God’s Not Finished Yet

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Philippians 1:1-6

INTRODUCTION: Today we begin our new message series through the book of Philippians. Philippians is a favorite book of the Bible for many people. It is a positive book, it is a practical book, and it is a joyful book. In fact joy is one of the predominant themes throughout its pages. However, I would not say it is the major theme. I would say the major theme is that of being “Partners in the Gospel.” Yes, Paul is full of joy, but his joy is based on the gospel and the fact that he and the Philippians are partners in the gospel together. (Read Philippians 1:1-6 and pray.)

God’s not finished yet, which is good news. Because let’s face it, you take a look at the condition of the world around you, you take a look at the condition of the church, you take a look at the condition of your own life, and if this was the end of the story, we would all be in big trouble. But it’s not the end of the story. God is still working. He’s not finished yet. And that is encouraging news. Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi to help them in their Christian walk and to encourage them as partners in the gospel.

Philippi was a Roman colony located in the northeast corner of what is now Greece. (see map; upper left-hand corner, just east of Macedonia, just south of Thrace) It was originally founded in the fourth century B.C. by Philip of Macedon who named it after himself. Philip was the father of Alexander the Great. It was not a big city, but it lay on a very important trade route, the Via Egnatia, (slide) which was the main highway between Rome and the eastern empire. Philippi was mostly Gentile. There were not even enough Jews there to start a synagogue, and all you needed for that was ten Jewish men. It was mostly Gentile and mostly pagan. There were a number of pagan cults represented but the dominant religion was the Imperial Cult, or worship of the emperor of Rome. Emperor worship was part and parcel of daily life and public gatherings in the city. And the primary obligation of emperor worship was to hail the emperor as Savior and Lord.

Paul founded the church at Philippi during his second missionary journey about 51 A.D. The book of Acts tells us he went there in response to a vision, and the church at Philippi was the very first church planted in Europe. When Paul writes this letter, he is in prison, probably in Rome, and the church at Philippi is now about ten years old, established, but still fairly young in the LORD.

We will be looking at the first six verses of Philippians this morning, and we will look at three main truths from these verses. The first truth is this: We are all partners in the gospel together. The second truth: God began a good work in you when you received Christ. And the third truth: God will finish the good work he started in you.

I. We are all partners in the gospel together (Phil. 1:1-2)

So let’s begin with truth number one: we are all partners in the gospel together. If you are a part of the church, if you belong to Christ, then you are a partner in the gospel. Let’s take a closer look at Paul’s greeting in verse 1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

   A. The gospel brings people from different backgrounds together (Acts 16)

The first thing I want us to learn from this greeting is that the gospel brings people from different backgrounds together. Notice that Paul addresses this letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.” So who were the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi?

Well according to Acts 16 you had people like Lydia, a wealthy, high status woman who dealt in purple cloth. You had the Philippian jailer and his family, who would have been much lower status. And you had people from the very lowest ranks of society like the slave girl out of whom Paul cast a demon. There were Gentiles who formerly worshiped the Jewish God, and there were former pagans. Like any church, you had a group of people from very diverse backgrounds who had all come together through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel is the great unifier. People from different social, racial and economic backgrounds all gather together in the church, and we are united in Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The gospel brings people from different backgrounds together.

   B. We are all saints in Christ Jesus

The second thing I want us to learn from Paul’s greeting is that we are all saints in Christ Jesus. Paul addressed this letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.” (Philippians 1:1) A saint is not some super-spiritual Christian who was assigned some super-spiritual task. The Bible says that we are all saints; all believers are saints; we have all been set apart for Christ and his gospel. There are not super-Christians and normal Christians. We are all saints in Christ Jesus.

   C. Leaders and lay people are partners together

And then the third thing I want us to learn from this greeting is that leaders and lay people are partners together. Notice how Paul introduces himself in verse 1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.” He could have said, “Paul, an apostle of Christ,” as he often did. He could have said, “Paul, the person who first shared the gospel with you and who founded your church.” He could have pulled rank, but he didn’t. This letter is all about being partners in the gospel, so instead Paul emphasizes that he and Timothy are fellow servants of Christ Jesus.

And then notice to whom he addresses the letter: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” Paul doesn’t just address the leadership, and he doesn’t just address the people in the church. He addresses them together. This letter is addressed to all of them. Why? Because leaders and lay people in the church are partners together.

What kind of partners? Partners in the gospel! Look at Paul’s greeting in verse two: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2) This was Paul’s favorite greeting to those whose lives had been changed by the gospel, emphasizing God’s grace in salvation and the peace we have with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So what do we learn from Paul’s greeting in verses 1-2? We are all partners in the gospel together. The gospel brings people from different backgrounds together. We are all saints in Christ Jesus. Leaders and lay people are partners together. That is the first truth I want us to grasp this morning. There is no such thing as spectator Christianity. We are all partners in the gospel together.

II. God began a good work in you when you received Christ (Phil 1:3-5)

The second truth is this: God began a good work in you when you received Christ. We find this truth developed in verses 3-5.

   A. Paul thanks God for the Philippians every time he remembers them (3)

First of all, look at verse 3 where Paul writes: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3) Paul says he thanks God for the Philippians every time he remembers them. Every remembrance, even just the mention of their names, brings a prayer of thanksgiving to God from Paul’s lips. Why? Paul thanks God, because it is God who began this good work in them. It is God who brought them to salvation, and so Paul is supremely thankful.

What a marvelous testimony as to how we should view each other in the body of Christ. Do you thank God for each other in the body of Christ? Does the mere mention of another believer’s name spur a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving to God? Paul thanks God for the Philippians every time he remembers them.

   B. In all his prayers for all of them, he always prays with joy (4)

Secondly, Paul writes in verse 4: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” (Philippians 1:4) We mentioned that joy is a prominent theme in this letter, and here it is making its first appearance already in verse 4.

Paul is not only thankful for the Philippians when he prays for them, but he is filled with joy. And notice it’s not in just some of his prayers. It’s in all of his prayers! And it’s not in just all of his prayers for some of them. It’s in all of his prayers for all of them! And he doesn’t just do this sometimes. In all his prayers for all of them, he always prays with joy!

One of my favorite parts of the week is early Monday morning when I pray for the people of Plantation Community Church. I get here early on Mondays, open up the church directory, and start praying through the directory. I thank God for each person he has brought to this church. I pray for your spiritual growth and development. If there are specific prayer requests I know about for you or your family, I lift those up in prayer. It is a special part of the week.

   C. Why? Partners in the gospel from the first day until now (5)

So Paul tells the Philippians he thanks God every time he remembers them, and that in all his prayers for all of them he always prays with joy. Why does he do this? He tells us in verse 5: “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:5) God had started a good work in them. From the first day they received the gospel until the present time, they had joined with Paul as partners in the gospel. And so Paul was full of thanksgiving and joy.

That word “partnership” is the Greek word “koinonia.” It is a word which speaks of close fellowship and sharing.

To be partners in the gospel means first of all to share in the saving benefits of the gospel in your life. God began a good work in you when you received Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The day you received Jesus, you became a new person. God forgave you of all your sins. He came to live in you through his Holy Spirit. He adopted you as his child and brought you into his family. He gave you new life, new direction and a new purpose. He saved you through the gospel of Christ, and so you are a partner in the gospel, because you share in the benefits of the gospel.

But to be partners in the gospel also means that you take part in sharing the gospel with others as well. As a believer in Christ you have received a commission from Christ to share the good news of Christ with everyone you possibly can. God began a good work in you when you received Christ. And he began a good work in me. And that makes us partners. Partners in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

III. God will finish the good work he started in you. (Phil. 1:6)

So truth number one this morning: we are all partners in the gospel together. Truth number two: God began a good work in you when you received Christ. Which brings us to truth number three: God will finish the good work he started in you. Look at verse 6, which is our church memory verse for this week: “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 is confident of this (the Greek word means he is “fully persuaded”), he is confident that God will finish this good work that he began in the Philippians. Why? Because it is God who started it. And God always finishes what he begins.

Let me share a few related Scriptures with you on this point.

   A. God has good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 138:8)

First of all, if you are a believer then God has good works for you to do. Ephesians 2:10 says that “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) God began a good work in you when you received Christ. You became a new creation, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

You don’t just receive Christ and walk away. God who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. That word “until” means it is an ongoing process. You don’t just receive Christ, then do nothing, and then you are suddenly perfected when you go to heaven. No, God is working in you everyday to make you more like Christ. And he has good works for you to do – works of love and grace and mercy for others. Psalm 138:8 says, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands.” (Psalm 138:8) God has good works for you to do, he has a purpose for you that he will fulfill. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion from the first day, every day, until Christ returns.

   B. How does God complete his work in you?

How does God complete his work in you? Three theological terms are helpful here. First of all, “justification.” To be justified means to be declared righteous in God’s sight. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justification has to do with the past. God began the good work in you when you believed in Christ and you were justified by faith.

The second word is “sanctification.” To be sanctified means to be set apart for God’s purposes and to grow in holiness. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says this: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Sanctification has to do with the present. God is continuing the good work he began in you when you were justified in the past.

The third word is “glorification.” To be glorified means to be perfected in holiness, forever removed from the power and presence of sin. Romans 8:29-30 says this:

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son … 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

Glorification has to do with the future. When Christ returns, the dead in Christ will be raised, and those believers still living will be transformed, and we will all be glorified in God’s presence.

Now notice the beauty of the last six words of Romans 8:30: “those he justified, he also glorified.” There is a one-to-one correspondence between justification and glorification. Everyone who is justified will be glorified. No exceptions. Only those who are justified will be glorified. No exceptions. What are the last six words of Romans 8:30 saying? The same thing as Philippians 1:6: “He who began a good work in you (justification) will carry it on to completion (sanctification) until the day of Christ Jesus (glorification).

Do you ever get discouraged in your spiritual progress? Praise God – he’s not finished yet! The same God who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. I like what Ruth Graham said. She said, “I saw a sign on a strip of highway once that I would like to have copied on my gravestone. It said, ‘End of construction. Thank you for your patience.’” (Ruth Bell Graham; from “A Hearing Heart,” InDecision Magazine, January 1970, ©1969, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Are you in Christ? Then you were justified by faith, and you will be glorified when Christ returns. And in the meantime God continues to perfect his good work in you.

   C. God is also completing the good work he began in the church

But God is not only completing the good work he began in you. God is also completing the good work he began in the church. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:3-6 certainly apply to individual believers, but it would be a mistake to think they only apply to individuals. They were originally addressed to the church. God had begun a good work in the church at Philippi, and Paul was confident that God would complete the good work that he had begun.

God began a good work here at Plantation Community Church many years ago. And you know what? God’s not finished yet! He has more work for us to do, more people to come to Christ, more missions for us to support, more individuals and families to reach, more spiritual growth for us as a church. God who began a good work here at Plantation Community Church will carry it on to completion. Do you believe it? I do! Because God what God starts, God finishes. God is also completing the good work he began in the church.

CONCLUSION: Why do these truths matter? Let me close with three reasons why the things we’ve looked this morning are so important.

1) First of all, they remind us that we are all partners together in the gospel. It is not just the missionary’s job, it is not just the pastor’s job, but we must all work together to share the gospel with others. We are partners in the gospel.

2) Secondly, they help us to focus on our task. God began a good work in our church many years ago. He is continuing that good work through us today. We must keep the gospel central in all of our efforts.

3) And then thirdly, they give us hope and guard us against discouragement. We can get discouraged in our personal lives when we don’t see the Christian growth we wish we did. We can get discouraged as a church when we don’t see the numerical growth we would like to see. But God’s not finished yet. And he is faithful to complete the work he began in you and in me and in Plantation Community Church.

© Ray Fowler

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