In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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. (Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 1:4-6)
The Philippian church had been a giving church. Paul reminds them that they were the only church who supported him as he left Macedonia for Achaia and Greece (Philippians 4:15). And when he was in the next big town over from Philippi, Thessalonica, and was experiencing such tough opposition and persecution, the gift from the Philippians was extremely timely and helpful (Philippians 4:16). Their generosity was one more thing that had knit their hearts and Paul’s together. They were partners in the gospel!
Partnership can be a wonderful thing when the partners are on the same page. It can bring out the worst in us when we are not on the same page with a partner. The Philippians were originally partnering with each other in their support of Paul, but now seemed to be fighting over just how to do that, and things were miserable. The once happy church was struggling with the conflict. There is very little more painful than church conflict.
But Paul had a confidence! What he knew about God and His salvation was that once God began a work in someone He would finish it. Once He rescued a person He didn’t leave them to their own devices to finish up the rescue. He didn’t get them in the lifeboat and then refuse to feed them or make them row for some distant shore on their own, subject to the storms on the ocean or the creatures who would see the rescuees as prey. He would bring that boat to shore!
Because of this confidence in God and because the Philippians had given evidence of God at work within them from the very beginning, Paul believed that their partnership would once again be harmonious. He was going to be persuasive and partner with God to bring that about, but it was ultimately a God-thing. We’ll see a repeat of this theme throughout the letter.
Is there someone you know who has given every evidence of God’s work of rescue in their lives but who is now struggling or even seemingly without struggle despite going the opposite way from God? If God began this good work in them He will complete it. This doesn’t mean He won’t have to use some severe discipline to make that come about. It doesn’t mean you won’t be called upon, like Paul, to make a contribution to the effort. What it does mean, however, is that there is hope for this person’s completed rescue. A true believer will persevere in faith.
Paul saw evidence and drew a conclusion from it. The Philippians had shown the work of God in their lives. God would complete that work. What if the evidence for a person’s salvation is sketchy? To that degree our hope is lessened. But if they have indeed come to Christ, they cannot lose what Christ began in them. We cannot lose our salvation because it includes much more than an initial conversion. As Paul says elsewhere (Romans 8:29), it includes being conformed to the image of Christ. That is the complete salvation Jesus purchased for us.
Don’t give up on that erring Christian. Model for them what it means to live out Christ’s love and persuasively compel them to return to the truth. If God has saved them, they will return!
For Further Study Read:
What does God do with our unconfessed sins? (Ask the Pastors)
What is the sin that leads to death? (Ask the Pastors)
Does 1 Corinthians 6 teach that you can lose your salvation? (Ask the Pastors)
What is the unpardonable sin? (Ask the Pastors)
Can backsliding cause me to lose my salvation? (Ask the Pastors)
Can a Christian fall from grace? (Ask the Pastors)
Does suicide keep me from heaven? (Ask the Pastors)