

And this is an important subject, because we see the power and goodness of God in His follow through, and we find further assurance of our salvation. Assurance, not based on ourselves but on God.

In the “P” of TULIP we call it “perseverance of the saints.” But the better term is “preservation of the saints.”

The reason preservation is better than perseverance is that the action is on the right subject, God.

We do indeed persevere as Christians.

But we persevere BECAUSE God preserves us.

The preservation of the saints is God’s work.

We who are called to be Saints of God WILL CONTINUE TO BE saints of God, by His grace.

And not only that — not only are we preserved — we are IMPROVED! We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit in our lives to become more holy, a process which does not end until glory when we are made perfectly holy and can sin no more.

This is all God’s follow through.

Yes, it starts with the pitch. Christ’s death on the cross. And it is a strike.

I had a baseball reference this morning in my sermon as well. Regarding David and Goliath, I noted that a pitcher has been record at 105 mph, and a sling probably can throw a stone even faster. Well this week I got watching some pitching videos. I saw the one thrown at 105 mph. And what a pitch. Good luck hitting that.

Well, at Christ’s death on the cross “it is finished.” Sins are forgiven. The work of justification has been done. And we are declared righteous in the sight of God.

But the work which Christ ACCOMPLISHED, is then to be APPLIED by God.

Christ promises to send “another helper,” the Holy Spirit. This is follow through. Though Christ departs to sit at the right hand of the father in heaven, the “Spirit of Truth,” Christ promises, will be with you forever.

Christ cares about us, so that even when he is gone, the Love of God continues. We are guarded. We are preserved.

We have this term “follow through” not only in pitching, but in business and in life. You start a project, it is good to follow it through to the end. You give someone a promise, it is good to fulfill it. You delegate work to another, but you don’t forget about it; you follow through checking to see that all has gone well.

So Paul says, really in passing, and it is those “in passing” truths that are so great. They are understood, taken for granted. He’s not trying to prove a point, but simply stating truth when he says:

[Phl 1:6 ESV] 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.

This is in his introduction, or opening statement, in the letter to the church at Philippi.

Now, why is it that Paul is sure that their good works will be brought to completion?

Its not because the Christians there are so great. Rather, HE (GOD) began the good work and HE (God) will bring it to completion.

Paul even explains further:

[Phl 1:7 ESV] 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

The key point there is that they are “partaker with me of grace.”

It is the grace of God that threw the pitch and the grace of God that has the follow through.

It is the grace of God that begin the good work, and it is the grace of God that guaratntees it will come to completion.

What is this completion?

What is being completed?

Even, what has been started?

The commentator Fausset connect it to the previous verse and says “So as to the particular work here meant, the perfecting of their fellowship in the Gospel.”

Similarly, Matthew Henry says that it “may be understood as the planting of a the church among them.” “He who hath planted Christianity in the world will preserve it as long as the world stands. Christ will have a church till the mystery of God shall be finished and the mystical body completed.”

But then he also says “it is rather to be applied to particular persons, and then it speaks of the certain accomplishment of the work of grace wherever it is begun.”

This is my preference, which Clark and other commentators (MacArthur, Ralph Martin) hold. The good work (which may include the partnership of the Gospel, the fellowship of the church) is ultimately the grace of God which gives us salvation. .

So the “it” which God is following-through on is the work of salvation.

Summarizing what I’ve said here, I think these comments from Ralph Martin’s commentary may be helpful:

“It is possible to take a good work as an allusion to the Philippians’ participation in the apostolic ministry … on the other hand, Paul may be looking beyond the generosity of the Philippians to that work of grace within their lives which first gave them the impulse to contribute to his missionary labors. The good work would then bet he action of God at the time of their conversion.”

The latter is my position, and surely the important theological point. God because the good work in you. God will continue. He will follow through.

We should emphasize that it is the work of God’s grace, which we cannot begin. HE must begin it. To say that we begin our salvation is the mistake of so many. Henry says rightfully: “We could not begin it ourselves, for we are by nature dead in trespasses and sins: and what can dead men do towards raising themselves to life; or how can they begin to act till they are enlivened in the same respect in which they are said to be dead?”

And it not just that God has started a good work, and will complete it at the day of Christ. It is also that God is working even now. The continuous action is seen in the KJV and NIV translations of this verse:

[Phl 1:6 KJV] 6 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:

[Phl 1:6 NIV] 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Finally that good work will be completed on the day of Jesus Christ. That is, the great and fearful day of the return of Christ; when all are judged by believers are not condemned, having the grace of God to bring them to heaven where they will be COMPLETE in righteousness, no longer singer. Christ will have then completed that we he began.

And this is such an assurance to Christians. Christ will complete it. He will do it. He’s not going to turn his back on me. I will not come up short on the day of judgment, but will be forgiven and blessed because of Christ. That is the Gospel, and it is a glorious gospel. And it brings us confidence.

That is what Paul says. “I am sure of this.” Some translate, “I am confident of this.” God will follow through.

That tells us about the character of God. His love, as 1 Corinthians 13 says “is patient” and “love never ends.” God’s love is not dependent on how we treat him. He loved us even when we were his enemies, and chose us for salvation.

That is the love which we are called to. We love one another, not only when we feel like it, but all the time. That is not possible if you think of love as solely an emotion. Love, scripturally is more like a duty. That is why Christ says “If you love me, follow my commands.” And that is why in wedding vows we say that we will love our spouse “in good times and in bad.” Love is a consistent action which we are called to. And on which we are called to follow through.

Let us love as God has loved us; with follow through.

There are three other verses I want to mention that repeat the main message here. That message is “what God has started, He will finish.” That salvation he has made know to you, He will bring to you.

Here they are. First from 1 Thessalonians

[1Th 5:23-24 ESV] 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

God will sanctify you completely. He will keep you blameless. And Paul has the same confidence as in our verse from Philippians. He says “He [God] who calls you is faithful, he will surely do it.

Then, from 1 Corinthians:

[1Co 1:8 ESV] 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sustain you to the end. God follows through, continuously.

Then Hebrews 12:

[Heb 12:2 ESV] 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I love this one. The founder AND the perfecter of our faith. Christ established it, and Christ completes it. So that all glory goes to God, and we have confidence. Though we are sinners, HE is able, and HE will follow through.