Summary: He who has begun a good work in you will continue working at it, and will be bringing it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
GROWING TOWARDS THE DAY
Like all good projects, it all began with a vision. The Apostle Paul and his party had been “forbidden by the Holy Ghost” to preach the word in Asia, then tried to go into Bithynia “but the Spirit suffered them not.” Then a man of Macedonia appeared to Paul in a night vision, and pleaded “Come over into Macedonia and help us.”
From this Paul and Silas - and Luke, the author of the Book of Acts - gathered that “the Lord had called us” to preach the gospel to the people of Macedonia. They responded with promptitude, and “immediately” sought passage to Philippi. As a result, the first recorded convert to Christianity on European soil was a woman named Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:6-15).
Paul had fond memories of the church which he had planted in Philippi, and each time they came to mind he thanked God for them (Philippians 1:3). The Apostle’s prayers for them were persistent - “always… every… all” - yet ever joyful (Philippians 1:4). Just as he and Silas had sung praises and prayed in prison after the founding of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:25), so Paul continued to rejoice in the Lord and pray for them in the midst of further adverse circumstances:- he was back in prison again when this letter was written.
The Apostle was thankful for their partnership in the spreading of the gospel, which had continued “from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:5). In Thessalonica they had sent “once and again” for his needs (Philippians 4:16). Now their kindness towards him was beginning to flourish once more (Philippians 4:10).
The Apostle expressed his confidence that, “He who has begun a good work in you will continue working at it, and will be bringing it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The sure ground of our hope is not based on our own ability to persevere, but in the Lord’s ability to accomplish His own purposes in our lives. It is the Lord’s work, not ours: so we can be sure, as we hasten towards the Day, that it will not be left unfinished.
This does not mean that we sit around doing nothing. What God is working IN our lives, we must work OUT (Philippians 2:12-13). The reality of our faith is manifested in the works that follow (Ephesians 2:10).
Paul grounds some of this confidence in the love which he has for the Philippians (Philippians 1:7). It is also evident in their love for him, and in their identification with his bonds in the cause of the gospel. Their quickness to defend the gospel against the gainsayers - and to affirm it to those who had an ear to hear - was a manifestation of the grace upon which all our works are based.
Paul’s love extended to a yearning for them all, like a parent missing his children (Philippians 1:8). The Apostle prayed for their love to grow (Philippians 1:9). Love is the seed which Paul desired to see “abound more and more” in their lives, “in knowledge and discernment.”
To become a Christian is to enter into the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Christian growth is attested by an increase in our knowledge of the things of God (Colossians 1:10). The attainment of a fullness of knowledge is also the goal (Ephesians 4:13).
Discernment is right thinking in relation to that knowledge: a correct reaction and subsequent action. Paul prayed that they would “approve what is excellent” (Philippians 1:10). This is an approval which we are to put into practice in our lives: embracing things which are not only different, but of a superior quality.
The LORD has said, “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). We might realistically strive in our inner life to be pure, even as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3), and may live our outer lives blamelessly before men, giving no offence except the offence of the Cross (Galatians 5:11). Thereby we grow towards the day of Christ, with a view to His coming.
The evidence that we are rooted in Jesus is that we will “bring forth fruit” (John 15:16). Paul prays that the Philippians - and all of us - will be “filled with the fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11). This can only occur when we have a working relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the harvest towards which we aim as we grow in love towards the Lord. But it is God who gives the increase (cf. Mark 4:26-29). In the final analysis, our salvation - from beginning to end, and throughout - is “to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).