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 – Philippians 1:6
Paul wrote the above scripture when was at the tail-end of his ministry. At this time, he was in prison awaiting his death and so he used his free time to write to his friends in the church at Philippi. He had heard about the issues they were struggling with (like disunity) and wrote to them to encourage them to get back on track. As was his custom, Paul used his real-life experiences and examples to communicate the truth of God’s word. In this case, he knew that the God who called him was faithful to complete the work he called him to do. Here are some of the important lessons we can glean from the scripture.
Confidence in God
The entire verse is pegged on the second line of the verse – He who began. Paul was making it clear that his confidence was not in human wisdom or human beings but in the God of all creation. He was reminding the believers at Philippi that if one puts his trust and confidence in God, then everything else would fall into place. As an itinerary preacher, Paul had seen it all. He had been shipwrecked, he had lacked, he had been stoned, he had been heckled, and many other tribulations. At one point, he even had such a sharp disagreement with Mark and Barnabas, who were his ministry companions that they stopped traveling together. Apostle Paul had learned the hard way how futile it was to put your trust in man. And so he was making it clear to the church at Phillipi that they should put their trust and confidence in God alone. In the words of scripture, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” and “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is” (Jeremiah 17:5,7).
The Good Work
The good work can mean any number of things. However, the fact that it is “work” makes it clear that there is some effort that goes into it. Paul could be referring to the transformative process of salvation that begins at repentance. Even though it may appear effortless at first, the new convert is expected to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” This often calls for sacrifice and discipline to develop the required spiritual disciplines.
The good work could also be a reference to ministry. Paul was the best person to talk about ministry because that is what he lived for. He understood the ups and downs and he had planted enough churches to know it was no walk in the park. But he was encouraging the Philippians to remember it was not just work – it was good work. It was good for two main reasons;
- God was in the work – God is a good God and as such, anything he is involved in is good. Whether the verse was talking bout salvation or about ministry, God was in it. This meant that it was a good thing and as James aptly puts it, every good and perfect thing comes from above.
- The was a reward – another reason why the work is good is because it has a reward. There are lots of pieces of evidence from scripture that God will always reward his people for their good work. The ultimate reward is admittance into the eternal rest in heaven. But God also promises to reward those who serve while here on earth through good health, wealth, peace, and many other types of blessings.
Will Carry It On
In this line, Paul made it clear that God would carry on the work he had begun in them. Man has the habit of abandoning ship when things get thick but Paul was reminding the church at Philippi that they could count on God to be with them to the last drop. The church needed to hear this because they lived in an era of persecution where the apostles and other believers were killed for their faith. Apostle Paul himself was counting the days toward his execution. All the apostles of Jesus (excluding John) would also be martyrs. In such an environment, it would be possible for the devil to inspire fear in the hearts of believers and thereby dampen their faith. However, Apostle Paul reminded them that they could count on God to carry them through. Even if they were to suffer persecution, they could take comfort in the fact that God would be with them through it all.
Paul promised the church that God would see to it that the work was completed. Not only would he walk the journey with them but he would ensure they reach the finish line. Paul had already seen God do this for him. He had traveled to the Gentiles and preached the gospel to far-flung places. He had the dead raised, the sick healed and many sinners converted. And now he was in prison waiting for the Lord to usher him into the heavenly reward. This is what he wrote to his son Timothy,
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Paul was encouraging the church at Philippi that if they did not have confidence in the God that began the good work in them, they would certainly say the same words at some point in their life. They would look back with satisfaction knowing that God had completed the work that he began in them.
In summary, Philippians 1:6 is a source of encouragement for the church, assuring us that the God who began the work of salvation in our lives will faithfully continue it until its completion on the day of Christ Jesus. It underscores God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and commitment to the work that he has begun in the life of every believer. It makes it clear that God will never abandon ship no matter the storm.